Van Halen is an American hard rock band named after the guitarist Eddie Van Halen and his brother drummer Alex Van Halen.
Eddie Van Halen - electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards, backup vocals;
Michael Anthony - bass, backup vocals;
Alex Van Halen - drums and percussion;
David Lee Roth - lead vocals (1974-1985);
Sammy Hagar - lead vocals (1985-1996), (2004-);
Gary Cherone - lead vocals (1996-1999).
The Van Halen family emigrated from Nijmegen, Netherlands to Pasadena, California in the 1960's. Eddie and Alex's father, Jan Van Halen, was an accomplished musician (saxophone, clarinet). He encouraged his sons' love of music, (the band would eventually feature Jan Van Halen's clarinet on the song "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)" from the album Diver Down (1982)). As children, Alex (the older of the Van Halen brothers) and Eddie were trained as classical pianists. As they grew older, Alex began taking flamenco guitar lessons. Eddie, subsequently, took an interest in the drums. As legend goes, to pay for his drum set, he worked delivering newspapers. While Eddie was working, his brother Alex would practice on the drum kit, mastering "Wipe Out" first. Eddie would play Alex's guitar in his spare time, and eventually, the brothers decided to swap instruments. Eddie's main influence was Eric Clapton (of Cream) and Alex's were Ginger Baker (also of Cream) and John Bonham (of Led Zeppelin). During elementary and middle school, Eddie and Alex formed several different bands at different times, with names like "The Trojan Rubber Company," "The Broken Combs," and "The Space Brothers."
The group that ultimately evolved into Van Halen originally consisted of a power trio and went by the name "Mammoth", doing gigs in various places around Los Angeles. The original lineup included Eddie on guitar and lead vocals, Alex on drums, and Mark Stone on bass. In 1974, Michael Anthony took over at bass in favor of Stone after Anthony passed the band's audtion. After that, Eddie Van Halen and Michael Anthony took turns singing. Over the years, Mike earned the moniker "Cannon Mouth" for singing louder than the lead vocalists. In 1973, David Lee Roth, a local entrepreneur and lead singer of a rival Los Angeles band, rented out his public address system to the Van Halens. Eddie and Alex grew tired of paying the "PA Tax" to "Diamond Dave," so they brought him into the Van Halen fold in 1974. Soon afterwards, they discovered that another band in the L.A. area was also named Mammoth, so they switched their name to Van Halen at Roth's suggestion, passing on the name 'Rat Salad.' (Says Roth in his autobiography, "I felt that the name Van Halen was like the name Santana, it had power to it.") The band became popular on the Sunset Strip during the mid-1970's. In 1976, Gene Simmons of the rock band KISS, observed one of Van Halen's shows and subsequently financed their demo tape. This bootlegged demo commonly circulates under the title Zero, and features unfinished and alternative lyrics to many of Van Halen's early songs. KISS' management passed on signing the band. Eventually the band was signed by Mo Ostin, a Warner Bros. executive. Ted Templeman, who had previously produced hits for The Doobie Brothers, became the band's first producer, after a meeting at the famed Starwood Club in Los Angeles.
(1978-1985) With David Lee Roth
The band moved into the studio with Templeman, quickly recorded their first album, and released it to immediate commercial success. Self-titled Van Halen, the album featured innovations in musical technique, production, and arrangement. It was quickly regarded as one of rock's most extraordinary debuts.
The Van Halen track "Eruption" introduced the rock and roll world to a new soloing technique called tapping, a technique utilizing both left and right hands on the guitar neck. Other musicians had developed two-hand playing techniques during the 1950s, and Steve Hackett of Genesis used tapping extensively in the early 1970s, but Van Halen's technique was something else — a percussive, hugely amplified barrage of notes and effects. Nothing like it had ever been heard on record. "Eruption" gained Eddie Van Halen immediate guitar god status among players worldwide. According to folklore, before the release of the first album, Eddie would play his solos with his back to audiences, to hide his technique from imitators. Van Halen also introduced the guitar world to the band's signature "Brown Sound," a nickname given to the Eddie's experimental style coupled with Templeman's warm production, which produced a distinctive tone, sought after by other musicians.
The band toured for nearly a year on the basis of Van Halen, establishing their reputation as a talented and exciting live band. The early chemistry of the band was based upon the interplay of Eddie Van Halen's technical wizardry and David Lee Roth's flamboyant antics, (a contrast that would later erupt into full-blown conflict.) They returned to the studio in 1979 for Van Halen II, similar in style to their debut. This album yielded the band's first hit single, the poppy "Dance the Night Away".
Over the next four years, the band alternated album releases and touring to increasing commercial and critical acclaim. By 1980, Van Halen was perhaps the world's most successful and influential hard rock band. However, in 1981, during the recording of Fair Warning, tensions began to arise within the band, as Eddie Van Halen's desire to experiment with more serious songs and complex structures came at odds with Roth's pop instincts, and increasingly cartoonish, irony-laden persona. Roth acquiesced to Eddie's wishes in this case, but Fair Warning was a relative sales disappointment, yielding no hit singles, although today, many consider it Van Halen's finest album. The following release, Diver Down, featured a hit cover of Roy Orbison's classic rock and roll song "Oh, Pretty Woman". As the band began to make music videos for MTV, the telegenic "Diamond Dave" Roth became the visual focus, often to the chagrin of the other band members. After successful tour following Diver Down, Van Halen became the highest paid music group for a single appearance, earning a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for their inebriated, $1 million, 90-minute set at the US Festival in 1983. (This record was eventually eclipsed in the 1990s.)
Van Halen's subsequent album, 1984 (released December 1983) was their commercial, and many would say, artistic pinnacle; it also signified a breaking point for the original line-up. 1984 fully integrated electronic keyboards into the band's sound, (they had dabbled in electronic keyboards on earlier albums, but never so prominently.) The album's lead single, Jump, featured a boundy synthesizer hook and anthemic lyrics by Roth. "Jump" became the band's first and only #1 pop hit. 1984 was praised by critics and fans alike, and peaked at #2 on the Billboard charts, behind the stratospherically popular Thriller by Michael Jackson. (Eddie Van Halen played the lead guitar on the hit song "Beat It," from that album). Music videos for the singles Jump, Panama, and Hot For Teacher, all conceived by Roth, became wildly popular.
In the midst of their greatest commercial success and tour, the artistic and personal tensions between the musicians reached a breaking point. Roth exited the band on April 1, 1985 — either having been dismissed or having quit, according to different reports. Soon after, singer/guitarist/song-writer Sammy Hagar, who had been introduced to Van Halen while touring with Montrose, joined as the new vocalist.
The David Lee Roth era remains Van Halen's most critically and commercially successful period, having influenced nearly all rock musicians who followed. The band's top selling albums to date are their 1978 debut and 1984. Both albums have reached diamond status, each having sold over 10 million copies. In addition, both albums are regarded as milestones in rock and roll, ushering in artistic innovations that, although widely emulated, remain unique. (The Van Halen track "Runnin' with the Devil" and 1984's "Jump" are listed as two of the top 500 most influential songs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). The band's second production, Van Halen II, peaked at #6 on the charts and their fourth album, Fair Warning, topped out at #5. After this, every subsequent Van Halen album would break the top 5 of the pop charts.
(1985-1996) With Sammy Hagar
Van Halen's period with Sammy Hagar was marked by two somewhat opposing trends: expansion of the band's commercial success and acceptance by a wider audience while at the same time experiencing a growing sense of fan resentment regarding the departure of Roth. Hagar's musical sensibility enabled Van Halen to become accessible to a wider audience, with lyrics that were more introspective and dreamy. This was coupled with expanded instrumentation by Eddie, which demonstrated tighter thematic elements and more advanced blending of sonic textures within each song. The result was a more mature, integrated sound, markedly different from the hard charging, rollicking riffs of the group's earlier work. Die-hard "old Van Halen" fans referred derisively to the new "Van-Hagar" sound as "soft" or "fluffy" compared with the raucous, hard rock Roth-era—an attitude which Roth once described as "a mixture of religion and hockey".
During Hagar's tenure, the band established a musical formula that proved commercially successful in the United States. All four studio albums produced during this period reached the #1 on the Billboard pop music charts. Also during this time, 17 singles breached the top 12 of the mainstream rock tracks chart. In addition, Van Halen was nominated for two Grammy Awards, winning the 1991 Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal award for the album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Van Halen continued to enjoy tremendous popular success throughout the mid-90's, while many of their hair metal contemporaries (such as Guns n' Roses and Poison) fell from favor, overtaken by anti-corporate, "Grunge Music".
The second incarnation of Van Halen also saw broadened use of the Van Halen brand, as they expanded their reach into other media, with high-production films, live concert footage, and even their own cantina in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. If David Lee Roth's innovative, over-the-top style turned Van Halen from a member of the hard rock pack to its leader; Hagar's more conservative 'working man' persona turned Van Halen into a franchise and an icon.
The hit single and award-winning video Right Now was used to promote the ill-fated soft-drink Crystal Pepsi. The band's Roth-era remake of The Kinks You Really Got Me was used in a Nissan commercial.
During the recording of their contribution to the film Twister, escalating tension between Hagar and the Van Halen brothers boiled over publicly as Hagar departed on Father's Day, 1996. Hagar claimed that he was fired; Eddie Van Halen claimed that Hagar quit. The final Hagar single, Humans Being, and the instumental Respect the Wind can be found on the Twister soundtrack, with the latter credited to Eddie and Alex Van Halen.
(1996-1998) With Gary Cherone
Soon after Hagar's departure, David Lee Roth entered the studio with the Van Halen brothers, Michael Anthony, and producer Glen Ballard. Two songs from those sessions were added to the band's Greatest Hits album, (with the Roth single Me Wise Magic reaching #1 on the mainstream rock chart; the album The Best of Van Halen, Vol. 1 peaked at #1 on the pop charts). On September 4, 1996, the four original members of Van Halen made their first public appearance together in over eleven years, presenting an award at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards. This appearance was greeted with a standing ovation, and fueled hopeful speculation for a reunion tour. However, backstage, old wounds re-opened, and the relationship between Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth soured again. Several weeks later, Roth released a media statement, and became the ex-ex-Lead singer of Van Halen.
In need of a lead singer to continue their work, Van Halen recruited Gary Cherone, the frontman of the defunct Boston-based band Extreme. The result of their collaboration was the experimental Van Halen 3. Many songs were longer and more ethereal (Once), more thought-provoking (How Many Say I with Eddie on vocals!), or were just plain different (From Afar, Josephina). This alienated entrenched Van Halen fans and did not attract a new audience. Sales were lackluster compared to previous albums. The VH3 album peaked at #4 on the charts, (it was Gold certified,) and produced a #1 Mainstream Rock Track hit, Without You. However, no tracks from the album ever appeared on the pop music charts, confirming the limited popular appeal of the new sound. In 1999, Cherone split amicably with Van Halen after the VH3 tour. In 2002, Warner Bros. dropped Van Halen (still without a lead singer) from the label, after having released all of their albums since 1978.
(2000-2004) Four years of silence
1996 marked the end of an era for Van Halen as a band. A greatest hits album had been released, their lead singer of over a decade had departed, and confusion swirled about the artistic direction and future marketability of the band. Although rumors were plenty, and accusations and hostility pervaded the news, there was very little useful information about the band to "soften the blow" for VH fans.
During this time, comedian David Letterman succinctly expressed the frustration of millions of Van Halen fans. During the delivery of his Top Ten list on the evening of October 21, 1996 he sarcastically implied that then Presidential Candidate Bob Dole could gain the popular support of the American People if he would use his diplomatic skills to just convince the members of Van Halen to stop fighting so they could "start crankin' out some more bitchin' tunes".
With the disappointing performance of VH3 and the departure of Gary Cherone, it appeared that Van Halen was headed for the history books. After the VH3 tour, the band was mostly silent. The Inside (the once-official VH mag) internally combusted after turning unofficial from lack of news. From 2000 to early 2004, no albums were released and no official information was provided to fans about the future of the band. News and rumors about individual members trickled in, as die-hards desperately hoped for an announcement. Here are some of the news highlights from those years:
In 1999 Eddie Van Halen reluctantly had hip replacement surgery (when the pain became unbearable). He also underwent cancer treatment soon after (at the Mayo Clinic) and announced his complete recovery on the official website in May 2002. Around this time, Eddie's 21 year marriage to actress Valerie Bertinelli also ended in divorce.
Alex Van Halen continued to work with his brother on new material at their fabled 5150 recording studio (with Eddie singing?).
Since his departure in 1996, David Lee Roth has produced a number of albums and toured with his DLR band, (his most recent release being an album of covers called Diamond Dave (2003)). In 2003, Roth brought a court action against Van Halen, their management, and record company claiming he was left out of 1996 royalty renegotiations. On July 4, 2004, Roth performed with the Boston Pops at Boston's annual Pops Goes the Fourth celebration. As of 2005, he has become a certified EMT, and is rumored to be Howard Stern's future replacement on morning talk radio.
Sammy Hagar has remained active musically. Since his departure from Van Halen, he has released five albums. He also created his own merchandising brand Cabo Wabo, which lends its name to his popular line of tequila, as well as his franchise of cantinas located in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and Lake Tahoe, Nevada. In addition, he reunited with the original members of his '70s band Montrose in 2003 and 2005 for a handful of performances.
Michael Anthony stays busy outside of Van Halen with various product merchandising projects (such as his signature Yamaha bass) and has his own website. He is involved with the annual music industry NAMM Show.
Since his departure from Van Halen, Gary Cherone recorded an album and performed locally with his new band Tribe of Judah.
In the summer of 2002, David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar teamed up for the Song For Song, the Heavyweight Champs of Rock and Roll tour, (known tongue-in-cheek as the 'Sans-Halen' or 'Sam & Dave' Tour). It succeeded beyond expectations, drawing large crowds to outdoor auditoriums. A classic quotation from the tour came from Roth. In an interview, he contrasted his personality with Hagar's by saying: "he's the kind of guy you go out with to split a bottle with a friend. I'm the kind of guy you go out with if you want to split your friend with a bottle."
During that tour, Michael Anthony guested with Hagar's solo band, The Waboritas, but never played with Roth. Hagar released a live album (Hallelujah), which featured Mike (a few songs) and Gary (one song), and a documentary DVD, "Long Road to Cabo," chronicling his tour with David Lee Roth.
(2004-2005) Reunion with Sammy Hagar
In late March of 2004, Van Halen and Sammy Hagar announced that Hagar would reunite with the band for an Greatest Hits album release and a summer concert tour. The reaction to the announcement was mixed. Diehard Roth fans expressed discontent (mainly stemming from false media (Roth-VH reunion) rumors circa 2000 despite Roth's attempts at honesty). Still, fans of Eddie were excited that their hero would once again take the stage.
In July, Van Halen released their second Greatest Hits compilation, featuring three new songs with Hagar; "It's About Time", "Up For Breakfast", and "Learning to See." Once again, the public reaction to the new songs was mixed. The track list had changed since its unveiling, and now Hagar and Roth songs alternated instead of one disc for each singer (which would've been preferred by most fans). No VH3 songs made it onto the disc (no more room?). Also, "Finish What You Started" was the uncut version, which ironically seemed truncated due to the lack of the original album's volume fade (which hid the abrupt original ending). Nevertheless, Van Halen's second Greatest Hits record would be certified platinum in August 2004.
The summer tour would end up grossing between 30 and 50 million dollars. Pollstar would list Van Halen in the top 10 grossing tours of 2004. Most of the concerts received positive feedback from professional reviewers.
However, the actual success of the tour was still questionable. Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony would subsequently admit that Eddie Van Halen had problems with alcohol during the tour, thereby making it less enjoyable for everyone involved. Hagar would go on to state that he was "done with Van Halen" ("I like my band better.") and wished that everyone would have "taken it more seriously." Furthermore, it was revealed in Rolling Stone magazine that promoters had lost money on the tour. Many fans also complained that tickets were overpriced (sometimes exceeding $200) and only a few shows were actually sold out.
After the tour ended, Van Halen once again disappeared, as there were no announcements made about the future of the band, as Hagar returned to his solo band The Waboritas, and Anthony appearing with Hagar on tour occasionally. Eddie's collaboration with Peavey (for his signature 5150 guitar amplifier series, replaced with the 6505 amp) also ended at around this time.
There is no official date to declare when the reunion fell apart. There was a lot of trouble in the last shows of the reunion with reported friction between Edward Van Halen and frontman Sammy Hagar, and they are currently not working together. In July 2005, Sammy Hagar went on record with many news sources to declare that Van Halen had once again hit the ground under a year after yet another lift-off.
Van Halen sued the Baltimore Orioles in August 2005, claiming that the Orioles reneged on a deal to bring the band to Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 2, 2004, which would have been the first concert at the otherwise baseball-only facility.