Text by Phil Ashdown.
It’s 40 years ago this month that seemingly from out of nowhere came an album that was instantly hailed a rock game-changer. Van Halen’s magnificent, eponymous debut album.
Originally released on the 10th February 1978.
Clocking in at a mere 35 minutes it rewrote the rules of rock guitar with Eddie Van Halen’s blindingly fast technique of self-taught two-handed tapping and wildly inventive lead guitar style which was demonstrated to perfection on second track, the under two minute guitar instrumental ‘Eruption’.
Runnin’ With The Devil starts proceedings with a mid-paced riff driven rocker with singer David Lee Roth both crooning and screeching for all he’s worth and the rhythm section of bassist Michael Anthony and drummer Alex Van Halen thundering along behind.
A lively and heavy cover of The Kinks’ classic You Really Got Me follows Eruption which really brings to life the majestic riff that drives the song.
The quality never drops and the next track Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love has one of the bands’ best riffs and those classy backing vocals that became one of their most identifying sounds.
I’m The One and the irresistible chorus of Jamie’s Cryin’ continue the onslaught along with Atomic Punk, the catchy Feel Your Love Tonight and Little Dreamer.
Next up is the second cover version on the album, the lesser known Ice Cream Man which David delivers in a slightly sleazy style over the acoustic opening before it kicks into life with another heavy riff and classic Eddie solo. The album ends with the blistering ferocity of band written rocker On Fire.
The album was recorded in just 21 days with in-house producer Ted Templeman at the helm with the group almost putting on a live performance for each song with David Lee Roth singing and sometimes improvising in an isolation booth along with the band. The uncluttered production allows each member to be clearly heard and remains wonderful even to this day as a result of the sparse sound.
So many adjectives have been used over the years to describe the album, ground breaking, awe inspiring, thrilling, jaw-dropping, the list goes on, and for good reason.
Arguably one of the best debut albums of all time and one that has left an indelible mark on music and rock guitar in general.
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