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Thoughts about Van Halen's 1984 turning 30 Today

by Mark Cartwright

   I remember when it hit the shelves.  The new Van Halen album!  I remember the record store.  I remember the thrill of picking up the album for the first time, and laughing at the cover.  A little kid with wings - and a couple packs of smokes - looking over his shoulder as if he knew his mother could enter the room right now, but heck with it, he needed a cigarette.

    I remember taking it directly to my apartment on the east side of town, and slapping it on the turntable.  Eddie's guitar prowess had changed the entire game by this point, every young rock guitar player was emulating him, and I mean everybody.  Hammer-ons up and down the guitar neck were all the rage, and the famous "Brown Sound" of a Marshall "Plexi" amp was the popular choice. 
David Lee Roth's vocals were distinct, his stage presence unmatched, and all the ladies loved him.

    So was surprised when the first notes that came out of my cranked up state-of-the-art stereo came from... a synthesizer?  Yes, Eddie had discovered the sound of the Oberheim OB-Xa, one of the greatest synthesizers ever built, and it would infatuate him for quite some time.  After the slow, and rather boring intro of 1984, came the first real composition, "Jump." 

    More keyboards, really?  And such a simple, happy, pop melody?  Where was Van Halen?

   I was beginning to wonder what was up, when "Top Jimmy" came on.  Now the game was on for real.  Eddie was tearing it up, and Dave and Michael Anthony's harmonies flowed for an uptempo rocker.  If this wasn't the song of the album, what was?  My answer came two tracks later.  "When Hot for Teacher" came screaming out of the speakers, I'm sure I was grinning from ear to ear.  I could tell this one had "classic" written all over it.  Happy Birthday to Van Halen's 1984 album, the last REAL Van Halen album in my book.  Maybe someday Eddie and Dave will put their nose to the grindstone again and actually write new songs together, instead of re-hashing old demos.  Either way, there's no denying that 1984 was the musical gem of 1984.