So many musicians and public figures have passed away in the past ten years, especially since the 2016 triple whammy of Lemmy (Dec ‘15, actually), David Bowie, and Prince. Some people at that time blamed the year. If we just got out of 2016, no more old rock stars would die, as through old people would stop aging or getting sick in 2017.
“Eddie Van Halen,” I said. “It’s all over after that.”
From 1978 to 1984, I must have listened to all the DLR-era
Van Halen albums hundreds of times, read every magazine article, bought every
poster, and listened to every radio/TV interview with the band I could find. Sure,
my girlfriends and I spent an inordinate amount of time giggling about DLR’s
latest antics, but every time we went to a VH show, we always sat (or stood) by
Eddie’s side of the stage. It reminded me of an interview I saw a long time ago
with some teen-age girls during the Beatles’ first tour of
Eddie Van Halen passed away from throat cancer on Oct. 6. It’s a month later, and I’ve finally overcome the shock. I’d been doing pretty well on my new routine, avoiding Facebook and other social media for most of the day. Yay! More time to actually do work and be happy. You should try it sometime. I took a break for a mid-day check on Facebook. Wolf’s post about Eddie was at the top of my newsfeed. This can’t be real. I thought, and I stared at the post for a good 30 seconds. Finally, I accepted reality. Eddie was gone. I watched all the videos and interviews I could find, including clips with Eddie and Valerie Bertinelli from Entertainment Tonight that I hadn’t seen since 1982. I remembered every word and every gesture they made like I was watching it back in my childhood home 38 years ago. My friends and I were excited, and yes, a little jealous, when Valerie married Eddie, but we were big fans of Valerie’s since we first saw her on One Day at a Time. Better that Ed married a nice Italian girl (well, Italian/English) than some gold-digging blonde bimbo.
After Eddie died, I said “Well, at least Dave will live to
be 100. “Don’t say that -you'll jinx him! You said
You Really Got Me Promo Video
We put the record on. The first notes of “Runnin’ with the Devil” grabbed you like an alien life force. What was that sound? Where did it come from? We couldn’t breeze through the usual comparisons to other bands or guitar players. Did the guitar remind us of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, UFO? Nah, this was something else.
Like a dummy, I gave away my ticket to see Black Sabbath before I knew Van Halen was opening for them. I made up for it in 1979, when I saw VH headline at the Arrogant Brawlroom (aka Aragon Ballroom) in Chicago. I took two buses and two subway lines all the way to Uptown to see the show. In those days, everybody partied in the alley behind the venue while they waited to get in the building. You didn’t really need booze or pot, the music got you high enough, but sharing pot and booze with the kids next to you was a social thing. It was a great way to meet people and make friends.
The kids at the sold-out
The next year, a girlfriend and I had the International Amphitheatre’s main floor to ourselves as we watched the band rehearse. Eddie, Alex, and Michael were there but Dave was off doing Dave things. In 1981, another friend and I hung out backstage -that is, until I insisted on going out to watch the show. We couldn’t get backstage again. My friend was mad about that. But that’s what I get for wanting to watch the actual concert. In ’82, we were back in the 20th row.
At one point in the show, Dave pointed out that this metal day attracted 200,000 people, (the highest of the four day fest). An endless horizon of people stretched out as far as the eyes could see, with the spotlights illuminating the stoned throngs.
I bought a cassette of 5150 at Tower Records on Sunset Strip in 1986. I'd watch videos and interviews with the band on MTV in the late '80s and '90s, and I may have even bought a few cassingles (remember those?) However, that was the extent of my history with Sammy-era Van Halen.
I didn’t see Van Halen again until their last show in 2015 at Hollywood Bowl. (Unbeknownst to us at the time, it would be their last show ever.) This time we sat in the cheap seats. But the cheap seats were rocking with vociferous fans. "Just sing the song, Dave", one woman kept screaming when Dave went into his between song novellas. “But when did Dave ever just “sing the song”?, I said. The highlights for me were Eddie’s solo and even Alex’s drum solo. It brought me back to my carefree college days. I didn’t want the concert to end. Eddie still had the same boyish grin as he did what he was born to do. I felt like I was 19 again.
We held out hope that VH would return one more time with Michael Anthony as bass player. The official word was that a tour with Dave and Mike was scheduled for 2019, but was canceled due to Ed’s health.
Maya Angelou once said, “You may not remember what people said,
you may not remember what people did, but you always remember how they made you
Thanks for everything. We love you.