1978, Music

Van Halen (1978)

The first time I ever heard “Eruption” my mind was blown. I had never heard anyone play guitar like that (though that was because I hadn’t heard so many guitarists). It was my gold standard in virtuoso (masturbatory?) guitar showmanship until I heard “Spanish Fly,” which seemed so much more impressive for being played on an acoustic. In the interim I have discovered lots of other guitar players, some of whom might be, in some way, better technically and certainly many of whom have a better sense of taste, but I still remember first hearing “Eruption” in part because I like to think it allows me to travel back in time to 1978 and be one of those people who heard Eddie and was like “What is happening?”

Tapping, of course, had been done in a rock context before – Eddie certainly didn’t invent it, or introduce it to rock music – but it had never been done so fast, so fluidly, and with so much flair and drama, nor had it ever been done in a context that might be called “metal.” And it revolutionized heavy music to a degree which may never be able to quantify. And so, if this album did anything, it did that: it created the need to feature impossibly dexterous guitar playing if your band was playing metal or hard rock.

Unfortunately, it did some other things too.

I get that there’s something fun about David Lee Roth’s antics and that sense of fun was likely a good antidote to the self-serious British bands. I don’t really object to Roth so much, as what he wrought later, as Roth imitators sprung up everywhere, making American hard rock about partying.

But where I do struggle is with the backing vocals from Roth, Eddie and Michael Anthony. These vocals are essentially arena rock vocals – it’s incredible it took as long as it did for this record to become a hit, as these vocals are slick – and they became ubiquitous in the music Van Halen inspired.

And it’s the music that this record inspired, more than the music here, that I dislike. I don’t love Van Halen’s songs particularly but I don’t hate them necessarily. But I generally hate all the bands that followed in their wake which did not boast their own Eddie or Roth but thought they did, and who basically created a decade’s worth of radio-friendly shit posing as “metal.”

I can’t deny this record’s great influence, but when the influence is mostly for ill, I have a hard time fully acclaiming it.

8/10, grudgingly because anything this influential deserves at least that (it probably deserves a 9) but I don’t like it

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.