First, let me say that I, too, loved the David Lee Roth version of Van Halen.
I bought the eponymous Van Halen on vinyl in Highlandtown from Larry Kessler, who had a place called Music Outlet, a great old-school used record and CD store. He was a great guy to chat with because he loved rock and roll, too.
I loved “Women and Children First” and saw the Roth lineup at the Capital Centre on the “Diver Down” show, which is famously bootlegged and even more famously dreadful for just how terrible Roth was at the craft of singing. I was in the 12th row that night and still have the pictures from my Pentax 110 camera I snuck into the Capital Centre.
But “5150” was the most anticipated album of the year after the “Just A Gigolo” Dave-Wants-To-Go-Solo breakup and I remember receiving it on vinyl and dropping the needle onto the turntable. I probably played it a dozen times the first two days I had it.
It blew my mind.
I was a Sammy Hagar fan from “Heavy Metal” and “I Can’t Drive 55” but no one could’ve anticipated what these four guys would come out of that hazy Los Angeles canyon studio with that summer.
The bar was so high – this was Van Fucking Halen – and the expectation was so great that it’s still amazing that they did something that still exceeds the hype almost 35 years later. I still listen to this album regularly and consider it the kickoff to every vacation I’ve ever had.
The next two albums were similarly brilliant – and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any band with a trio of rock era album awesomeness like Van Hagar – and this time and place in rock and roll was very significant because music was about to change.
“Dreams.” “Right Now.” “Love Walks In.”
Just incredible songs, all clearly driven by Hagar playing in – and inspired by playing with – the greatest band in the world. This is as fine of a rock album as has ever been made.
I know you probably don’t know the title track on this album, but I love the song “5150.”
I interviewed Alex Van Halen and wound up drinking several Heinekens with them underneath the Spectrum as a 17-year old #AlmostFamous music critic. I’ll be telling those stories on a podcast with my wife today at 4pm in lieu of the Preakness. And there was that time we drank the best wine of our lives in a cellar with Sammy Hagar in Napa Valley with Julio Bermejo.
I might even crank this one up with a Cabo Wabo Tommy’s Margarita! Mas tequila, indeed…
The love line is never straight and narrow…