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When Did Van Halen "jump the shark" or start repeating themselves?

stevel

Member
Messages
14,512
I feel like each VH album "uncovered" something new from Eddie.

While 1 and 2 are both "poppy" and introduced us to most of the elements that defined Eddie, there are a few things that stand out as "advances" or "new" things you didn't hear, or notice as much, or weren't in the hits, etc.

VH II has Spanish Fly on Nylon String, and the Harmonic Gliss with Pull Offs in Somebody Get Me a Doctor.

WACF has our first introduction to Keyboard (be it good bad or indifferent) and there's the Slide stuff in Could This Be Magic, which is maybe the most distinctly different VH song than all others to that date. Some of the tracks feature the "flanger scrape" that would be the hallmark of Unchained and In a Simple Rhyme further explores the tapped harmonics of Dance the Night Away that would become something new in the intro to Mean Streets.

Fair Warning - well, the intro to Mean Streets. The flanger scrapes in Unchained. All the Drop D work. The Slide in Dirty Movies. In some ways, I've always felt WACF was an "aside" - it was a break from the more pop-oriented stuff and was darker, rawer, etc. The guitar tone is a little different now too. Fair Warning instead seems to be a culmination of everything up to this point - the tone is back (IMHO) and all the things he's been doing here and there come together - there's a Keyboard track again. So it's not as much as they're "breaking new ground" but it's maybe the most "songwritten" album that's not quite as "serious" as WACF, but the other new ground is primarily the intro to Mean Streets.

Diver Down is very interesting. Many dismiss it. But it was the band having fun. And more like the first 2 albums in many ways - more covers - a lot - too many some would say. But think of the stuff that was happening - the Full Bug with Harmonica, Happy Trails (Van Halen, doing A Capella Harmony! There were parts - Bottoms Up, Feel Your Love Tonight, but here they are with no backing, even though it's a cover), the Keyboard in Dancing in the Street, I mean, really, what the heck is even going on? The tremolo picking and actual little guitar in Little Guitars. The Delay with Volume Swells deal in Cathedral, then Intruder - in essence, they were not only still breaking new ground but despite the covers, and the very new ways in which they were done (especially for VH) this was also the album that cemented them as pop gods and really solidified the whole hair metal supremacy. 83 was the year they did the US festival - they were really the biggest band in the US at the time (though apparently Elton got paid a penny more or something?). Pretty Woman was their highest charting single to date.

May would say they jumped the shark with this album, but I see it differently - I see them having reached a point where they can do whatever the heck they want and have a great time doing it - pay homage to some of their influences, and include all kinds of new and crazy ideas - I mean, it's an "influences" album really - Big Bad Bill is Sweet William now - I mean, c'mon this is great stuff.

From EVH: "It takes almost as much time to make a cover song sound original as it does writing a song. I spent a lot of time arranging and playing synthesizer on 'Dancing in the Streets,' and they [critics] just wrote it off as, 'Oh, it's just like the original.' So forget the critics! These are good songs. Why shouldn't we redo them for the new generation of people?"

And they weren't just like the original. They were "Halenized" just like all the other covers they had done.

Maybe their mistake was throwing TOO many new things at us at once, and rather than "progressing" it seemed like they "split in different directions".

1984 - a "return to normalcy" though we guitarists might decry the "outright" use of keyboards - which had kind of been hidden before (most of us thought they were guitar parts on the earlier albums...). But Jump was their #1. Maybe they "sold out". Let's not forget, the album charted #2 behind Thriller - THRILLER! Which, Eddie was on...

This is an interesting read:


But, of all the albums thus far, I felt this one broke the least new ground - they had "settled in" so to speak - to their roles as pop gods and having to present material as such. Which they did with aplomb. But from a guitar standpoint, I don't feel any new ground was being broken - Top Jimmy is a standout for rhythm playing, but the rest of the cuts kind of hearken back to earlier albums - and some of it was material that had been laying around since the beginning. Don't get me wrong, the playing is at it's peak.

And of course, all this tore the band apart.

But, like no other act in history really, VH, at the top of their game, replaced their LEAD SINGER, with Sammy.

Many would see that as a deciding moment of course and I can't blame them for it.

What I personally feel is that Eddie started relying on "gimmicks" rather than playing.

The volume swell and echoplex for Cathedral are "forgivable", but it's something pretty easy to play - not like Eruption, Spanish Fly, or Mean Streets.

The only other thing really new in that vein on Diver Down is Little Guitars - which is tricky.

On 1984 there's really nothing, other than the title track - on Synth no less...

On 5150, it's the Transtrem. There's good playing as always, and Sammy's influence is clear, and they're even more on top than they have been. But as with many bands that went through this, they got to "The Power Ballad" stage. And while they don't have their Sister Christian or Is This Love, they have When It's Love - and they certainly do become the band's chartbusters.

When we get to OU812 it's more of the same IMHO. Cabo Wabo is pretty clearly a Sammy song. The only new thing over these last albums has been the Chorus effect...

I feel like the only thing that's really a highlight is another gimmick - the DRILL in Poundcake.

I don't feel like Eddie's playing fell off, nor that the songwriting suffered - but much like other bands like Rush who became known for their musicality and willingness to take risks with it, once they get that peak they "play it safe" a little bit. Which is totally understandable - now I am where I am in life in my little world of secure employment, I don't want to do anything to rock that boat - where 20 years ago I would have walked out in a heartbeat and went on to something else (as DLR did...).

I think Sammy was a great fit for the band, but I just felt like they kind of stopped moving forward and weren't "progressing" as much as they had when they started.

And I think maybe it's 1984 and stardom that did it, before the change to Sammy. It's not the keyboards, but just the lack of exploring more on guitar - which is what he had become known for (though Alex was given some spotlight... but it's also the time the Bass lines just go into straight 8ths...).

I know of course that's only one aspect of music making and with "maturity" comes "better songwriting" and so on (but is that just a justification we use to why our heroes aren't doing what attracted us to them in the first place?!?!)

I won't even go into the later albums because, well, it starts to go downhill IMHO.
 

Killcrop

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
11,444
I don't think 5150 was the Shark jump moment. But the Power Ballad was what most people feel like the band went backwards. There are 3 songs on that album that if they replaced them with rockers, it would have stood up with all the rest. Really if they would have just left off Dreams and Love Walks In. Good Enough and Get Up are full throttle rockers and Sammy is at his best.

VHIII was the jump the shark moment. They thought they could pull off Gary Charone on vocals. I could have told you that wasn't going to work.
 

fetchmybeer

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,549
Jump. I mean, yeah, there were some keys before, but never like that. Even then at the age of 12, I really thought Jump was cheesy. I hated I'll Wait too, and those two songs were huge hits. Dreams with Sammy and Right Now with the piano I immediately dismissed too.

It has to do with him being a guitar god and VH being a rock band, but also has to do with where they are mixed. All of those songs have the keys front and center, whereas a song like Dancing In The Streets or Why Can't This Be Love had them providing a kind of texture or backbone to the whole track. Hell, for many years I thought the keyboard track in Why Can't This Be Love was a guitar track.
 

Killcrop

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
11,444
Jump. I mean, yeah, there were some keys before, but never like that. Even then at the age of 12, I really thought Jump was cheesy. I hated I'll Wait too, and those two songs were huge hits. Dreams with Sammy and Right Now with the piano I immediately dismissed too.

It has to do with him being a guitar god and VH being a rock band, but also has to do with where they are mixed. All of those songs have the keys front and center, whereas a song like Dancing In The Streets or Why Can't This Be Love had them providing a kind of texture or backbone to the whole track. Hell, for many years I thought the keyboard track in Why Can't This Be Love was a guitar track.
That is funny. I can remember walking home from school. All the talk was, did you hear VH has keyboards now? I was in 8th grade. The song has a great guitar solo. I had to learn it once with a cover band and I have never been one to be able to cover VH very well. But that keyboard lick for the intro, you have to admit, its pretty good.
 

Dr. Tweedbucket

Deluxe model available !!!11
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You blew it on Diver down, all their own songs were top notch!!!!! The Full Bug, Cathedral ( forgivable )? nobody did anything like that yet other than Phil Keaggy with some note for note volume swells. Secrets was an amazing song with an great solo, Hang em High was killer as was Little Guitars. Screw the critics, the originals more than made up for the covers.

1984? Drop Dead Legs!! What a great guitar part that was, and as mentioned Girl Gone bad!! an amazing exercise in great timing and rhythm playing. House of Pain and Hot for Teacher, two more great songs. The Jump and Hot for Teacher videos were really pretty good too, so over all a great album.

I think 5150 is where he started repeating solo runs, however the guitar songs on that album were pretty strong. 5150 and Summer Nights was pretty cool pieces but that was about it. The next two albums were clunkers but Balance had a couple of cool tunes on it. :dunno Yeah, he got in a rut around 5150 with the same guitar patterns and it was getting less interesting by then. Plus all the songs were love songs by then and the lyrics were not happening. Let's say they jumped the shark halfway through 5150.... can we agree on that? :confused
 
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SteveO

Member
Messages
16,393
Van Halen is perhaps the one band that so many most closely associate with their carefree youth, and anything that they did that moved them away from what they were in 1978 seems to be met with more than a little resistance. Did Sammy "ruin the band" as so many insist? Not really, no. Eddie was maturing as a person and songwriter and moving in a different direction, and many people wanted the band to never change.
 

MBreinin

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,710
I think Balance redeemed them for the whole Sammy Era. Take the stupid filler songs out, like "Strung Out" and that drum solo song (which I renamed in my iTunes as "Stupid Drum Song") and you have a lot of powerful, emotional songs. Then, add in "Humans Being," which I think was an amazing song (and I rarely call a Sammy era song "amazing") and the end of the Sammy era ended very well. I am a huge VH fan and I don't even own OU812 or "F.U.C.K., but I own 5150 and Balance. 5150 I just think is OK, I was never a big fan of it. I thought Eat 'em and Smile was better, in all sincerity.
 

fetchmybeer

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,549
Van Halen is perhaps the one band that so many most closely associate with their carefree youth, and anything that they did that moved them away from what they were in 1978 seems to be met with more than a little resistance. Did Sammy "ruin the band" as so many insist? Not really, no. Eddie was maturing as a person and songwriter and moving in a different direction, and many people wanted the band to never change.
Yeah, I can't blame them for evolving. They just evolved without DLR, which really makes more sense, as I think evolving with DLR would've hurt fans worse. At least fans could blame Sammy, or distinguished between Van Halen and Van Hagar. But DLR evolved too, as any listen to Skyscraper will reveal. Musical evolution is rarely embraced by the fans that got you to that point, but I'm hard pressed to think of any band that lasted more than a decade and didn't change their sound. Well, other than AC/DC.
 

TubeStack

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
10,246
When It's Love is not on 5150, however it’s an understandable error, given the number of Hagar songs with “Love“ in the title... :rotflmao

Overall, I agree that OU812 is when they started to cruise control things.
 

TubeStack

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
10,246
When It's Love is not on 5150, however it’s an understandable error, given the number of Hagar songs with “Love“ in the title... :rotflmao

Overall, I agree that OU812 is when they started to cruise control things.
I'd also add that they lost a lot of their swing around the same time, maybe earlier, like around 5150. Rhythms became a lot more plodding.
 

SteveO

Member
Messages
16,393
I'd also add that they lost a lot of their swing around the same time, maybe earlier, like around 5150. Rhythms became a lot more plodding.
Eddie was writing more and more with keyboards instead of the guitar, which is likely the cause of the change.
 

John Hurtt

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
18,742
When It's Love is not on 5150, however it’s an understandable error, given the number of Hagar songs with “Love“ in the title... :rotflmao

Overall, I agree that OU812 is when they started to cruise control things.
Fun fact...the four VH albums Sammy was on had "Love" in the song titles five times. The first four albums with DLR,....five times....Don't you hate it when reality smacks you clean in the face?
:dunno
 




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