Van Halen is a true rock and roll sensation. They started out running, and they’ve always made the most of their moment. Jump ahead 40 years later, and freaks like me are still obsessing over the music they created in their earliest years. From You Really Got Me to Eruption, their debut album has some of their most defining moments, but to me, there is something even more enjoyably quirky about their second release: Van Halen II.
The first concert I attended as a KQRS intern was Van Halen back in 2012, just a couple months after I started. It felt so amazing to rock out with a KQ t-shirt on, and it still does, every time. I spent the evening stone cold starry-eyed over Diamond Dave’s swanky kicks and spins, and if his trademark moves impressed me then, I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to see him perform in 1979!
Before that night, I had never seen anyone play the guitar like Eddie Van Halen. My mouth was wide open in awe every time he lit up the stage. His son Wolfgang Van Halen has replaced Michael Anthony on bass, and I remember being pretty sad about that. I’m not saying he’s not talented, but once again I feel deprived of an original experience. Like many of my other favorite bands, I believe what the founding members created in the beginning is too much of a special thing to stay separated for so long. I hope there comes a day when they remember that for themselves — before it’s too late. Life is short, and I hope the rumors that have been swirling around about a possible reunion are true. I’ve seen Michael Anthony a couple times with Sammy Hager and he absolutely kicks ass.
Van Halen’s first album has some of their wildest songs, but the flow of Van Halen II as a whole is much more fun to me. I was immediately hooked by the opener: You’re No Good. It made me want to hear the rest of the album’s story — something that’s less essential in today’s world. Within every song is an attitude that is sexy and in your face. The guys are going to tell you how they feel, and you are going to like it. At least I do.
Out of their entire library, Women in Love… is my favorite Van Halen song. Maybe because I am one of those crazy women they’re referring to. It takes me a while to make my mind up about something, and I think they got that right with the lyrics. From a musical perspective, Eddie’s sweet guitar – both at the very beginning of the song and into each harmonic chorus – makes you want to throw your hands in the air and sway them side to side, no matter how you interpret the song.
Van Halen II has a couple of classic KQRS gems: Dance the Night Away and Beautiful Girls, and literally every other song on this album is a party song, with the exception of Eddie’s minute-long Spanish Fly guitar break. Somebody Get Me a Doctor is not meant to be played quietly as background noise; you can only understand its true effect if you turn the volume up to eleven. Dead or Alive should be played even louder than that. Both of these songs sound almost KISS-like, mixed with an angsty tempo that seems like it could have inspired the music of Skid Row.
David Lee Roth screaming and scanting without a care throughout the entire album is the main reason why I love it (and him) so. During Bottoms Up you can even hear him start to giggle as he chants ‘come um um um um um, baby‘ with the rest of the guys. I bet they had a hell of a good time recording this song in the studio.
Van Halen is a rhythm band, and Alex Van Halen’s skill and soulful demeanor really bring forth that element. Outta Love Again embraces his quick beats in their greatest fashion. I could honestly listen to Alex and Eddie jam off each other for hours. Yes, there have been many eras of this band with three different frontmen, but I admire how their family sound has always remained the same. They’re true to their core as a band, and that’s admirable.
The music Van Halen has put out has always been about having fun, and out of their entire discography, I depend on Van Halen II to put me in my happy place. If you’re really trying to throw a rager, it wouldn’t hurt to include just about any of these songs on your party playlist. Your guests will be sure to dance the night away.