If you looked at my buying habits, as a kid, you’d be fooled into thinking I was a huge fan of Van Halen. I owned a copy of 1984 on cassette by the age of twelve, acquired primarily ’cause I thought the smoking cherub on the cover was kinda awesome.
My first CD – acquired, begrudgingly, when cassettes ceased being available – was a copy of the Van Halen. We were deep into the nineties by this point, long past the age where the distorted guitar of Nirvana had put hair metal to death, and there was something deeply uncool about liking Van Halen at that point. And, if I’m honest, Van Halen, as an album, did nothing for me. I’d picked it up ’cause I was collecting guitar magazines at the time, and kept coming across references to Eruption and the rest of Eddie Van Halen’s solos.
I learned something really important from that CD: don’t front load your album.The three best tracks on Van Halen are the first three, which meant I’d pretty much go from Running with the Devil to the cover of You Really Got Me, then stop.
Also, I learned that I really, really hate guitar solos.
Maybe, if I’d been better at guitar, I would have appreciated them more. Unfortunately I was destined to be one of those guys who learned a handful of chords, the opening to Stairway to Heaven, and an off-key version of Tomorrow, Wendy before giving up on the guitar for good. Listening to Van Halen fell by the wayside as I practiced less and less, and these days I couldn’t even begin to tell you where my CD went.
But 1984 stuck with me.Every now and then I’d find it among my cassette collection, kept around ’cause there was still a tape-deck in my car, and I’d spend a week or two playing Jump, Panama, and the rest of the album as I drove between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Sometimes I’d tell myself I was going it ironically. Most of the times, I wasn’t. Hair metal may have stopped being cool somewhere along the line, but of the albums Van Halen produced, I’d argue that it’s the one that holds up best in a modern context.
Plus, it’s got Hot for Teacher on it, which isn’t a classy song by any stretch of the imagination and is thoroughly about the male gaze in a way that only 80s film clips can be, but there’s something about the drum intro that digs into my skull and sits there.
I’m going to be listening to this song a whole lot over the next couple of months, since it’s going to be sitting at the core of one of my upcoming writing projects.This and a whole bunch of 80’s hair metal besides, which is why I’m posting about it tonight: if you were (or still are) a fan of the poodle-rock phenomena of the 80s and early 90s, I’m eager to hear about your favourite clips and albums. I am, officially, in research mode now, so if you’ve got any recommendations, fire away in the comments.