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 #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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