Classic rock fundamentalists claim Cream was the all-time greatest supergroup, but Van Halen in their initial incarnation broke rock music in half, with their amazing skills & originality. Van Halen was the greatest rock supergroup ever: with Eddie on guitar, brother Alex on drums, Michael Anthony on bass, and David Lee Roth as the vocal frontman.
Rock acts were either post-punk or a dinosaurs after Van Halen I (1977). David Lee Roth brought an obnoxious, yet hilarious, sense-of-humor & style, which further separated Van Halen from the rest of heavy metal.
Roth suggested to Eddie that the band be named Van Halen, when he joined. When Eddie Van Halen married TV-star Valerie Bertenelli, they became the biggest paparazzi couple on the planet. These pressures eventually tore the band (and their marriage) apart.
Van Halen was the original ‘hair metal’ band, eventually becoming a parody of themselves, like so many others in the industry. Ted Templeman was their ‘5th member’ for all six of the classic David Lee Roth records, a first rate producer whose credits include Captain Beefheart’s Clear Spot (1972). Van Halen was very much like the Velvet Underground & Nico with Andy Warhol, in that they had it all, until the egos blew it.
Supergroup means everyone is a star. Alex Van Halen pioneered the ‘double kick’ sound. Listen to his drum intro to “Hot for Teacher,” which he plays live. It sounds like Alex has at least one extra appendage. The way Alex & Eddie play together sounds like no one else.
On bass was Michael Anthony, a rock solid player with all the chops, and also their main backing vocalist. Classic songs like “Ain’t Talkin’ About Love”, “You Really Got Me”, & “Panama” are great examples of Michael Anthony’s backing vocals, and how it filled out their sound. “Eruption” is the all-time Eddie classic.
Here’s an explanation of tapping as an innovative guitar technique. As a right-handed player, such as Eddie Van Halen, it is possible to sound notes using only the left hand by applying hammer-ons & pull-offs. That’s traditional guitar playing technique. What Eddie pioneered was tapping, which is using his right-hand fingers to hammer-on & pull-off, higher up the neck– instead of picking. He’s doing this, while playing with his left hand simultaneously on the lower frets. This is almost impossible to do on an acoustic guitar. You need an electric, with a slim neck and a ‘fast action’ set-up. You also need a ton of practice, and some talent.
When MTV came along in 1981, Van Halen made their first video, “Intruder/(Oh) Pretty Woman” from Diver Down (1982), which was promptly banned from MTV– for it’s surprise ending…
Four amazingly talented people working together, Van Halen was even greater than the sum of their parts– through 1984.
Eddie kicked Roth out in 1985, and that was it for the real Van Halen. Van Hagar was mostly uninspired, and ‘Extreme’ Van Halen was terrible. Eddie bringing in his son Wolfgang, to replace Michael Anthony on bass, was maybe the worst. RIP Van Halen