My Sunday Song – “Romeo Delight” by Van Halen

For My Sunday Song #144, we are tackling “Romeo Delight” by Van Halen off their 1980 album ‘Women and Children First’.  The song was never released as a single, but is one of the strongest on the album.  The album, however, did well going as high as #6 on the Billboard charts.  The album saw the band getting a little heavier and when it comes to Van Halen, the heavier the better for me.

The song is about going to the bar and looking for a fight and looking for girl to bed that night.  A drinking and party and helluva good time song.  Dave’s confidence comes shining through in his vocal delivery and you are pretty confident he is walking home with a lady.

Eddie’s guitar work is nothing short of amazing.  The sounds he creates are mesmerizing and his solo is nothing short of stellar.  There is even a point in the song where Dave is singing “Feel my Heartbeat”, Eddie is making this heartbeat noise with his guitar.  He is taking is Low E string and tapping it against the pickup to create the effect.  You want a sound and Eddie will deliver.

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My Sunday Song – “Poundcake” by Van Halen

For My Sunday Song #143, we have “Poundcake” off  Van Halen’s 1991 album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (or F.U.C.K. for short).  The song was the first single off the album and went straight to #1 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart.  The song was also the first song on the album which was one hell of a way to open an album.

The song comes firing at you with a freaking power drill.  That is right.  The song opens with a power drill being played through Eddie’s guitar.  Playing it near or against the strings allows the guitar pickups to actually “pick up” the sound.  It was totally cool as there seems there is nothing Eddie can not do with a guitar.  It was so popular, that Eddie painted up a drill in the Frankenstrat motif to use in the video and tour.

That wasn’t the only cool thing about the song.  The rest of the guitar sounds were great as well.  Eddie beefed things up playing a 12 string throughout for the rhythm guitar as well as his normal guitar for the solo.  And let me tell you that solo was something else too.  Eddie pulls out all the tracks accompanied by the heart pounding drums of his brother Alex.  It is one of those songs I liked more for the music than the actual lyrical content of the song.

Lyrically, the song is about being real.  Most people are fake and pretend to be something they are not.  It is sexier if you are just who you are, no pretentiousness or b.s. of any kind.  If you can find a woman (or a man) that is who they say they are, then get a hold of that and wrap it up nice and tight.  Poundcakes are simple, there isn’t anything to hide.  What you see is what you get so I guess that is why they chose that as its title.

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My Sunday Song – “Once” by Van Halen

For My Sunday Song #142, we are going with a song by underrated Van Halen singer Gary Cherone.  The song is “Once” off the album Van Halen III.  The song wasn’t a single and the album wasn’t a hit, but it had some great songs and Gary Cherone (singer for Extreme) never got the recognition he deserved for this album.  So we will give it here.

“Once” is an epic song at over 7 minutes long.  It opens with the piano and is a much slower tempo song.  There is a mystical and yet eerie feel to the song.  And even a sadness as it seems to be about love loss.  It is filled with so many layers and textures that you hear something different each time you give it a listen.  It has an almost early Genesis feel to it.

The song focuses on the groove with the piano and Gary’s voice which is actually also understated in the song.  but Eddie’s guitar work is also sensational.  He dances in and out of the song and during the long instrumental break of the song, he is trying all sorts of things.  It seems to be a very experimental song for them and I thought it worked as it was so different than everything else Van Halen had done.

Interesting on the song is that bass is played by Eddie and not Michael Anthony.  In fact, on Van Halen III, Michael only played bass on 3 tracks.  His time was numbered with the band by this point for sure.

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My Sunday Song – “Unchained” by Van Halen

For My Sunday Song #141, we are now going to tackle 10 songs from Van Halen.  They could be with David Lee Roth, Sammy Hager or even Gary Cherone on lead vocals.  We will cover all the bases.  First up will be “Unchained” off the band’s fourth album, ‘Fair Warning’.  ‘Fair Warning’ came out in April 1981 and “Unchained” was the second single off the album released in July 1981, but I had also heard no singles were ever officially released so not sure what to believe.  Either way, the song reached #13 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart.

The album suffered from poor sales, but the album was received very well by the critics.  In fact, “Unchained” is often named as one of the best Van Halen songs of all time.  I can’t say I disagree with that.

The song is noted for its use of the MXR M-117 Flanger which for us non-guitar people is a pedal used that can change the sound of the guitar.  For the guitar people, It uses a Drop Db tuning with suspended fourth chords interspersed (thanks Wikipedia).  Eddie made this effect very popular and helped increase the sales of such equipment. (Picture not actual EVH pedal).

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The song also features producer Ted Templeman on vocals.  During a point in the song, Dave is pontificating on and on and Ted jumps in and says “Come On Dave, Give Me a Break” and Dave replies, “Hey, hey, hey, hey, one break coming up!”.  It is an awesome moment in the song.

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My Sunday Song – “Eruption” by Van Halen

For My Sunday Song #125, the instrumental this week is one that blew my mind and I think changed the way guitar solos were done for most of the 80’s.  The song is “Eruption” by Van Halen.  Often thought of as the introduction to the band’s cover of the Kink’s song “You Really Got Me”, it is considered one of the greatest guitar solos of all time. In fact, Guitar World Magazine ranks it at #2.  For me, it might be #1.

The Van Halen debut is considered one of the greatest debut albums of all time in no small part to the work that Eddie Van Halen did on this song.  At only 1:42 in length, it is the most exciting and electrifying 1:42 you will ever experience in music.  The song is accompanied by Michael Anthony on bass and brother Alex Van Halen on drums, but there is no denying the star is Eddie Van Halen.

The introduction of the song is based on a song by Cactus called “Let Me Swim” and it has a little piece of “Etude #2” by Rodolphe Kruetzer, but the rest is all Eddie.  The song is famous for a guitar technique using the two-handed finger tapping.  Finger tapping was not new, but never before had it been showcased in such an amazing way.

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‘Runnin’ with the Devil’ by Noel Monk and Joe Layden – Book Review

Runnin’ with the Devil: A Backstage Pass to the Wild Times, Loud Rock, and the Down and Dirty Truth Behind the Making of Van Halen by Joe Layden and Noel E. Monk…now that is a mouthful for a book title.  The book takes you on the journey of the David Lee Roth era of Van Halen and for some the true era of Van Halen.  The story is from the point of view of their Tour Manager and later Manager Noel E. Monk.

Before we get in to it, if you want to read a much better review of the book, go see my friend Deke at his blog as it was his review that made me get this when Amazon offered on the Kindle for only $2 (or was it $3)…either way it was cheap and worth that price.

The book picks up with Noel coming in as their tour manager for the tour supporting their incredible debut album ‘Van Halen’.  We don’t get any insight into the making of that album or really any album for that matter as Noel didn’t go to the studios while they were recording (or rarely ever did). We also don’t get any information on their forming or even their time with Gene Simmons which would have been nice, but again, this is not a band member telling the story and I had to get over that fact.

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The Debut: Van Halen – ‘Van Halen’

For my third installment of The Debut, I have decided to take on the daunting task of discussing on what is regarded as one of the best debut albums in rock history, Van Halen’s debut simply called ‘Van Halen’.  Why is it daunting? Because so many people have written about this album that there really is nothing I can add to the discussion other than my opinion which is probably no different than what has already been said.

We will start off with some general information about the album.  The album was released on February 10th, 1978.  I was only 9 at the time.  It was produced by Ted Templeman who was famous for producing The Doobie Brothers, Van Morrison and Montrose (early Sammy Hagar connection).  The album reached as high as only #19 on the charts and did sell over 1 million copies in its first year.  It has now been certified Diamond Status with sells well over 10 million copies.

The band was originally discovered by Gene Simmons from the band KISS.  Gene worked with the band and they did some demos, but nothing materialized as Gene headed back out on tour with his band.  The ended up playing a lot of live shows around Hollywood including the Whiskey A Go Go and the Starwood.  It was at the Starwood that they came to the attention of Mo Ostin & Ted Templeman with Warner Brothers Records.  They later signed with Warner and went on to record their debut album.

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