Van Halen – Van Halen

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Van Halen is the debut studio album by American rock band Van Halen. Released on February 10, 1978, the album initially peaked at #19 on the US Billboard Albums Chart, en route to selling over ten million copies in the US alone by 1999, (RIAA diamond status.)  Retrospective appraisals (e.g. the following appraisal by music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine) tend to describe “Van Halen” in terms of signifying “an epochal generation shift, like Led Zeppelin, The Ramones, The Rolling Stones, or Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols… The still-amazing thing about Van Halen is how it sounds like it has no fathers… Like all great originals Van Halen doesn’t seem to belong to the past and it still sounds like little else, despite generations of copycats.”

Van Halen” (1978) contains many of Van Halen’s signature songs, including “Runnin’ with the Devil”, the guitar solo “Eruption”, the Kinks cover “You Really Got Me”, “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love”, “Jamie’s Cryin’,” and “Ice Cream Man.” Each of these songs remains a staple of rock radio, as do – to a lesser extent – all of the tracks on “Van Halen”.

The album cover photos were taken at the Whisky a Go Go, a Los Angeles club at which Van Halen often performed during the mid-1970s. The guitar pictured on the cover of the album is Edward Van Halen’s famous Frankenstrat Guitar, which is now housed in the Smithsonian Institute. Assembled by Eddie Van Halen in his parents’ garage, the “Frankenstein” features a neck purchased from Boogie Bodies and a Stratocaster style body custom made by Wayne Charvel in California.

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Van Halen - Van HalenShortly after its release, “Van Halen” became regarded as one of rock and roll’s greatest debut albums, by both fans and critics; however, on its immediate release in February 1978 – much like Led Zeppelin’s eponymous debut – “Van Halen” met with mostly negative reviews from rock critics. In 1978, music critic Robert Christgau famously wrote, “the term [“bar band”] becomes honorific when the music belongs in a bar. This music belongs on an aircraft carrier.” ) In May 1978, Rolling Stone critic Charles M. Young wrote, “Mark my words: in three years, Van Halen is going to be fat and self-indulgent and disgusting, and they’ll follow Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin right into the toilet. In the meantime, they are likely to be a big deal.”

Retrospective reviews tend to be as glowing as early reviews were scathing. In 2003, one major publication that slammed Van Halen’s debut, Rolling Stone, listed it among The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (at #415.)  Guitar World readers ranked it No. 7 on a list of the Greatest Guitar Albums of All Time.

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony and David Lee Roth, except where noted.

Side A
No. Title
1. “Runnin’ with the Devil”
2. “Eruption” (Instrumental)
3. “You Really Got Me” (Ray Davies/The Kinks cover)
4. “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love”
5. “I’m the One”
Side B
No. Title
1. “Jamie’s Cryin'”
2. “Atomic Punk”
3. “Feel Your Love Tonight”
4. “Little Dreamer”
5. “Ice Cream Man” (John Brim)
6. “On Fire”

Personnel