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Album Talk – Van Halen’s 1984 and 5150

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Earlier this month, the music world lost one of the modern day guitar greats, Eddie Van Halen.

Alongside his brother and drummer, Alex Van Halen, Eddie began performing as teens and went on to form one the greatest rock band, Van Halen, after meeting vocalist David Lee Roth.

A few of the bands iconic songs include ‘Jump’, ‘Panama’, ‘Inside’, ‘Dreams’ from two of their iconic albums, ‘1984’ and ‘5150’.

For this week’s Album Talk, fellow cowboy and musipedia Narendra Kusnur and I invited one of India’s most popular RJ and a lifelong Van Halen and Eddie fan, RJ Hrishi K.

Note: Language maybe altered to suit the platform’s requirements.

Hrishi: I want to talk about both these albums, ‘1984’ and ‘5150’ because the band’s direction changed between these 2 albums. They went from hard rock to synth based rock band.

Me: It may have been the Sammy Hagar influence.

Eddie’s love for synth

Hrishi: I would like to go a bit further back on that. Eddie Van Halen was always fascinated by the use of synthesisers. When David Lee Roth was around the use of synths was not going to happen as he thought it was a sissy thing to do. One has to understand that a lot of what was described as ‘Glam Rock’ in that era was ego driven by these large stars. Even today a lot of people term Coldplay as a sissy band as they use a lot of synths and piano in their work. It wasn’t about Hagar, David didn’t want and Eddie wanted it. But a song on ‘1984’, Jump, starts with a synth line and has a lot of synth. David wasn’t really convinced and they kept playing it repeatedly for him. Finally David agreed reluctantly to Eddie’s fascination for synth.

Me: Both are fantastic albums and very successful too.

Hrishi: I love synth in rock music.

Kusnur: I have liked it since Jon Lord and Ray Manzerak used it in a fascinating way. My favourites from these albums apart from ‘Jump’ are ‘Panama’ and ‘I’ll Wait’. What were yours?

Hrishi: ‘Panama’ is a very interesting one. You know when Eddie died, most writers were referring to Wikipedia and writing how Eddie would take his Lamborghini to the garage, just up many mics in it and record. R D Burman was already doing that in India. For me that is not a very genius thing to do. Nowadays you have sound libraries but back in the day you had to go and create it. ‘Panama’ is a good song but for me ‘Hot For Teacher’ is really cool and not only from an audio perspective. This came out when they had just started shooting music videos.

David – the visionary for Van Halen

Kusnur: This one was huge on MTV at the time.

Hrishi: Correct. David was very aware of these things. He was the flashy one, the standup comic for the band and knew how to gain mileage for the band which poor Hagar could never match up to. David decided to shoot a video for ‘Hot For Teacher’. If you see the video, it’s a very tongue-in-cheek, shot in black and white and all the members have their miniature figures. Most of us, from boys school, have had fantasies for our teacher.

Me: Please don’t discount boys from co-ed schools.

Kusnur: Of course not!

Hrishi: Basically just boys in school! Anyways ‘1984’ was a brilliant album and it was a massive year for Eddie. People talk about his riff in Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ but if you check the Billboard charts, ‘Thriller’ was number 1 followed by ‘1984’. Eddie was involved with both of them. The old school Van Halen fans were not really impressed with this album but new ones like me loved it. The other ‘5150’ has some great ballads like ‘When Love Walks In’, ‘Dreams’, ‘Why Cant This Be Love’.

Kusnur: I was earlier more of a The Doors, Santana kind of a guy but later I did start listening to Van Halen, Judas Priest, Scorpions and the lot. My first Van Halen album was ‘1984’. At that time a lot of bands’ lineup was changing so I was very curious about Sammy Hagar. Initially he didn’t grow much on me but later on I started liking his music too. ‘Dreams’ and ‘Inside’ are the songs that make the cut for me from ‘5150’.

van halen

Me: Overall both are legendary albums.

This time we shall end with a small message for Eddie, not only from us but from all his fans,

Thank You for the music Eddie!

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