Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
Hard rock/heavy metal quartet formed USA '74: David Lee Roth, vocals; Edward Van Halen, guitar; Michael Anthony, bass; Alex Van Halen, drums. Van Halen bros born in Holland, emigrated with parents to Pasadena '68, joined Roth and Anthony in group loosely based on Free; first called the new group Mammoth, but that name was being used by another group. The energy-packed act gained early following, with Roth's overtly sexual image (world's tightest trousers?) and Van Halen's highly rated guitar; promoted own gigs and eventually signed by WB. Debut eponymous LP '78 made US top 20; each album charted higher: Van Halen II '79, Women And Children First '80, Fair Warning '81; Diver Down '82 all reaching top ten in USA, also charting in UK. Hit singles less frequent, but 'Dance The Night Away' '79, '(Oh) Pretty Woman' '82 (old Roy Orbison song) made USA top 20 ('Runnin' With The Devil' charted UK '80). Big live attraction domestically, less so in Europe; records all produced by Ted Templeman. 1984 (MCMLXXXIV) '84 was no. 2 LP USA, incl. hits 'Jump', 'I'll Wait', 'Panama'; Roth left, replaced by Sammy Hagar; 5150 '86 was called after the NYPD code for the criminally insane, also the name of Van Halen's recording studio; it was their first no. 1 album, followed by two more, OU812 '88 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge '91. Monsters of Rock tour '88 was designed to solve the problem of increasingly uneconomic live shows; poor business in USA was leading promoters to demand the return of a portion of fees paid to bands like Van Halen. Two-disc LIVE: Right Here, Right Now was top 5, Balance '95 back to the top. Hagar left '96. Roth hit with old Beach Boys' 'California Girls' '85; planned film Crazy From The Heat, material released in that solo album followed by Eat 'Em And Smile '86 (Spanish version was Sonrisa Salvaje) and Skyscraper '87 (both in top ten), A Little Ain't Enough '91 (top 20), Your Filthy Little Mouth '94 (top 80).