For My Sunday Song #150, we are ending the Van Halen set of 10 songs with “Mean Street” off the album “Fair Warning”. The song reached #13 on the Mainstream Rock station and help propel the album to #5 on the Billboard charts. It is the opening track and the song were the title of the album comes.
The song comes blazing out of the gate with the vintage Eddie style riffs that scream…I am the best guitarist and don’t you forget it!! The opening was inspired by the slap funk bass style and I would say there is nothing the man can’t do with a guitar. Then the song gets dirty and a little nasty. Musically and Lyrically, it is a dark song for the band. I also love the fade out at the end with those wicked guitar parts Ed is playing while it is fading out.
The song seems to be about life on the streets. The pain and agony of living on the street and the fighting to stay alive. The streets will basically chew you up and spit you out. Funny thing, the band aren’t from the streets so they really have no idea about “mean streets” now do they. Don’t get me wrong, that takes away nothing from the song. It is badass and delivered very convincingly.
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For My Sunday Song #149, we are not going real deep for this one. We are going to one of their big hits and a personal favorite called “Panama” off the album ‘1984’. The song reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. For me, the song brings back memories of my Senior Trip in High School when we went to Panama City, Florida…the song was blasting in the car on the way down!!
The song has two theories behind its meaning. The first is it is about a car and the second theory is it is about a stripper. The lyrics work either way as it is a wonderful double entendre. The song does mention all the typical car parts and hell there is even a part during the bridge where you hear an engine revving. That car engine is actually Eddie’s 1972 Lamborghini Miura S with a mic up to its tailpipe.
The album 1984 brought the keyboard sound into the bands music, but this song would have none of that. It had Eddie blasting through some brutal riffs and Alex was pounding away at the drums and the brothers gave us the Van Halen of old. Dave is his classic self and is belting out the lyrics and even giving us a little of that spoken verse style he does so famously towards the end.
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For My Sunday Song #148, we go with “Pleasure Dome” off the album “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”. This is the second one off this album I have done and for good reason, it was the first Sammy led album I actually liked but that is for another time and place. The song was never a single, but a B-Side to the song “Poundcake” and I am not sure which one I like more.
The song is actually based on Rush’s song “Xanadu” from what I can gather and that is not a bad song for inspiration. And…a “Pleasure Dome” could be referring to the poem “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coolidge. Of course, Kubla Khan’s empire was known as Xanadu so the connection is complete (maybe, I am just piecing together bits and pieces from what I found on the song).
The song is a strong showcase of Alex’s stellar drumming and after doing “Everybody Wants Some” with a strong drum sound, why not continue with another that showcases Alex. Alex has a very distinct sound he creates with his drumming and there is so much on here that fills the song. It is one of the main things I take away from it.
Lyrically, it reminds me a little of “Everybody Wants Some” as well with how Sammy talks out a lot of the lyrics like Dave was doing. The lyrics seem to be about Sammy taking some drug tripping journey in his mind or in the universe or wherever. He is getting lost and further away from home with no escape. I don’t know what it really means, but it is fantastic trip.
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For My Sunday Song #147, Van Halen’s song “Everybody Wants Some” will get the royal treatment this week. The song is off the album “Women and Children First” and the second one I have done from that album (because it is that good). The song was never a a single, but a B-Side to the song “And the Cradle Will Rock”.
The opening of the song is the tribal drum beat by Alex with Dave making some little noises in the background and Eddie comes in with that sinister riff. The music sounds menacing and when they kick it in to full gear, it is a slammin’ rock song. Eddie’s guitar playing on the solo has him two-handing the fretboard on his guitar and really breaking new ground as usual. The driving force though is Alex with that drum beat throughout. Really killer.
Lyrically, there isn’t much there. It is a pure sex song and Dave’s talking vocal performance is the star here. His vocals sound almost like he is ad-libbing the whole thing. Just making it up as he goes along, but it works so well. The first line on the second verse is “I Seen a Lotta People Lookin’ for a Moonbeam”, but seriously, can you understand one word of what he says…except for maybe moonbeam? No, as I don’t think he knew what the hell he was saying. The song ends with Dave going “Look, I’ll pay you for it, What the fuck”, but the “fuck” is not really audible with the way they phase it out the sound.
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For My Sunday Song #146, we are going with the Sammy Hagar fronted tune “The Seventh Seal” off the band’s 1995 album ‘Balance’ which happens to be their tenth studio album. The song was the first track on the album and the first single which only went to #36 on the Mainstream Rock Chart songs. The song was strong enough that it was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance.
“The Seventh Seal” song opens with some chanting monks from The Monks of Gyuto Tantric University and then turns into a straight-up rock song. It is full of religious themes and has an almost mystical feel to it. Eddie’s guitar sound is in full force and Alex’s drum sound is unmistakeable. It is Van Halen coming out of the gate swinging. I won’t say its his best solo, but it is still a great lead off track for the album.
The song was inspired by Eddie’s new found sobriety. Through the help of his therapist, he was encouraged to look at where he was and who he was now that he was sober. Maybe he was finding religion as there are a lot of religious overtones in the song. Maybe he was still struggling with sobriety and the song is a cry for help in getting through the battle’s he was facing. The fact that he could feel again probably was hard to deal with and I am sure a tremendous challenge.
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For My Sunday Song #145, we are tackling “Atomic Punk” which is off Van Halen’s debut album. The space age song is a very deep cut and was never released as a single, but was the B-Side to “You Really Got Me”. It is one of those gems that only the true fans listen to probably more than some of the band’s big hits (maybe that is just me) I believe it helped drive the sales to way above 10 million copies.
The song is a sci-fi song about a dystopian society and Dave is the leader of this rag-tag crew. The opening of the song has these space age sounds coming from Eddie’s guitar almost like a space ship sound. Eddie captures the sound by rubbing his palm over the strings with the guitar going through one of his pedals. It is captivating.
Lyrically, there isn’t a whole lot here. Not in context or theme, but in length. This is more of a showcase for more of what Eddie can do. Not to take anything from Dave as he delivers the lyrics earnestly and convincingly as it does set the tone for the dark feel of the song. But it is Eddie’s guitar playing that is again in full force with all the tricks he throws at you. You hear something a little different and new each time you listen.
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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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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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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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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).
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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