Warner Bros. 3075
Released: February 1978
Chart Peak: #19
Weeks Charted: 169
Certified 6x Platinum: 2/1/89
Paced by Netherlands-born Alex and Edward Van Halen, along with California's Michael Anthony's bass and David Lee Roth's lead vocals, this quartet plays some of the most intense rock'n'roll you'll hear. Its fiery brand of barroom, small-club, loud driving rock contains some blistering guitar riffs by Edward Van Halen along with the powerful bass riffs of Anthony. Roth's vocals never quit. The album's first single, a remake of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me," is already climbing the Hot 100. Best cuts: "You Really Got Me," "Runnin' With The Devil," "Jamie's Cryin'."
- Billboard, 1978.
For some reason Warners wants us to know that this is the biggest bar band in the San Fernando Valley. This doesn't mean much -- all new bands are bar bands, unless they're Boston. The term becomes honorific when the music belongs in a bar. This music belongs on an aircraft carrier. C
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
The prototype: Eddie Van Halen proves the hand is quicker than the ear, while David Lee Roth plays the role of outrageous frontman to perfection. Includes "You Really Got Me" and "Runnin' with the Devil." * * * * *
- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
- Thor Christensen, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
The ultimate in bad-boy rock & roll, this rowdy, rambunctious record started their legacy off with a bang and helped get heavy metal out of its plodding stage. Guided by singer David Lee Roth at his most obnoxiously great, every song begs you to stand up, scream along with the lyrics, air guitar and bang your head. "Eruption" elevates Eddie Van Halen to the status of a god -- copied by many, surpassed by none, he's an influence upon all. * * * * *
- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.
Van Halen's debut gave the world a new guitar hero (Eddie Van Halen) and charismatic frontman (David Lee Roth). Tunes such as "Runnin' With the Devil" and "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" put the swagger back in hard rock, and Van Halen's jaw-dropping technique, particularly on "Eruption," raised the bar for rock guitar.
Van Halen was chosen as the 415th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.
- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.
Founded by guitarist Eddie van Halen and his drum-playing brother Alex, Van Halen's music is arena in scope, but club in attitude. The sound of their debut album was a key element of the band's success; it is upfront, vibrant and was a big success in the US, certainly for a first record, reaching Number 19 in February 1978, while it managed Number 34 in the UK, no less respectable for a newcomer act.
Intriguingly, the whole thing sounds like it has been recorded live; there is sufficient echo and effects added in the masterful production by Ted Templeman for it to sound that convincing. The album featured a new soloing technique called tapping: a technique utilizing both left and right hands on the guitar neck. During the lead-up to the release of the album Eddie van Halen would play his solos with his back to the audience to hide the technique.
But the production is little without the songs, and tracks such as "Runnin' With The Devil," the guitar frenzy that is "Eruption" and the cover of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" all illustrate both the dexterity of Eddie's virtuoso guitar playing and Lee Roth's vocal range. And while it was pure good time rock and roll/metal, the band was not averse to mixing things up a bit, as on the eclectic "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love."
As of 2004, Van Halen was the #11 best-selling album of the 70s.
- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.
Van Halen were veterans of the Pasadena, California, bar circuit, but on their 1978 debut their sound was already large enough to fill football stadiums. Singer David Lee Roth yowled like a Vegas performer in heat, Michael Anthony played the bass lines that let Eddie Van Halen go wild on guitar, and Eddie crammed a whole season of soap-opera plot twists into every solo, making liberal use of the whammy bar but never losing the melody. The only element of the formula missing was a spoken Roth rap (the pinnacle of that art would come two years later, with the "I like the little way the line runs up the back of the stockings" bit on "Everybody Wants Some!!").
Multiple tracks from Van Halen crashed into heavy rotation on rock radio. "Runnin' With the Devil," "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" and their version of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me." The best was "Jamie's Cryin'." Discarding crass lyrics such as "You know you're semi-good-lookin'," Roth wrote a surprisingly empathetic song about a girl regretting a one-night stand, while Eddie delivered a guitar lick that would later do wonders for Tone-Loc's "Wild Thing."
During the making of the song, Roth was monitoring his diet and exercise to preserve his voice -- but found that he didn't sound right in the studio. So he sucked down a joint, a soda and a cheeseburger, and promptly nailed it. Rumor has it that Van Halen have continued in recent years with a new lead singer, but since their 1985 breakup, nobody involved has ever recaptured that spontaneous cheeseburger music. * * * * *
- Gavin Edwards, Rolling Stone, 11/25/04.
History trashed in half an hour? With the skimpiest running time since the Fab Four's first forays, the new Led Zeppelin rewrote the notebook. Once hard rock lumbered; now it leaped.
Frontman David Lee Roth, bassist Michael Anthony, drummer Alex Van Halen, and his six-string sibling Eddie were found in L.A. in 1976 by Kiss monster Gene Simmons. He put them to work on demos -- including songs for his own band's Love Gun -- and fruitlessly tried to recruit Eddie.
But Kiss, like every other hard rock band, were to be eclipsed by Van Halen -- and nothing explains this better than their astonishing debut.
From the car horns that usher in "Runnin' with the Devil" to the pummeling "On Fire," it is an unbeatable blend of sonic swagger and lyrical lust. So what are the highlight tracks? Try "Eruption," an Eddie showcase rated second only to "Starway To Heaven" by Guitar World magazine. Or "You Really Got Me," a Kinks cover acclaimed by Ray Davies as superior to his original version. Or "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love," sampled by 2 Live Crew and Apollo 440 (while "Jamie's Cryin'" supplied the riff for Tone Loc's 1988 smash "Wild Thing"). Or "Ice Cream Man," written by bluesman John Brim, but with added flair courtesy of Roth.
In 1999, the RIAA certified Van Halen diamond, for ten million U.S. sales. Purchasers doubtless included every perpetrator of Eighties "hair metal," but don't damn them. They sinned but, lo, it was great. As Roth put it, "We sold hope and faith and a jubilation right on par with a lot of your favorite religions."
- Bruno MacDonald, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.
On Van Halen's debut, tunes like "Runnin' With the Devil" and "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" introduced the world to a new kind of sleek, predatory, California hard-rock swagger. And Eddie Van Halen's jaw-dropping technique, particularly on "Eruption," raised the bar for rock guitar.
Van Halen was chosen as the 292nd greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.
- Rolling Stone, 10/20.
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