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Members include Michael Anthony (born June 20, 1954, Chicago, IL), bass; Gary Cherone (born July 26, 1961, Malden, MA), vocals; Sammy Hagar (born October 13, 1947, Monterey, CA), vocals;David Lee Roth (born October 10, 1955, Bloomington, IN), vocals; Alex Van Halen (born May 8, 1953, Amsterdam, Netherlands), drums; Edward Van Halen (born January 26, 1955, Amsterdam, Netherlands), g guitar. Addresses: Record company-Warner Bros. Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505-4694.
With groundbreaking musicianship and energetic showmanship, Van Halen dominated the hard rock scene for more than two decades. Guitarist Edward Van Halen was the one constant draw for fans throughout the years, as the band went through three different singers who brought varying styles to Van Halen's music.
Beginning with David Lee Roth in the late 1970s, the group established itself as a powerful musical force. When Roth left the band in 1985, he was replaced by established solo artist Sammy Hagar, who took Van Halen to the top of the album charts for more than ten years. Then, in the late 1990s, former Extreme singer Gary Cherone took center stage with yet another change in style and musical direction. Throughout the changes, Eddie Van Halen continued to forge strong musical partnerships with each of the frontmen and ensured the band's survival by establishing himself as one of the most revolutionary guitarists in rock music. As James Rotondi wrote of Eddie in Guitar Player, "He not only redefined electric guitar technique, but he immeasurably changed the sound, structure, and style of the instrument itself."
Eddie and his brother, drummer Alex Van Halen, were both born in Holland and moved to Pasadena, California, in 1962. Their father, Jan Van Halen, played saxophone and clarinet in jazz bands, and encouraged his sons' interest in music. In 1965, the Van Halen brothers formed their first band, the Broken Combs, when Alex was just 13 years old and Eddie was 11. Eddie played piano and Alex played saxophone in the Broken Combs' lunchroom performances at Hamilton Elementary School.
A year after they formed their first band, Eddie decided to buy a drum set with money he made on his paper route. At the same time, Alex bought a guitar and took flamenco guitar lessons. While Eddie was delivering papers, Alex would often play on his drum set, and soon the brothers switched instruments. As teenagers, they formed another band called Revolver, and later performed in a group called Mammoth.
In 1973, Eddie and Alex decided to enroll in Pasadena City College to take classes in music theory. There they met singer David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony. First they convinced Roth to leave his band, the Red Ball Jets, to join Mammoth. At one of their nightclub performances, Anthony's band, Snake, opened the show, and not long after, they invited him to join Mammoth. When they discovered that another band had already trademarked the name, the Van Halen brothers wanted to change the name to Rat Salade. Roth convinced them that Van Halen would make a better choice.
Party Image Grabbed Attention
As the group developed, Eddie and Roth became the center of attention. Eddie would later demand recognition for his brother Alex's musical talent, but Anthony remained in the background throughout his career. "It's a little restricting playing behind a guitarist like Ed," Anthony told Jas Obrecht in Guitar Player, "but it feels good because of who he is."
Van Halen played local clubs and parties for four years before they got the attention of Warner Bros. Records' staff producer Ted Templeman. He saw the band play to a small crowd at the Starwood in Los Angeles and was amazed at their performance. "I saw their sets," Templeman later told Debby Miller in Rolling Stone, "and there were like 11 people in the audience, and they were playing like they were at [a large stadium like] the Forum." Templeman convinced label president Mo Ostin to sign the band, and they embarked on the beginning of a long, successful rock career with Warner Bros. Records.
Their self-titled debut was released in 1978, and the first single was a cover version of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me." The album went on to sell more than 10 million copies worldwide. "The vision was that we would play whatever kind of music we wanted, regardless of trends, and that we would exhibit our true personalities," Roth told Nancy Collins in Rolling Stone. "Then, if people like it, you're going to be a star."
Van Halen went on their first tour, then quickly returned to the studio to record and release Van Halen II in 1979. This sophomore effort included the hits "Dance the Night Away" and "Beautiful Girls." The band kept up their fast pace in 1980 with the release of Women and Children First, which took only two-and-a-half weeks to record. With hits such as "And the Cradle Will Rock" and "Everybody Wants Some," the album climbed to the top ten on Billboard's album chart just one week after its release.
Eddie was amazed at how fast the group rocketed to the top. "Just three years ago, I was fighting my way up front with the rest of the kids to see Aerosmith," he said to Mikal Gilmore in Rolling Stone. "Then, a year later, we were playing with them.... I knew I'd always play guitar, but I had no idea I'd be in the position I'm in now."
Rode Through Roller Coaster Years
Sales seemed to have peaked with Women and Children First as Van Halen's next two albums-Fair Warning and Diver Down-sold about half the number of copies of their debut. Eddie later said that he regretted the number of cover songs the band recorded on Diver Down, which included the hits "Pretty Woman" and "Dancing in the Streets." "I'd rather bomb making music that comes through me than be in the world's biggest cover band," Eddie explained to Ray Rogers in Interview.
Van Halen's slump ended in 1984, and their climb to the top resumed with the release of their number-one single "Jump" and the album 1984. It was the first time the group used a significant amount of keyboards on an album, and fans responded favorably. The band followed the release with more hit songs from the album, including "Panama" and "I'll Wait," and a successful world tour.
High on the success of 1984, singer Roth decided to release a solo EP the following year. He recorded four cover tunes on Crazy from the Heat and began discussing a possible movie deal with the same title. According to the remaining members of Van Halen, Roth decided he wanted to pursue a solo career in music and an acting career and left the band. Roth explained his side to David Rensin in Playboy, "Edward wanted to make music that took more than a year in the studio and play it live for two months. I wanted to make music in half that time and play it twice as much."
Faced with a vacant singer slot in the band, Van Halen began brainstorming for a replacement. They considered recording an album using different singers on each song, then ultimately decided to maintain a group. One day, Eddie was getting his car fixed, and his auto mechanic, Claudio Zampolli, suggested he talk to singer Sammy Hagar. He spoke to Hagar right then from the mechanic's phone and invited him to jam with the band. Eddie had been a fan of Hagar's singing and songwriting when the singer fronted the band Montrose in the mid-1970s. They also worked with the same producer, Ted Templeman.
Soared with Second Singer
Hagar met with the band, rehearsed with them, and by the end of 1985, he became Van Halen's new singer. In the beginning, the new incarnation of Van Halen and Roth continued to talk about each other in the press. "One thing about Roth," Eddie told Steve Dougherty in People, "he's not half the singer Sammy is, but he is creative. I'm not slagging him about the music. Onstage he was fine. It was offstage that he made having a human relationship impossible."
Van Halen's first release with Hagar, 5150, was a huge success and became the band's first of several number-one albums. It included hit songs like, "Why Can't This Be Love," "Best of Both Worlds," and "Dreams." The group sold out every show on their 38-city tour, and constantly boasted about the strong bond between the members. "I don't know what it is about the guy," Alex said in Rolling Stone. "You could be having the worst day of your life, but you walk in and there's Sammy. And it just makes my day."
Eddie explained how Hagar freed up his songwriting options, too, in an interview with David Wild in Rolling Stone. "From the first second, Sammy could do anything I threw at him," he said. "I'm in heaven because now I can write whatever I want and not worry because Sammy can sing it all."
Van Halen released its second album with Hagar in 1988 called OU812. With tracks like, "Finish What Ya Started" and "When It's Love," the album quickly climbed to number one on Billboard's album charts. In the summer of that year, the group headlined the Monsters of Rock tour, which also included Metallica, Dokken, and the Scorpions.
After taking a couple of years off, Van Halen returned with a vengeance in 1991 with the harder-edged, number-one album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. The CD included the megahit "Right Now," which exposed the band to even wider audiences. "When we first cut 'Right Now,' I almost didn't add a guitar to it because it sounded great with just piano, bass, and drums," Eddie Van Halen told James Rotondi in Guitar Player. "It's not that I care less about the guitar, but the song as a whole means more to me."
Van Halen recorded a socio-political video to accompany the song, which was produced by Carolyn Mayer and directed by Mark Fenske. The video became one of the most requested videos on MTV, and won "Best Video," "Best Art Direction," and "Best Editing" at the MTV Video Music Awards.
In 1993, the band released a live album from the tour for For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, which was called Van Halen Live: Right Here, Right Now. Later that year, their longtime manager, Ed Leffler, died of thyroid cancer. This tragic event sent the members of the group into a time of reflection, and eventually was referenced as the turning point that led to the next lineup change.
Their next album, Balance, was released in 1995, and debuted at number one on the charts. Eddie explained his impression of the album's title to David Wild in Rolling Stone, "I think of it as the balance between the four of us that makes everything work." While recording Balance, the band hired a new manager: Ray Danniels, Alex's brother-in-law and longtime manager of Rush. However, the death of Leffler had already began to take its toll on the group. "With Ed dying last year, it was the first time that we have had a reality check in the nine years I've been with the band," Sammy Hagar told Craig Rosen in Billboard.
Friction Brought Back the Past
According to Hagar, Danniels' involvement with Van Halen began to cause friction between its members. The group recorded the song "Humans Being" for the Twistersoundtrack. Alex and Eddie also recorded an instrumental track on their own for the soundtrack called "Respect the Wind." The group was in the process of recording another song for the soundtrack when Eddie and Hagar got into a dispute about the lyrics. Danniels also informed Hagar that the song would instead be used on a greatest hits record, which Hagar was against releasing in the first place.
On June 20, 1996, Hagar was either fired from Van Halen or quit, depending on who's recounting the story. Eddie insisted that Hagar left to pursue a solo career, just as David Lee Roth had in 1985. "I did not quit this band," Hagar told Chris Willman in Entertainment Weekly. "I was forced out of this band. And I would be back in this band tomorrow if they got a new manager and wanted me."
Van Halen proceeded with the greatest hits album, and recruited former singer David Lee Roth to record two new songs for the release. Van Halen: Best of Volume 1 was released with the new tracks "Can't Get This Stuff No More" and "Me Wise Magic," and rumors of a Roth reunion spread like wildfire. When MTV invited Van Halen, with Roth, to present an award at the Video Music Awards, it seemed as if the rumors had been confirmed. However, Van Halen insisted a reunion was never part of the plan.
"I asked him [Roth] to do a song for the Van Halen: Best ofbecause I wanted it to have something new," Eddie Van Halen explained to Anthony Bozza in Rolling Stone. "Then MTV and everybody else-including him-thought it was a reunion."
After another fallout with the members of his former band, Roth released a public statement on October 2, 1996, explaining his side of the story. "I was an unwitting participant in this deception," he wrote. "It sickens me that the reunion as seen on MTV was nothing more than a publicity stunt.... Those who know me know trickery was never my style."
Created Third Incarnation
During this same time, Danniels had recommended former Extreme singer Gary Cherone as a possible new singer for the band. Danniels was the manager for Extreme before the band broke up the previous year. After meeting with him, Van Halen hired Cherone as the new frontman and began writing songs for a new album.
Former singer Hagar returned to his own solo career and released his first album since the breakup in 1997, titled Marching to Mars. "I took two weeks to think about what happened," Hagar told Tom Sinclair in Entertainment Weekly. "Then I went into the studio and started writing songs." After taking some time to let the dust settle, Hagar also expressed an interest in eventually performing with the group sometime in the future. "If I never walk on stage with Eddie Van Halen again, I'll be really disappointed," he said.
In 1998, Van Halen released their first album with their third singer, appropriately titled Van Halen III. On this record, Eddie not only contributed to writing the lyrics, but also sang on the track "How Many Say I?" He described the album to Chris Willman in Entertainment Weekly as "heavier than anything we've ever done and deeper on an emotional level; the kind of stuff that gives you goose bumps." However, some critics and fans didn't have the same positive reaction. "Cherone has one speed as a singer on III-pained exertion," Greg Kot wrote in Rolling Stone, "and longtime bassist Michael Anthony and drummer Alex Van Halen sound as though they're lumbering at any tempo." Tom Sinclair wrote in Entertainment Weekly, "Despite the anointing of yet another lead singer, Van Halen III is more chunky guitar feast than vocal tour de force."
The members of Van Halen insisted that the album's decrease in sales and increase in criticism was immaterial. "We have to please ourselves first," Eddie told Chris Willman in Entertainment Weekly. "And if nobody likes it, don't buy it! Listen to the Roth and Sammy records if that's what you prefer. Nobody's twisting your arm."
At the close of the 1990s, Eddie claimed he was finished with playing musical lead singer in Van Halen. "If Gary ever develops LSD-lead singer disease-I am quitting," Van Halen told Ray Rogers in Interview. "No more Van Halen.... Whether everyone likes what I do or not is irrelevant."
by Sonya Shelton
Van Halen's Career
Band formed as Mammoth and changed name to Van Halen, 1973; signed record contract with Warner Bros. Records, 1977; released six LPs, 1978-1984; Sammy Hagar replaced David Lee Roth on vocals, 1985; released five LPs, 1985-1995; reunited with Roth for two songs on Van Halen: Best of Volume 1, 1996; Gary Cherone replaced Sammy Hagar on vocals, 1996.
- Selected discography
- Van Halen , Warner Bros. Records, 1978.
- Van Halen II , Warner Bros. Records, 1979.
- Women and Children First , Warner Bros. Records, 1980.
- Fair Warning , Warner Bros. Records, 1981.
- Diver Down , Warner Bros. Records, 1982.
- 1984 , Warner Bros. Records, 1984.
- 5150 , Warner Bros. Records, 1985.
- OU812 , Warner Bros. Records, 1988.
- For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge , Warner Bros. Records, 1991.
- Van Halen Live: Right Here, Right Now , Warner Bros. Records, 1993.
- Balance , Warner Bros. Records, 1995.
- Van Halen: Best of Volume 1 , Warner Bros. Records, 1996.
- Van Halen III , Warner Bros. Records, 1998.
August 31, 2004: Van Halen's album, The Best of Both Worlds, was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/riaa/gold.jsp, September 15, 2004.
December 6, 2005: Van Halen's wife, actress Valerie Bertinelli, filed for divorce after 24 years of marriage. Source: CNN.com, www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/Music/12/07/people.bertinelli.ap/index.html, December 10, 2005.
- Billboard , April 17, 1992; September 19, 1992; December 17, 1994.
- Entertainment Weekly , October 18, 1996; January 10, 1997; May 23, 1997; March 20, 1998.
- Guitar Player , October 1981, May 1993, March 1995, July 1995, February 1997.
- Interview , April 1998.
- New York , May 11, 1998.
- People , February 11, 1985; June 23, 1986; April 6, 1998.
- Playboy , August 1987.
- Rolling Stone , April 17, 1980; September 4, 1980; June 21, 1984; April 11, 1985; July 3, 1986; March 24, 1988; August 11, 1988; February 18, 1993; March 23, 1995; April 6, 1995; April 2, 1998; April 16, 1998.
- Stereo Review , June 1998.
- Teen , September 1985.
- Van Halen 3 , http://www.vanhalen3.com (September 23, 1998).
- OVan Halen Timeline,O The Official Van Halen Website , http://www.van-halen.com (September 23, 1998).
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