IN 1979 VAN HALEN RELEASED VAN HALEN II

In 1979 Van Halen Released Van Halen II.

The Van Halen story began in the early seventies, when brothers, Eddie and Alex Van Halen had formed a band. Like many bands, they found it difficult to settle on a name and initially, they were called The Broken Combs, then changed the name to The Trojan Rubber Co. By then, The Trojan Rubber Co. had a settled lineup.

Their lineup featured Alex on drums and Eddie on guitar. They were joined by bassist Mark Stone and vocalist David Lee Roth, who they had hired a sound system from. Eddie had initially failed the audition. However, Eddie and Alex were realists. Money was tight, so if they brought David onboard, they would save having to hire a sound system. They also thought that David might improve as a vocalist. However, in 1974, The Trojan Rubber Co. changed its name and its lineup.

1974 was a pivotal year for The Trojan Rubber Co. By then, bassist Mark Stone had been replaced by bassist Michael Anthony. His audition was unorthodox. Only after Michael took part in an all night jam session, was he hired. So, Michael left local band Snake and joined The Trojan Rubber Co. Soon, The Trojan Rubber Co. changed its name to Mammoth, and then Van Halen. For the next three years, Van Halen spent honing their sound.

Van Halen played wherever they could. Backyard parties, clubs and dive bars, they weren’t proud. Far from it. They certainly were loud. Too loud some thought.

When Van Halen went to audition at Gazzarri’s, a bar on Sunset Strip, that was down on its luck, the owner Bill Gazzarri, told them they were “too loud, and refused to hire them.” However, Van Halen’s new managers stepped in. 

Mark Algorri and Mario Miranda had just been installed as Van Halen’s managers. They had also just taken over the booking at Gazzarri’s. So, Van Halen were installed as the house band. Not long after this, Van Halen entered the studio for the first time.

The four members of Van Halen headed to Cherokee Studios, which had recently housed Steely Dan. At Cherokee Studios, Van Halen recorded their demo tape. It would become their calling card, and see them play some of L.A.’s top clubs, including the famous Whisky-A-Go-Go.

Soon, Van Halen were a permanent fixture in L.A.’s top clubs. That’s where they continued to hone their sound. It’s also where they came to the attention of Kiss’ Gene Simmons. 

Gene Simmons had heard good things about Van Halen. So, he went to check out Van Halen. According to what he had heard, they were one of the rising stars of L.A.’s music scene. When Gene Simmons arrived at the Gazzarri club in the summer of 1976, he was won over by Van Halen. He knew they were going places.

So, Gene Simmons took Van Halen to Village Recorders in L.A. to produce a new demo tape. Overdubs then took place at Electric Ladyland in New York. Things were looking good for Van Halen. The only thing Van Halen baulked at, was Gene’s suggestion to change the band’s name to Daddy Longlegs. That was a step too far.  The next step was for Gene to take the newly recorded demo tape to Kiss’ management.

When Kiss’ management heard the demo, they were pretty disparaging about Van Halen. According to Kiss’ managers, Van Halen “had no chance of making it.” These words would come back to haunt them, after Van Halen sold over 50.5 million albums in America alone. However, with Kiss’ management not interested in signing Van Halen, Gene Simmons bowed out of the story. He would be replaced a year later by Mo Ostin and Ted Templeman.

Down but not out, Van Halen returned to the club circuit. For the next year, they continued to hone their sound on the club circuit. One night, in the middle of 1977, Van Halen were playing at the Starwood in Hollywood. There wasn’t much of an audience. However, little did Van Halen know, that two very special guests were in the audience, Mo Ostin and Ted Templeman of Warner Bros. Records. The pair liked what they heard and less than a week later, Van Halen had signed to Warner Bros. Records. Mo Ostin dispatched Van Halen to Sunset Sound Records with producer Ted Templeman, where recording of Van Halen I began.

Van Halen. 

Like many bands recording their debut album, Van Halen were fearless. They had no apprehension. Mind you, this wasn’t exactly a new experience. Van Halen had been in studios before, recording two different demo tapes. However, this was for real. The band had written nine tracks. The other two were covers of The Kinks’ You Really Got Me and John Brim’s Ice Cream Man. These eleven tracks would eventually become Van Halen’s debut album, Van Halen.

Recording of Van Halen began in the middle of September 1977. Van Halen’s rhythm section of drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony set about proving the album’s pulsating heartbeat. A week was spent recording Eddie’s guitar parts. Another two weeks were spent recording David’s vocals and the backing vocals. By  early October 1977, recording of Van Halen was all but complete. The decision was made not to do much in the way of over-dubbing. This meant Van Halen was much more like hearing Van Halen live. How would critics respond to this?

Before the release of Van Halen, critics had their say. For everyone at Warner Bros. Records, they held their breath. Back in 1978, critics could be venomous. It was hardly rock critic’s finest hour. They were in the throes of a love affair with punk. Many critics took great pleasure in trashing rock albums. The critics didn’t hold back when it came to Van Halen. Most of the reviews were negative. One of the worst reviews came from the so called doyen of critics, the contrarian Robert Christgau. The equally contrarian Rolling Stone were not fans of Van Halen. At least they admitted that Van Halen were going places. Mostly, the reviews panned Van Halen. However, soon, critics would be eating their words.

When Van Halen was released on 18th February 1978, it began climbing the charts. Eventually, it reached number nineteen in the US Billboard 200 charts. Since then, Van Halen has sold over ten million copies and has been certified diamond. Back in 1978, rhis was just the start of the rise and rise of Van Halen, who critics had changed their mind about.

Gradually, critics changed their minds about Van Halen. Suddenly, they began to regard Van Halen as one of the best debut albums in the history of rock ’n’ roll. That’s the case today, with critics hailing Van Halen as a classic, and one of the greatest debut albums ever released. From that album, a trio singles were chosen.

Three singles were released from Van Halen. A cover of The Kinks’ You Really Got Me reached number thirty-six in the US Billboard 100. Runnin’ With The Devil Stalled at number eighty-four in the US Billboard 100. The final single released from Van Halen was Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love. It failed to chart. While the singles failed to replicate the success of Van Halen, it showcased the band at their hard rocking best.

Literally, Van Halen strut and swagger through the eleven tracks on their debut album Van Halen. It’s no surprise that rock and heavy metal fans were won over by Van Halen. It’s a track full of  some of Van Halen’s biggest songs, including  Runnin’ With The Devil, Eruption,  You Really Got Me, Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love, Jamie’s Cryin’ and Ice Cream Man.  Van Halen’s rhythm section of Alex and Michael provide the backdrop to Eddie’s blistering guitars  and David’s lived-in vocal. From the opening bars of Runnin’ With The Devil, right through On Fire, Van Halen win friends and influence people. The band who just a year ago, were being hailed L.A.’s best bar band, were on their way to becoming a one of the biggest bands on planet rock.

Van Halen II.

When Van Halen entered Sunset Sound Recorders, in Hollywood, on 11th December 1978, the the four members of the band must have wondered what had happened in the last ten months? They had gone from bar room band, to a million selling rock band. All of a sudden, they were one of the biggest bands in the America. They were being touted as the saviour of American rock. This was hard to comprehend. It also meant that Van Halen were under pressure to record a fitting followup to Van Halen.

Recording of what became Van Halen II began on 11th December 1978. Nine of the ten tracks were penned by Van Halen. Many of the tracks weren’t new songs. Instead, they featured on the Gene Simmons’ sessions. However, given Van Halen were under pressure to record their sophomore album, it’s no surprise that they chose to dust off these songs. The other track chosen for Van Halen II was Clint Ballard Jr.’s You’re No Good. These ten track were produced by Ted Templeman. By January 1979, Van Halen II was complete, and ready for release.

Given the negative reviews of their debut album, the four members of Van Halen must have awaited the reviews of Van Halen II with bated breath. Mostly, reviews of Van Halen II were positive. That’s apart from the “usual suspects,” who still, failed to be won over by Van Halen. They were in the minority. The majority of critics were impressed by Van Halen II’s upbeat, feel good sound. Especially tracks like Dance The Night Away and Beautiful Girls, which some critics referred to Van Halen II as perfect party music. One track however, was very different to the rest. 

This was the instrumental, Spanish Fly. It was perceived as the followup to Eruption on Van Halen. Spanish Fly however, is only a minute long, and featured Eddie Van Halen on an acoustic guitar. Rather than fingerpick, he uses a plectrum. This makes things doubly hard. Despite this, he delivers a guitar masterclass. Eddie deploys a variety of techniques, including finger tapping and tremolo picking. Those who had marvelled at Eruption, would be spellbound by Eddie’s performance on Spanish Fly.

That would be the case with Van Halen’s performance on Van Halen II. When Van Halen II was released on March 23rd 1979, copies of Van Halen II sold quickly. It was one of 1979s must have rock albums. Soon, Van Halen two reached number six in the US Billboard 200. Eventually, it sold five million copies in America, and was certified platinum five times over. Across the border, Van Halen II was certified double platinum in Canada. Meanwhile,  in France Van Halen II was certified gold. It seemed Van Halen could do no wrong. 

While that was the case with Van Halen’s first two albums, their singles were selling as well. While Dance The Night Away reached number fourteen in the US Billboard 100, Beautiful Girls stalled at number eighty-four. Just like many other rock bands before them, Van Halen looked like being an album’s band. Maybe that would change with their third album? 

Just a year after Van Halen began recording their sophomore album, the band began work on their third album, Women and Children First. It marked the beginning of a new chapter in the Van Halen story. It was released to critical acclaim and when it was released on March 6th 1980, t reached number six in the US Billboard 200. Eventually, it sold three million copies in America, and was certified triple-platinum. Elsewhere, Women and Children First was certified double platinum in Canada and gold in France. As Van Halen and everyone at Warner Bros. breathed a sigh of relief, still Van Halen weren’t selling singles in vast quantities. However, Van Halen with David Lee Roth at the helm were on on their way to becoming one of the biggest bands of their generation.

Van Halen were also a notoriously hard living band, and burnt the candle at both ends, replicating the excesses of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Just like Icarus, members of Van Halen sailed to close to the sun. However, Van Halen lived to tell the tale, and in the process, released some of the best rock music of the late seventies and early eighties. Sadly, all too soon, the David Lee Roth years were over, and Van Halen never scaled the same heights again. It had been good while it lasted, and classic albums Van Halen, Van Halen II and 1984, which feature the hard rocking Van Halen at the peak of their considerable musical powers.

In 1979 Van Halen Released Van Halen II.

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