The Classic Album at Midnight – Van Halen’s 5150

The Classic Album at Midnight – Van Halen's 5150


Tonight (March 9th) on the world famous Classic Album at Midnight on Radio Nova we’re playing Van Halen’s 5150.

The album is presented in full with no commercials or interruptions.

Formed in California in the early 1970s by brothers Eddie (guitar) and Alex Van Halen (drums), singer David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony, by the mid 1980s Van Halen was one of the most successful rock acts in the world.

Van Halen’s sixth album, 1984, saw the band embrace a more mainstream sound which paid off commercially, selling over 10 million copies. This success was followed by turmoil when Roth was fired from the band for recording a solo EP. His replacement, Sammy Hagar, was reportedly discovered when he was recommended by Eddie’s mechanic.

In November 1985 the band began recording their seventh album, 5150, in Eddie’s home studio of the same name. The title is a reference to California’s legal term for a mentally disturbed person.

Van Halen’s long-time producer Ted Templeman left to work with Roth, and so Foreigner’s Mick Jones was hired to oversee 5150 alongside Donn Landee, who had engineered previous Van Halen albums. Jones and Landee would give 5150 a more polished studio sound than the live mix technique employed by Templeman on earlier albums.

By the mid-80s the Glam Metal movement was in full swing, with Van Halen at the forefront. 5150 contains more ballads and love songs than on the hard rocking earlier albums of the Roth era, with synths playing a greater role.

5150 features nine tracks. On Side A are Good Enough; Why Can’t This Be Love?; Get Up; Dreams; and Summer nights. On Side B are Best of Both Worlds; Love Walks In; 5150; and Inside.

Released on March 24th, 1986, 5150 was an instant smash. It became the band’s first album to top the US Billboard 200 chart. It took just a week to turn platinum with over a million copies sold, making it the fastest selling album in the history of Warner Music. Ultimately it would sell over six million copies in the US alone.

Four singles were released from 5150 – Best of Both Worlds, Dreams, Love Walks in and Why Can’t This Be Love? – with the latter reaching number three in the US. Good Enough would feature on the soundtrack of Mel Brooks’s spoof Spaceballs.

Critics were initially lukewarm on 5150’s release. The Village Voice’s Robert Christgau called it a “pleasant piece of hackwork.” Rolling Stone were unconvinced by the addition of Hagar but praised Eddie’s guitar playing, writing that he “can still split the atom with his axe, and he knows it. It’s a Van Halen world with or without David Lee Roth, and 5150 shoots off all the bombastic fireworks of a band at the peak of its powers.

In the years since its release, 5150 has come to be considered one of the greatest albums of the glam metal era and one of Van Halen’s finest works.

You can hear 5150 in full at midnight tonight on Radio Nova.