Man, do I remember spring thirty years ago. I could not wait for the new Van Halen record to come out. I had just recently become a fan a few years late to the Van Halen party because I was so young. The upside, however, was that I became completely immersed into a life changing wash of guitar music, getting all four of their albums at one time. From that moment on I knew exactly what I wanted to do the rest of my life. I wanted to play guitar and pass the power of music on to others. Those first four Van Halen albums, “Van Halen,” “Van Halen II,” “Women and Children First” and “Fair Warning” shaped my formative teen years. Eddie’s guitar playing and image changed how I dressed, friends I hung out with guitar equipment I bought, etc. He even married one of my biggest crushes, Valerie Bertinelli. There was nothing not to like about him in a guitar and music loving kid’s eyes.
Back to Spring of ’82 and my long wait. I would listen to 101.5 KGB a local rock station religiously waiting for a first chance to hear some new music from Eddie and the boys. I even used to call the DJs and ask when it was coming or if they knew what the cover art looked like.
Late one night I remember lying in bed listening to the radio and hearing these amazing guitar riffs. I jumped up wondering if this was it. Is it? I kept listening. It sounded a little dark and Van Halen even though they were heavy was always known to be on the happier party side of the rock/Heavy Metal vibe. Maybe it was new Black Sabbath? Didn’t take long that I realized my wait would have to endure just like the kid on “A Christmas Story,” wanting his BB gun. I did find another cool guitarist though. The song I had thought might be the new VH was called “End of the World,” by Gary Moore, a great guitarist who unfortunately passed away last year.
Finally on this day April 14, 1982 it arrived! I made my mom drive me to the local Tower Records and scored “Diver Down,” on vinyl!
I know this album is ranked as a substandard Van Halen offering to some. Even though it was kind of thrown together with a handful of cover tunes there are some great originals, as well. Eddie was at the height of his cool choppy guitar riff composition style on songs like, “Hang ‘Em High,” “Little Guitars,” and “The Full Bug.” “Cathedrals,” was a ‘loudly’ soft spoken guitar solo in which the guitarist traded a pick for left hand hammering and his volume knob to produce sound. The Van Halen brother’s dad, a musician, even sat in with his boys, a clarinet solo on “Big Bad Will (Is Sweet William Now).”
By summer’s end I wore out that record and every 60 minute cassette tape I dubbed it to by listening over and over! Good times!
To this day with the bands latest release this past February “A Different Kind of Truth,” I have made it a tradition to get every one of their albums the day of its release. Gone are the vinyl albums with lots of cool artwork and photos and soon CDs will join their demise. The next release I might just have to download. Although that depends on the quality of compressed audio at that time, a topic for another day.
In the words of Roy and Dale Evans Rogers and from “Diver Down,” David Lee Roth…