I intended to post this last week but, at the last minute, was called into work so…Well, anyway, I’m posting it a day early. I’m thinking making this a two-fer week for Throwback Thursday, one today and one tomorrow.
Van Halen falls into the category of bands I have met. There are a few from the 70’s. Although the band is mostly associated with the 80’s and the 90’s, they were formed in 1972 in Pasadena, California. Eddie Van Halen (guitar) and his brother Alex (drums), who were both born int he Netherlands, teamed up originally with Mark Stone on bass guitar. They rented a PA sound system from David Lee Roth but later decided it was cheaper to just let him sing with the band. Later Michael Anthony became the bassist for the band.
I met the band in 1978 at a concert in Indianapolis where they were scheduled at the opening act for Firefall. Yeah, what was the promoter thinking about when he booked that gig? At the time my friend (also my neighbor), Michelle Long, was a writer/reporter for Radio Free Rock Magazine, an advertising based free publication that was available at record stores throughout the state. The magazine had arranged for her to interview Firefall. The band had charted a couple of popular songs at the time and her editor wanted her to cover. Neither Michelle nor I were really into Firefall. However, the deal was that she would always get two backstage passes whenever she attended concerts because her overly protective parents refused to allow her to go alone. Her parents liked me and since I was a rather big guy I served as her bodyguard.
When I asked her who was opening the show for Firefall she told me it was some dutch band she’d never heard of, “Van something or the other.”
Working as a DJ on the graveyard shift for a radio station l had a lot of time to check out the new promotional copies of albums that record labels sent to the station. The program manager auditioned them and those that he felt were unsuitable for airplay in the Lafayette, Indiana market were set to one side. No one cared if the DJ’s borrowed any of those promotional copy albums and subsequently forgot to return them. After conducting a little research I discovered that Van Halen was opening for Firefall. I hadn’t heard of them either but as I was culling through the not for airplay promo albums I found their debut album. The single,”Running With The Devil”, was deemed inappropriate for our audience. Hey, it was Indiana. What can I say?
Anyway, after listening to the album, I couldn’t understand how their music in anyway matched Firefall’s for a concert. But… I took the album home and invited Michelle down to give it a listen. She was more into heavy metal than Firefall’s sort of fare so she decided that while she was at the concert she was going to ask Van Halen’s management if she could give the band a quick interview. She ended up spending more time writing about Van Halen than Firefall and when she submitted her reviews to the magazine her editor asked her to rewrite, saying more about Firefall. She reply was, “They put me to sleep.”
Van Halen amped-up the crowd to the point that when Firefall took the stage they felt like a let down. Not taking anything away from Firefall as musicians but the energy level was all wrong. The promoter had no business doing that to them. But what I saw in Van Halen was a group that was going make a name for themselves and do so very loudly.
Anyway, that’s how I ended up meeting the band. As I recall David Lee Roth did most of the talking. Eddie was quietly tuning his guitar of to the side. Alex and Michael answered a couple of questions. I remember Michelle asked “Diamond Dave” what life on the road was like. His response was highly quotable, hinting of things to come. “Some bands light the candle at one end or the other. A few bands light both ends. We take a blow torch to that sucker!”
Throughout the 80’s Van Halen grew to become one of the major forces in music, hitting the charts regularly and selling out arenas. By the late 80’s David Lee Roth left the band to pursue a solo career and was replaced by former Montrose lead singer Sammy Hagar who had already had a successful solo career. With he addition of Hagar the band scored several #1 hits and solidified their place in rock history. The band was elected to the Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame in 2007.
#70sMusic #VanHalen #EddieVanHalen #DavidLeeRoth #AlexVanHalen #MichaelAnthony #SammyHagar