Just like yesterday it seems like I was listening to our local radio station 580 CKPR back in December of 1983 as they were playing the new Van Halen single “Jump” at 9pm as they called their show the Top 9 at 9!
I never payed attention to much to the radio station back in 83 and as a matter of fact I still don’t but I had succumbed to the powers of AM radio occasionally as they would get the singles from bands before they hit the record shops! This was how I first heard Love It Loud by Kiss (1982)ironically enough. So with my hand firmly placed on my cassette deck as soon as John Summers(local DJ at the time) announced “Here’s the new Van Halen single titled JUMP I pushed record!
Cast Of Characters-Michael Anthony (bass) Eddie Van Halen(guitar) Alex Van Halen(drums) and David Lee Roth(vocals)
Looking back at that moment I probably had a puzzled look on my face as when Jump starts and you hear Ed play that keyboard synth opening I was like “WHUT?? Where’s Ed’s guitar Man??” Think about it for a sec! I was used to hearing Ed rip a mean guitar tone on the previous studio records. And The Cradle Will Rock the opening track from 1980s Woman And Childern First does have keyboard on it but it’s like it was shoved through a Marshall Stack! Speaking of which Woman And Childern First sounds like the Halen boys loaded up on salsa,beer and party treats and knocked out what I consider to be my all time favourite album ever in about a day!
Fair Warning came next in 1981 and this being the favourite of Tbones . Ed’s guitar here sounds pissed off and gnarly and he further cements himself as Guitar Hero!
Diver Down even with its half originals/half covers concept tunes like Hang Em High and The Full Bug prove that Ed wasn’t easing off the gas with his playing and even though the mighty synth reared its head on Dancing In The Streets that doesn’t count as it’s not a Halen Original!
So here’s Jump and I’m kinda worried! Has Halen decided to go down Journey Avenue and water down the guitar and add more syrup to the keyboards? I really hope not and by golly as Jump progresses Ed shows up nails the volume on his Frankenstein Strat and saves the day with a cranked up solo and saves a young 15-year-old (me) at the time from going bonkers!
1984 was easily a first day purchase when the full album was released in January of 84.
So after the prelude, leadoff single and album opener(Jump)…
It was right to second track PANAMA that I felt at ease as Ed and Al begin the proceedings with Guitar and Drums and there’s Mr Reliable Michael Anthony showing up slamming a straight ahead bass line keeping things simple and not overstepping his boundaries with the brothers Van Halen. Dave on the other hand knows no boundaries and he spills out all kind of lyrical magic on this album! Sly Horn Dog lyrics not withstanding Dave in 1984 was the Top Guy Live and even on this album vocally speaking he’s pretty damn good.
TOP JIMMY is a Boogie Woogie powerhouse of a track! Ed starts off with some chill picking and its intercepted by Sabbath like bolts of Doom just for a few seconds or so and viola here’s Dave telling us all about Top Jimmy the King Of Cool and I love the clean guitar tone Ed uses until the solo where he steps up and nails out a heavy metal like solo and then goes back to his clean slick style. Anthony’s backing vocal meshed with Dave’s lead vocal work brilliantly together. Under 3 minutes long Top Jimmy is easily a piece of musical art!
Ending side 1 DROP DEAD LEGS for me is the sleeper track here! What a classic. Ed makes noodling on the guitar sound cool and Alex man I dig his drumming on this tune(love the sound of the cowbell at the beginning). It’s what keeps this song moving forward. Dave is very creative with the lyrics here. ‘Throw My Rope,Loop De Loop,White Teeth, Betty Boop!” Not a ton of lyrics written here but the less is more philosophy works excellent on this song. Ed’s guitar here sounds deadly! Check out the video posted…..Crank it!
Side 2 begins with HOT FOR TEACHER and more importantly Alex’s drums sounding like a torpedo being launched from the U.S.S Halen and Ed joins in a proves that without a doubt that he’s the King Of The 6 String. He dips and dives and makes of us wanna be a guitar hero! This is VH Boogie Woogie Power Rock 101. Anthony punches the bass steady kinda like Cliff Williams from AC/DC on speed and Dave is once again in all his glory love his “Aww The Clock Is Slow!” drawl. He’s Hot For Teacher and has it Bad …Soooo Bad! Ed’s solo is Highway Robbery Like! A classic indeed and Halen though can play around with a synth but when push comes to shove they can blast these kinda tunes right out of the park!
If you want Synth! You Got it! I’LL WAIT hands down for me is some of Dave’s best studio vocal work ever! I dug this track in 84 and like it even more in 2016! Dave sounds wounded here in his voice! Great track filled with Synth until Ed delivers the solo and Alex plays some real cool fills. I’ll Wait is a bona-fide classic and I Betcha some of you’s out there didn’t know that Michael McDonald from The Doobie Brothers got a co write credit here.( First time ever that some one other Dave/Ed/Alex and Mikey got a slice of the Halen pie!) Think I’ll Wait as a Doobie Brothers song on steroids!
Ed and Alex begin the proceedings and ramp the amps back to 10 and throttle down a real scorcher of a ditty called GIRL GONE BAD This song breezes riff cool and it just blasts into another orbit when solo time comes as Ed tosses more gauntlets toward us the listener as Mike and Al steady the rhythm boat! Ahoy! This is another down n dirty classic!
All good things must come to an end so Halen enters the HOUSE OF PAIN with its Black Sabbath like Doom wobble and once again Van and the Fella’s keep it heavy but in an old school kid of mid 70s Rock mode!
We knew when released that we were listening to a classic in the making and Halen delivered in spades. Look no further than my pal Tbone.Up till that point I taped him the Halen stuff as soon as I lent him my copy of 1984 on vinyl the next day he went out and bought all 6 Halen cassette releases at various musical outlets in Tbay! That my friends is what we would call Impact!
Just clocking in at over 33 minutes and that’s all it takes to drop down a album that is still classic nowadays as it has that timeless sound that only Halen could deliver.