Van Halen’s Best – Our Farmer’s Dozen

The Best of Van Halen

Let’s be honest, the real Van Halen is the band we knew and loved in the seventies and eighties. We’re talking, Diamond Dave, Alex and Eddie and Michael Anthony. All of the other incarnations were weak imitations of the real thing. With that being stated, I took a look at the best Van Halen songs of the David Lee Roth era, which by default included the aforementioned line-up. Many of their best songs include brief intro songs – for those tunes, I’ve included both titles.

Only six albums over six fantastic years, from 1978 to 1984, but so many great tunes to sift through.

(You can click on each title to hear a snippet of the song or order from iTunes)

Bonus Track: Happy Trails – Diver Down – this one closes out the album, and is a happy singalong in perfect four part harmony and a damn near perfect way to close out what proved to be a great album.

12. Runnin’ with the Devil – Van Halen – the first track off of their first album. Great bass and harmonies from Michael Anthony, and the first of many great Eddie guitar solos. The perfect start to a perfect album side.

11. Eruption / You Really Got Me – Van Halen – the band’s first single and the second song off of their debut.  And, no, I am not just going to run through all of the Tracks on the amazing debut album. The band learned a few Kinks song as they started out and this one was probably their best.

10. Cathedral / Secrets – Diver Down – Starts with a clever instrumental featuring Eddie’s playing around with his guitar – using the delay and fast-rolling the volume knob to emulate church organ sounds.  “Secrets” has got a great bass driven beat and some nice bluesy vocals from David, who got some of the lyrics from old Indian greeting cards.

9. Panama – 1984 – Another fun video, this song was actually written about fast cars.  Panama is reportedly the name of a car. The music is great, but this is really a showcase for David’s vocals.

8. Intruder / (Oh) Pretty Woman – Diver Down – Another great cover version from the guys, this time putting a nice spin on Roy Orbison’s classic.  The instrumental intro featuring Alex’s powerful drumming is as good as the song itself.

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7. Hot for Teacher – 1984 – It’s an incredibly fun song about a kid’s crushes on his hot high school teachers, and two decades before Debra Lafave’s notoriety. It’s David Lee Roth and Alex at their best.  This one beats out fellow 1984 hit “Jump” as their best video.

6. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love – Van Halen – Great guitar intro that Eddie started as a punk rock parody. It’s a fun song about casual sex and it absolutely rocks from start to finish.  You have to love the lyrics: “You’re semi-good looking.”

5. Ice Cream Man – Van Halen – Another great cover song, this one a bluesy cover of John Brim’s 50’s hit.  This one actually features David on acoustic guitar for the first verse. It’s the best example of the band’s, especially David’s, love of classic Blues.

4. Little Guitars – Diver Down – Eddie on a miniature Les Paul.  On the intro he offers up some amazing finger picking (with his pick) in a beautiful solo.  After that, it’s straight forward rock and roll with a bit of Flamenco feel to it.  One of Eddie’s most diverse and entertaining songs.

3. Everybody Wants Some!! – Women and Children First – The song starts out with some tribal beats and Eddie on the whammy bar, then the guitar thunders into the song.  From there it’s just straight forward kick ass rock and roll.

2. And the Cradle Will Rock… – Women and Children First – The fantastic beginning is Eddie on guitar and Wurlitzer piano as well as a Leslie rotation speaker cabinet to get that cool dopler effect.  Cool stuff, and it absolutely rocks throughout.  Definitely one of Eddie’s most complete and diverse songs.  Crank it up!

1. Unchained – Fair Warning – The album was mediocre, but this song is just about perfect. Love the interlude where David and Producer Ted Templeman trade a few barbs, as well. This song epitomizes the DLR era.  David’s vocals are spot on, Eddie’s guitar riff is perfect, and Alex and Michael are great, too.

There you have it. Twelve amazing songs and I’m sure I left out a few great ones, especially off of the first two albums: songs like “Jamie’s Cryin'” “Little Dreamer,” “Beautiful Girls” and “Dance the Night Away.”  As I reflect on these choices, it’s interesting to note that my Top 3, are all of what I felt were their two weakest albums…

Let me know your thoughts.

Rock On – Cretin

One thought on “Van Halen’s Best – Our Farmer’s Dozen”

  1. I got some great feedback from Strat Man who helped me out with some of the effects Eddie used on the instrumentals I referenced – appreciate that Thanks!

    He also shared his thoughts that Fair Warning was more “incomplete” than the “mediocre” term I used. Fair comment, as the decent songs on the album were really good, but still too much filler.

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