I was out for Record Store Day in September and while waiting in line to buy my RSD purchases, this was sitting at the top of the shelf staring at me. I swear I heard it calling my name…”John, buy me!”. I stopped, looked around, no one else in the store heard it, but it said it, I know it did!! Now who was I to argue. I grabbed it, give it a quick once over and when I saw that it was a bootleg of demos from the Van Halen album “Women and Children First”, SOLD!! I mean look at the cover. They took the original album cover and made it way cooler. And to match the cover, the vinyl is even red to go with the stripes. Sweet!
I took it home and couldn’t wait to hear it. Now, I just bought several record store day items and I was way more excited about this album then the RSD purchases. And after listening to it, I am still more excited. Being a bootleg, I was worried about the sound quality of the demos and let me tell you, it was fantastic. These demos have been floating around for awhile and they are normally very muddied down and a little rough. These have been cleaned up nicely. The sound is crisp and clear and though they do sound like demos, they are also pretty damn cool.
I was out the weekend after Eddie Van Halen passed away casually digging for records with no intent of really looking for anything. I was still a little down from him passing and nothing makes me feel better than digging through stacks and stacks of records (my wife and kids, of course make me feel better as well). I digging through a small batch of 45’s and this was nonchalantly hiding in that batch. I pulled it out and the owner of the store said “that must of slipped through as I completely sold out of everything Van Halen this week”…no surprise.
The single is really cool as it is a gatefold housed in a clear PVC sleeve. It also includes a mini 4-panel poster with each panel being a member of the band, naturally. The single itself was the same single as the one issued in 1984 and strangely has “Little Dreamer” from the debut album as the B-Side.
I’m sitting here trying to figure out what to write as how do you say goodbye to one of the greatest, most influential guitarists to ever grace us with his presence. I’m actually gutted right now. I know this news is no surprise, but it is still a shock and gut wrenching loss. Eddie Van Halen finally lost his battle with cancer on October 7, 2020 and in a year that has sucked enough already, this news makes the year that much worse. And what is even worse he was only 65 years old. Gone way too soon.
I remember when I heard the Van Halen debut album back in 1978, I don’t think I had heard anything like that before. The song “Eruption” is one of his best solos and put him in a class by himself. That album is still one of my all time favorite records and could quite possibly be argued as one of the best debut albums of all time. Van Halen had 12 albums together and a handful of live albums and he guested on so many songs including Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”.
We always held out hope that we would see Van Halen play one more time on the road, but now I guess it has been decided that there will not be a next time. I don’t know if I could truly express what his music has meant to me over the years, so I will leave you here with “Eruption” and thankfully we have his music to live on forwever.
Welcome back to the Gene Simmons The Vault review. We are now on Disk 3. Below are the rules I am trying to follow with each review.
I will try and keep some consistency between each disk. I will go through each song and mention who wrote, who played on it and what I think about the song. I won’t go through all the stories as you should get the vault to get all the information. I will grade each song (ranking 1 to 5, 5 being best) and then take an average of the grades for the score of the disk. I know most of these are demos, so I won’t be taking quality of the sound in to play that much because I know what I am getting and I am more interested in the overall song.
At the end of all the reviews, we will average the score of each review and come up with an overall ‘The Vault’ score which I hope will be a fair representation of the whole package. I am going to do my best to do one a week, but as I said before, life sometimes gets in the way so I am not going to promise one a week. Plus, this is 11 disks to digest and that is a lot as I am also doing the David Coverdale Series at the same time. That is a bunch of music to go through.
The songs aren’t in chronological order. Gene states they are more of a mood or vibe. Disk 3 is mostly demos from songs that ended up on Kiss albums in some shape or form. It also contains the long awaited demos that feature Eddie and Alex Van Halen. This was the disk I was most pumped to hear.
Well, are you ready? Then let’s get right to it.
The picture for Disk 3 is Gene in makeup with that famous tongue…it is quite fetching!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.