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  1. #1
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    Default Van Halen: Monsters of philosophy: a new book

    Van Halen: Monsters of philosophy
    By Keith O’Brien

    http://bostonglobe.com/ideas/2012/07...FsM/story.html


    At the peak of Van Halen’s popularity almost 30 years ago, few people considered the band to be artists, much less philosophers. Van Halen was just a rock ’n’ roll band: a guitar-riffing, hard-drinking, skirt-chasing quartet known for huge hits, catchy hooks, and one pouty-lipped, big-haired front man, David Lee Roth.

    Roth became something of a media darling at the dawn of the video age—a one-man quote machine in spandex and tattered shirts. If founder Eddie Van Halen was the band’s quiet guitar hero, Diamond Dave was the vaudevillian clown.

    For six years, from 1978 to 1984, few rock bands were bigger: In 1983, one concert alone reportedly netted the band $1.5 million. The following year, the band released 1984, its most popular album to date, and “Jump” quickly became a number one single, spending five weeks at the top of the US charts. If you were alive then, you probably still know the words (“I get up/ And nothing gets me down”) and the song’s opening synthesizer riff by heart. But poetry it was not. It was just the ’80s.

    Now a new book by British sociologist John Scanlan is suggesting that we’ve misunderstood Van Halen all these years—or at least not given the band its due. Roth and his comrades weren’t just hard rockers, Scanlan argues, but avatars of a kind of philosophy.

    In “Van Halen: Exuberant California, Zen Rock ’n’ Roll” (Reaktion Books 2012), Scanlan, a senior lecturer in sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University in England, argues that Van Halen were purveyors of what he calls Zen rock, worthy of comparisons to the Beat poets—if not for the work they created, then at least for their state of mind. “Van Halen’s exuberance,” Scanlan writes, “produced a kind of ‘unthinking,’ unassuming—but often exhilarating—rock ’n’ roll that was evocative of its time and place.” He believes it was pure 1970s Southern California, where the band met and formed. “But like much of California culture,” Scanlan adds, “it was touched by a Zen-like attitude to everyday life.”

    David Lee Roth ‘was an adherent of Zen philosophy and had been since he was a teenager.’

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    Van Halen might seem an unlikely candidate for a serious book by an academic sociologist. Such treatments are generally reserved for acts like Bob Dylan or the Beatles. But as the author explains it, it wasn’t really a choice. Scanlan said he had to write the book. He’s 47. He grew up listening to Van Halen in Lanark, Scotland, and couldn’t shake the music’s hold on him—even three decades later.

    He spoke to Ideas from his home in Manchester.

    IDEAS: How much Van Halen music did you have to download off iTunes to prepare for this book?

    SCANLAN: Zero. None. Because I already had it all. I still had all my old records.

    IDEAS: Your neighbors must have thought it odd to hear all this Van Halen music coming through a scholar’s walls.

    SCANLAN: I happen to live in the top floor of a building. No one can hear me, whatever I do. But it was interesting because I would listen to it and find that I would be almost thrust back into 1980, when I was 16 years old. I’d listen to the music very loud. I’d want to kind of drink and smoke and do all these things that you’re not supposed to do when you’re a responsible adult.

    IDEAS: You suggest that Van Halen believed in a certain kind of rock ’n’ roll—a “Zen-like idea,” you call it, that was “attached to the creative unconscious” and an answer to rock’s “growing seriousness in the 1970s.” Is that giving the band too much credit?

    SCANLAN: Not at all. It’s there in the statements the band—Roth, in particular—has made over the years. It’s all there. It’s just a matter of stitching it together.

    IDEAS: Were these guys really deep thinkers, pondering their place in the music universe?

    SCANLAN: No, they weren’t. There’s a quotation in there from David Lee Roth from back in 1978—it’s in their first story in Rolling Stone—and he said the point is to keep it as stupid, as simplistic, and as unassuming as possible. He was an adherent of Zen philosophy and had been since he was a teenager. And that’s a big part of my book.

    IDEAS: At times in the book you compare the band to the Beat poets and to Jack Kerouac. Is that a stretch?

    SCANLAN: I’m not necessarily saying look at the lyrics that David Lee Roth writes and look at the books that Kerouac’s written; it’s more to do with the artistic process. There’s a similarity in terms of the process. But then you’ve got the historical and biographical connection. Roth actually spent quite a lot of time in Greenwich Village. He was around there at the time of the dying embers of the Beat movement.

    IDEAS: Kerouac fans might cringe at the idea that David Lee Roth is somehow like him.

    SCANLAN: They may indeed. But if you look at Kerouac’s aesthetics—what he said about the creative process, what he said about the influence of Zen on the Beat movement, and the importance he placed on jive as a means of expression—David Lee Roth is all those things in his own way as well. I wouldn’t say he’s a Beat poet. But he shares that attitude.

    IDEAS: Van Halen just wrapped up a reunion tour. The critics, more often than not, panned the shows. The general sentiment was that Eddie Van Halen was still an incredible guitarist, but Roth was a mess.

    SCANLAN: It doesn’t surprise me because Roth was always more about being up there on stage and being a cheerleader, a toastmaster kind of figure. And he never, ever, nailed the songs on stage the way they were on the record.

    IDEAS: Do you feel like David Lee Roth is misunderstood?

    SCANLAN: That’s quite an interesting question. People thought he was a bit nuts, a bit over the top....He’s an odd person, you know? He trains sheepdogs.

    IDEAS: Apparently, he spent a lot of time on this last tour haranguing the audience about his love of sheepdogs.

    SCANLAN: Yeah. He’s a strange guy, David Lee Roth.
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  2. #2
    Eruption
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    08.17.12 @ 11:19 PM
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    I actually don't think this is such a stretch. If ever a band reflected/projected it's direct environment and in turn Californian philosophy/lifestyle albeit cartoonishly magnified it was Van Halen. Early Midnight Oil resonates in the same way to me simply because they seemed to capture a real essence of Australia and the Aussie environment in the 70's.

  3. #3
    Eruption EAS's Avatar
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    12.09.17 @ 07:25 AM
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    Quote Originally Posted by FredSavage View Post
    IDEAS: Van Halen just wrapped up a reunion tour. The critics, more often than not, panned the shows. The general sentiment was that Eddie Van Halen was still an incredible guitarist, but Roth was a mess.
    Is that true? Were more of the reviews bad than good? I've read a ton of positive reviews.
    ________________

  4. #4
    Atomic Punk bsbll4's Avatar
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    12.15.17 @ 12:23 PM
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    Quote Originally Posted by EAS View Post
    Is that true? Were more of the reviews bad than good? I've read a ton of positive reviews.
    Yeah that stuck out to me as well. Sounds like the interviewer had a personal view and thought it was an accepted mass opinion. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that 90% of the reviews were positive.

    As for the author's point, I definitely think it's true. Van Halen never took themselves seriously, which was an antithesis to their contemporaries. While bands were busy coming up with concept albums, 12 minute progressive rock tracks, and grave political statements, Van Halen was taking rock and roll back to its roots and making it all about having a great time. The fact that they were more talented than just about any other band belied their attitude in a sense; You wouldn't think people that don't take themselves seriously would be so good at their craft. It was almost mixing nonpolitical punk-rock attitude with progressive-rock like talent.

    The bands that came after as cheap imitations seemed to miss this point and made a serious effort to appear that they didn't care. That's why bands like Motley Crue and Poison come off as bronze to VH's gold in that category. I don't think this was Eddie and Alex's intention, but Dave's persona and philosophy imprinted that attitude on the band--and it's fans.

    It's that philosophy that fuels the Dave/Sammy feuds. Oftentimes people will say "Sam ruined VH by allowing Ed to use too much keyboard," when the facts are that Dave used keyboards to a #1 hit the previous album. The difference is the attitude. Sam wrote (in some people's opinions) cheeseball love ballads over the music while Dave wrote tongue-planted-firmly-cheek cheeseball songs. Sam had a fun and a serious side which probably fit better with the band's self-image from 85-95, whereas Dave always just seemed to have a fun side and lacked a serious side altogether (at least when it came to music).
    CNN may think my opinion matters, but you shouldn't.

  5. #5
    Atomic Punk Bad to the Bone's Avatar
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    12.17.17 @ 04:09 AM
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    I dunno, this one sounds like a stretch to me. More power to the guy but this one doesn't sound like something I would be very interested in.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by EAS View Post
    Is that true? Were more of the reviews bad than good? I've read a ton of positive reviews.
    I actually emailed the guy at the Globe and told him that there was not some kind of consensus that Dave was a "mess." He sounds like someone who listens to Genesis and Elvis Costello and that he thinks that VH is too low-brow to seriously study. He seems to have an agenda against giving Roth his due credit and wants to discredit him by claiming that (according to other people) he was a "mess," which is bullshit.

    Anyway, looks like a good book.

  7. #7
    Eruption VanJuJu's Avatar
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    08.24.15 @ 08:58 AM
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    I'm excited that academics are finally taking notice of VH's intellectual approach... For so long, many people mistook VH's approach as anti-intellectual, luddite -- when DLR was the complete opposite. His point of view was just much different from much of the rock intelligentsia's at the time.

    Generally, treatments like these happen long after an artist is dead -- unless the artist happens to deal in avante/dark/insular subject matter (e.g. Dylan, Lennon, Bowie.) While Dylan read "the Bell Jar;" John Lennon read Lewis Carroll; and Bowie utilized Wm. S. Burroughs' techniques, David Lee Roth was reading Henry Miller and Mark Twain.

    The rock intelligentsia, I believe , will get it more and more over the coming years: there's a worldview involved in being absorbed-in-the-moment, un-self-conscious, and artless.

    I believe that Van Halen will be held in increasingly higher regard by academics over the coming years... And I bet DLR will be thinking, "glad you caught up!"
    Springfield, MASS. - Hartford, CONN. =VH= Fans UNITE!

  8. #8
    5150 The Mighty Watcher's Avatar
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    10.14.13 @ 09:08 AM
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    Where can I buy this book? I have been searching for it and not finding it. Google is not my friend today.
    Hit the ground running...

    We came through blood and fire...

    "I aim to misbehave." - Captain Malcolm Reynolds: Firefly

    Proud fan of BOTH major eras of Van Halen. Yes, we do exist.

    "Men never commit evil so fully and joyfuly as when they do it for religious convictions"-- Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

    The Sass Jordan version of Van Halen was the best...

  9. #9
    Top Of The World 5150who's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Mighty Watcher View Post
    Where can I buy this book? I have been searching for it and not finding it. Google is not my friend today.
    where can we get it??
    All I want to give you woman, is the best part of a man.

  10. #10
    Sinner's Swing! Heisenberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5150who View Post
    where can we get it??

    AMAZON FUCK.
    " On a scale that ranges from deep dark depression to rip roaring fun ... most people idle between pissed off ...and not too pissed off " DLR 1997

    " I am the danger ... I am the one who knocks " Walter White 2011

  11. #11
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    http://www.amazon.com/Van-Halen-Exub...k+%3Fn%3F+Roll

    The guy from the Globe got back to me and was actually really nice. With regard to Dave being a "mess," he said that he was just going by the reviews that he read. I wish he had read some other reviews, but he was very cordial in his reply and recommends the book.
    Last edited by FredSavage; 07.18.12 at 05:12 PM.

  12. #12
    5150 The Mighty Watcher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by big fatty View Post
    AMAZON FUCK.
    Strange. I searched Amazon.com and .ca for it and couldn't find it. I will search again.
    Hit the ground running...

    We came through blood and fire...

    "I aim to misbehave." - Captain Malcolm Reynolds: Firefly

    Proud fan of BOTH major eras of Van Halen. Yes, we do exist.

    "Men never commit evil so fully and joyfuly as when they do it for religious convictions"-- Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

    The Sass Jordan version of Van Halen was the best...

  13. #13
    Top Of The World 5150who's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by big fatty View Post
    AMAZON FUCK.

    That's a long plane ride.
    All I want to give you woman, is the best part of a man.

  14. #14
    Eruption
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    10.30.17 @ 05:08 AM
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    Quote Originally Posted by big fatty View Post
    AMAZON FUCK.
    Isn't that the T-girl in 40 year old virgin?
    It is what it is

    I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said

    I could tell that my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.

  15. #15
    Sinner's Swing! Heisenberg's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=FredSavage;1542820]http://www.amazon.com/Van-Halen-Exub...k+%3Fn%3F+Roll

    The guy from the Globe got back to me and was actually really nice. With regard to Dave being a "mess," he said that he was just going by the reviews that he read. I wish he had read some other reviews, but he was very cordial in his reply and recommends the book.[/QUOTp

    Funny how some reviewers base their reviews on other reviews.

    The link to Amazon to buy this book is right here in the above post, but I guess its possible that they have run out of copies. Im not as computer literate as I should be, so I had the ol' lady order it for me , as she is smarter than me , and has a paypal account with Amazon.

    There is also another review thread here from " emerald eyes" , which is a good read as well, and possibly another link. Hope you find it, good luck.
    " On a scale that ranges from deep dark depression to rip roaring fun ... most people idle between pissed off ...and not too pissed off " DLR 1997

    " I am the danger ... I am the one who knocks " Walter White 2011

 

 

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