Album #537 – 1984

Album #537

The album cover says it all. Van Halen was a band who kicked ass and took names. They have never taken themselves too seriously but, the music has always been good. 1984 was their massive hit album. It was everywhere that year, and into the next. The group lit up MTV and MuchMusic with their hilarious (and sometimes cheaply made) music videos. The Hot for Teacher video remains a classic. Frontman David Lee Roth showed the World that he was larger than life and represented the group often on MTV. But, nothing lasts forever. The following year (1985), DLR left the band that he helped propel to stardom. His departure has divided fans ever since. Former Montrose lead singer Sammy Hagar (who had a solo hit with I Can’t Drive 55, just 2 years before) became the next lead singer of the band in mid 1985. I can’t bring myself to say replacement because NOBODY and I mean NOBODY was able to replace David Lee Roth. I’ve heard that DLR left because he hated synths being used all over the album. His fellow band members reportedly got tired of his showman persona. Bada-bing, bada-boom. I personally think it was his time. He gave everything he could give to the band and wanted to spread his wings. Who could blame him? MTV made him a huge star. Contrary to popular belief, this was not the first Van Halen album to have synthesizers on it. Several tracks on 1984’s predecessor, Diver Down, feature keyboards including their hit cover of Dancing In The Street. This addition to their sound was able to bring Van Halen to pop stardom and accessible to the masses. Yet not every track on 1984 had them. Two of the album’s biggest hits, Hot for Teacher and Panama, are full on rockers. And then, there’s Jump. The group’s biggest song and one that added to the landscape of pop radio when it was released as a single. It was also their first #1 hit. David Lee Roth’s departure was the biggest irony of all. Hard to believe that the most well known face of the biggest band in America, at the time, would end up leaving. Seems like being on top isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. And yet, he went out of the band with a huge bang. 1984 is PERFECT from start to finish. It’s not hard to figure out why it is only one of two Van Halen albums on the list.  1984 was the first VH album to be recorded in Eddie Van Halen’s home studio, called 5150, after a police radio term he heard on engineer Donn Landee’s police scanner. It would also be the title of their first album with Sammy Hagar. But, I feel 1984 lacks the punch of their debut. Don’t get me wrong, the album and sound are still badass. But, the raw energy that they had 6 years prior is gone. The guitar takes a back seat. But, you can only be edgy for so long. David Lee Roth eventually rejoined his band mates, briefly in 1996 and for good in 2006. But not without bassist Michael Anthony leaving or getting fired, depending on who you talk to. Complications aside, the album is a testament to where rock was headed in the mid to late 80’s: big hair, wacky clothes, synths and killer riffs. Thank God we still have the music and our memories. An essential album for any collection.

Other highlights include: Top Jimmy, Drop Dead Legs, I’ll Wait and House of Pain. Overall, I give 1984, 5 out of 5.

Next: Purple Rain by Prince and the Revolution

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