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  1. #1
    Baluchitherium
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    Favorite VH Album

    VH, WACF, FW, 5150, OU812
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    Dreams/Unchained/InASR/5150
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    11.25.17 @ 04:30 AM
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    Default Foreigners Mick Jones Recounts Crazy S He Went Through with Van Halen

    Mick Jones is best know for his many years as the guitarist and songwriter in Foreigner, but hes also a notable producer who has twirled the knobs for both Billy Joel and Van Halen. He produced the latters pivotal 5150′ album, their first effort after replacing original lead singer David Lee Roth with Sammy Hagar.

    Talking to UCR about his upcoming induction in the Songwriters Hall of Fame with former Foreigner vocalist Lou Gramm, Jones also took a moment to share some of his wild stories from those sessions, which he says were eye-opening even by rock and roll standards.

    How did your songwriting style inform what you would do as a producer, working with Van Halen and Billy Joel?

    Well, I think that was probably the main reason that they approached me in the first place was the fact that they knew I was a writer. They knew Id had some success as a writer and that was my calling card really. When youre writing and preparing an album, thats the most important part and being able to be objective. You know, coming in from the outside, having not been involved in the thought process in the beginning and being able to take an objective look and listen to what was going on. They gave me the ability to help with trying outside ideas and suggestions that I would have and they had a certain respect for me because I had a certain pedigree already.

    Its tough when youre working with somebody and they ask you what you think and youre truthful, you say, Well, I think that its weak in that area right there, and they go, What do you mean? Thats the best part of the song! And I said, Well, youre asking me for my opinion so take it. I dont think thats going to fly, or This could be better here. Id have a few suggestions sometimes. I didnt go in too much to writing anything with them, because in both circumstances, Eddie [Van Halen], he knew what he wanted to do. And Billy was a formidable songwriter to start with, so going in and critiquing him, I had to summon up a bit of strength there to face doing that. But it worked very well.

    I remember on the song We Didnt Start the Fire, that kind of started out as a country song, I think it was called Jolene or something, even. I said to Billy, This song sounds so familiar, it sounds like a Dolly Parton song, and he said What? He got really pissed and he locked himself away in a room with like a Time-Life Almanac of historical events since his date of birth and thats where he came up with the lyrics. He walked proudly back into the studio and said, Well, take a look at this one. And I said, Well, thats more like it!

    So you had to take chances that people would take offense sometimes. To me, a real producer has to have the balls to do that, to be able to have that vision of what the end product is going to be like and help guide the artist or the band towards that. Thats what Ive tried to do, and Ive tried to do that with Foreigner. But Ive always tried to bring in a second or third ear to keep my perspective and balance it. I think its important to have that.

    Walking into the Van Halen situation, what was that like? Because obviously, they had working up until that point with Ted Templeman for all of the previous records. Besides knowing you as a songwriter, how comfortable was that to walk into that situation where you were the new guy?

    I go a long way back with Sammy Hagar, since he was in Montrose. He picked me up at the hotel and we were driving up to Eddies studio and we were talking about the old days and finally he said, Ive got to tell you Mick, all of that was wild and crazy and all of that sort of thing, but he said, We are just about to walk into another dimension of that. [Laughs] And I said, What?

    He said, I wasnt going to tell you earlier, but youd better get ready for some crazy sh now. I went, Whoa . . . and Id been around and seen a lot, you know. But it was pretty crazy up there. It lived up to its title. It was a challenge, because they had a lot of the stuff that they had been writing and it was a new writing partnership with Sammy and Eddie and they were just coming down from the split with David Lee Roth. It was a big time . . . a lot of different things were happening and a lot of emotions were flying around. It was kind of exciting [but] it was [also] scary, thinking, Well, what can I do for this band?

    As you said, Ted Templeman had done all of the albums up to that point, and Donn Landee was the engineer who was running Eddies studio and hed done every album they had done and here was I, walking in from a completely different place in a way and stepping in [with a] Whos this guy? kind of thing. I got that feeling at the beginning from Donn Landee. He wasnt particularly thrilled to see me, I dont think. Granted, I got into the thing and I started to really listen to the songs, and I helped with the arrangements and I helped with the structure of the songs, and I worked a lot with Sammy on his vocals.

    I think thats if anything, one of my specialties in production is working with vocalists. I was able to bring him up to where he needed to be to front that band. We went through some crazy times. The engineer locked himself in the studio for a day and threatened to burn the tapes. It was a real standoff, you know? It was touch and go whether the tapes were going to survive. It all ended up great and everybody ended up [being] really cool and happy with what had happened, but it was pretty exhausting. It all paid off in the end.

    Did your influence help on some of the tracks like Love Walks In or Dreams that were on the power ballad territory side of things that they hadnt done before?

    Yeah, I worked a lot on the arrangements and the vocal performances and helping [them] just to find the melodies a bit, especially on Dreams and Love Walks In. I put my advice and my suggestions in where I felt they merited them. I dont know if you could have gone in with an approach of, Oh, I want to change all of this, which I think would have been disastrous. But I worked on the sound quite a bit with and eventually ended up being good friends with Donn Landee, who is a great engineer.

    I think we improved the sound of the drums for example. I think its probably one of the best sounds that theyve had on an album, on that album. And as I said, [I focused on] just using my suggestions where I thought they were needed and useful, not trying to just sit there and constantly coming out with ideas. I think it was a balance of letting the band do its thing and then just putting the glue in there a bit to make it coherent and to make it as good as it could be.

    http://ultimateclassicrock.com/mick-...an-halen-5150/

    "The shit I read on this site." -- Dave's Dreidel (Nov 6th, 2013)

    "Don't ever confuse talent with fame." -- Bob Lefsetz

    "There's very little greatness in this world, but in the crucible of quality there's a special corner reserved for Van Halen." -- Bob Lefsetz

  2. #2
    Unchained
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    11.25.15 @ 01:00 PM
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    Default

    "I think we improved the sound of the drums for example. I think its probably one of the best sounds that theyve had on an album, on that album."

    WTF?

  3. #3
    Eruption
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    06.30.17 @ 01:26 AM
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by gman6 View Post
    "I think we improved the sound of the drums for example. I think its probably one of the best sounds that theyve had on an album, on that album."

    WTF?
    no kidding

  4. #4
    ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Number 47's Avatar
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    Premium Member

    Default


  5. #5
    5150
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    02.21.17 @ 07:16 PM
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    Default

    5150 had the worst drum sound of all VH albums, imo.

  6. #6
    Emperor of VHLinks.com Brett's Avatar
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    12.16.17 @ 04:09 PM
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    Default

    Actually I think VH3 is worse.
    Webmaster
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    Tons of Van Halen!

  7. #7
    Good Enough ED'S A 20THCENTURY MOZART's Avatar
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    Like em all. even III. ;}
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    09.08.16 @ 05:36 PM
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    Default

    VH and Billy Joel's music are much better than Foreigner's.

    And, what....did he only work on 2 or 3 songs from 5150 and Storm Front?

    And, he was only probably there to make Sammy sound more like Lou Gram..with the higher singing.

    Great records nonetheless.
    I DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' CLICK!

  8. #8
    Atomic Punk bsbll4's Avatar
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    Favorite VH Album

    Van Halen/ADKOT
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    Hot For Teacher
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    12.15.17 @ 12:23 PM
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    Premium Member
    So he's responsible for Love Walks In?

    Burn him.

    Burn him at the stake.
    CNN may think my opinion matters, but you shouldn't.

  9. #9
    Good Enough ED'S A 20THCENTURY MOZART's Avatar
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    09.08.16 @ 05:36 PM
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by bsbll4 View Post
    So he's responsible for Love Walks In?

    Burn him.

    Burn him at the stake.
    that's a good song.
    I DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' CLICK!

  10. #10
    Sinner's Swing! Dutchie5150's Avatar
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    12.16.17 @ 08:16 AM
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    Premium Member

    Default

    The drums kill this album for me. I loved it at the time, but when I hear it now, Ugh

    I know they had to use Simmonds Drums because of the lack of space in 5150, but damn.... They should rerecord the drums if & when they remaster it.
    If you have nothing nice to say about Eddie Van Halen, you're at the right website. - Me (A few years ago)

    "People take Van Halen much more seriously than we do" - David Lee Roth (1980's)

    "I don't sit on the end of your bed while you're trying to make a living" - David Lee Roth (1988)

    "For some reason people love to complain about everything. The internet has made it easy for people to do that. Shut the fuck up and get a life, or show me how good you can do it."- Edward Van Halen

    "A lot of people ask me which Van Halen singer was better. You can't compare them. It's like asking which guitarist is better. Nobody is better than anybody. Every player is their own person."-Edward Van Halen

    "I do like Eddie Van Halen as a player. He gets it right quite often." -Paul McCartney

  11. #11
    Eruption Spool's Avatar
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    12.14.17 @ 07:42 PM
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    Donor

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Metal Marc View Post
    I think we improved the sound of the drums for example. I think it’s probably one of the best sounds that they’ve had on an album, on that album.
    http://ultimateclassicrock.com/mick-...an-halen-5150/

    err nope ... you sucked at producing a decent sound for Alex ... really really sucked! Dude really needs to listen to a few other Van Halen records then as he has no clue, no clue at all ...

  12. #12
    Eruption
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    12.10.17 @ 08:08 AM
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by gman6 View Post
    "I think we improved the sound of the drums for example. I think its probably one of the best sounds that theyve had on an album, on that album."

    WTF?

    Yeah, hmmm.... sounds like transcription error.

    I think what he's trying to say is that given that they were using those Simmons drums... he did the best he could with getting them a solid sound out of them.

    Amazing when you think about it... he was able to reign in all the ideas for a pretty cohesive sound... especially considering each of them were trying something new: a new approach was taken on guitar (trans-trem), drums (electronic) and of course Sammy was completely switching gears as well.

    Aside from the misstep (IMO) of "The Inside" ... I consider it a real solid album.

    I also agree that he did wonders on honing the songwriting on that album. After that, I could never really stomach the songwriting of the sammy years... but I have a lot of respect for everyone that album.

    Cheers,
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  13. #13
    Atomic Punk ziggysmalls's Avatar
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    12.16.17 @ 08:21 AM
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    Premium Member

    Default

    Man yesterday at the gym I listened to 1984 followed by 5150 and for a moment I had this vision. How good would 5150 have been if it had Eddie's and Alex's sound from 1984? I think its a great album today but its almost like listening to Fire In The Hole with the clipping. Just distracts my enjoyment hearing Eddie's tone awash in chorus and the Simmons drums.

  14. #14
    5150 GOLATTARI's Avatar
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    12.10.17 @ 11:29 AM
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    Default

    The drum thing is obviosuly a transcription error, one can figure it out while reading. He meant that they were able to "fix" the drum sound (probably Landee did this after Alex refusing to re-record it on acoustic) and then he said "it ended up being one of their best sounding albums".

    Then the fact that 5150 may or may not be the best sounding album is a question of preference. Probably not my favorite, but could be. Love the new harmonized guitar and strong synthesizer used with mastery by Ed. That's when I <think> about it outside of just listening to the songs.

    Now... To be honest, when I listen to Van Halen, I don't bind myself to think about the chorus, about the clipping, about the intermittent electronic drum sound, etc. And I play guitar.

    Some people are just too picky, to the point of saying that this stuff "hinders their enjoyment. That's overanalyzing to the extreme, where you are losing the pleasure of listening to your favorite band due to all the information available about them...
    GOL Guitar!
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  15. #15
    ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Number 47's Avatar
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    5150 was a product of the times when every meaty sounding band was embracing the technology and producing "canned" sounding music.

 

 

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