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To begin, I’ll just say if you wanna get into VH, just get the whole discography. The original six-pack, plus the last record. There is really no ‘weak’ track on any of them, and it paints a full portrait of the band chronologically. Also, all their albums are really short. Like, barely a half hour each for the most part! Easy to get through. The latest album is surprisingly strong. I highly recommend it. It’s grown on me a lot. Every song is good, and built like a tank. No weak spots anywhere. Makes the last 20 years of Aerosmith even more sad. So this list is really just a bunch of my mumbled thoughts on (more or less) my favorites loosely in order. I stayed away from some the radio staples (Aint Talkin’ ‘Bout Love, Everybody Wants Some) just to give more room to the lesser known Waldos of their world. If you get the full-lengths , those singles will jump out at you anyway, this is meant to be more the esoteric ramblings of an unabashed fanboy. The album each song appears on is listed in parenthesis at the end of it’s entry. (1) VAN HALEN (2) VAN HALEN 2 (3) WOMEN & CHILDREN FIRST (4) FAIR WARNING (5) DIVER DOWN (6) 1984 (7) A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH

  1. PANAMA- Yeah, it’s a radio hit. The video was played to death. You already know it, but listen again closer than close. It’s slowly crept its way up to become my favorite VH song of all time. There is no better groove than the one they get into once those drums come in ‘full blastin’, top down.’ Diamond Dave, the model citizen with zero discipline.’ (6)
  2. UNCHAINED- ‘Non-stop talker, what a rocker’. I recorded this in my first band when we were about 14. No small achievement with its rhythmic twists & turns. It’s their go-to concert opener, from Roth to Cherone back (mercifully) to Roth. Even Sammy had to begrudgingly sing it nightly, no doubt wondering what in the devil ‘blue-eyed murder in a size 5 dress’ means. It’s ‘that’ type of song. Even when they moved it down the setlist, it demanded to be brought back to the start (me up?). A magic moment caught on tape from a band critically maligned at the time, but like the Toastmaster General says, “Most rock critics like Elvis Costello because most rock critics LOOK like Elvis Costello!” (4)
  3. SO THIS IS LOVE- ‘Check me out on the good side here,’ Dave recommends before launching into one of his best, most off-the-cuff, yet perfectly placed lyrics. ‘Catch that smile & I hit the roof’, which the band then does. One of my initial favorites back in the day, & still up there now. (4)
  4. DIRTY MOVIES – Ode to a pornstar. ‘who’s that babe with the fabulous shadow? so obscene but to me it don’t matter’ ‘her movies get down like you won’t find in her hometown’. Breaks down in the middle with Dave remembering when that girl was prom queen (an ad lib no doubt). Some rare electric slide from Eddie throughout, while the intro/middle is a study in bass-guitar harmonics. Some songs on this list could be interchanged for similar ones in the canon, but this one sounds like nothing else. (4)
  5. THE FULL BUG- Dave solo-acoustic in the intro, all big, black, & bluesy before the rock brigade crashes in. Features my single favorite Diamond-ism, directed no doubt as advice to some misguided groupie…‘Just remember when you follow through, bending over isn’t planned.’ (5)
  6. MEAN STREETS- That groove! No wonder Earth, Wind & Fire opened the ADKOT tour. Dave again proving to be the king of announcing (more like demanding) the impending guitar solo. ‘Dance baby!’ whip-cracking orders to Ed in this one before a maelstrom of note-dense fury. (4)
  7. I’M THE ONE- If I had to play someone just one VH tune, it’d be this. It encapsulates every element that made them California Gods. The guitar playing is super human. The drums do that double bass shuffle that almost no one else even tries. The harmonies are signature Mikey. There’s even a barbershop quartet breakdown after the solo. ‘We came here to entertain you, leaving here we aggravate you, don’t you know it means the same to me?’ basically summing up the band credo. (1)
  8. HANG ‘EM HIGH- One of my favorite Ed solos. A perfect example of the fact that somehow, when you can only make out bits of the lyrics, that makes it even better. A Spaghetti Western directed by Russ Meyer. (5)
  9. DROP DEAD LEGS- My favorite intro, bits of cowbell pole-dancing around electric guitar picking. The strongest production of all of their records. When Alex comes in, it’s a bone crushing, slightly behind the beat groove that won’t quit. Some nice falsetto from Dave. (6)
  10. HEAR ABOUT IT LATER – My favorite bridge, second favorite intro. I can’t believe they resurrected it for the last tour. I always thought it was forgotten by all but me. (4)
  11. … AND THE CRADLE WILL ROCK – The first time they’d used keyboards on record. A Wurlitzer through a distortion pedal. Filled with Roth-asides, the best being, ‘Have you seen Jr.’s grades?’ just before the solo. (3)
  12. ON FIRE – Their heaviest rocker by far, & opener during the salad days. In a passing of the torch story, Ozzy Osbourne admits that warm-up act VH blew away Black Sabbath nightly on their tour of 1978, leading to the Oz leaving the group. I totally picture this being the song that made the Prince Of Darkness throw his hands up, & realize that the new guard was coming to take over. (1)
  13. LITTLE GUITARS – One of their sunniest melodies. A perfect pop track. Dave shows a tender side.  Nice drum intro that I’m surprised hasn’t been sampled to hip-hop death. Some pretty Eddie flamenco/metal (flametal?) guitars. (5)
  14. TOP JIMMY- Features Ed’s strongest rhythm playing, and the perfect example of ‘the brown sound’, (google it!). The song is about a legendary band that used to rule the Sunset Strip when the boys were just starting out. Dave requests, ‘shake it baby,’ just before the solo, & boy do they ever. (6)
  15. TAKE YOUR WHISKEY HOME –  Since no one can play electric like Eddie, he decides to play acoustic like Eddie. Dave being scolded for liking that bottle better than the rest. I don’t think they ever did it live. A shame. (3)
  16. LIGHT UP THE SKY – Best drum break they ever did (of many). A barn-burner if there ever was one. I don’t think I have a clue what most of the lyrics are, my friend Shane used to quote them to me, & I’m sure he was way off. (2)
  17. WOMEN IN LOVE- They just started playing this again recently after a 30 year absence. (2)
  18. HOT FOR TEACHER- Alex’ shining studio moment. On the most anticipated rock re-union tour of all time (sorry Sting) in 2007, Dave always made sure to emphasize the line ‘heard you missed us, we’re back,’ to thunderous applause. (6)
  19. I’LL WAIT – A non-wimpy keyboard song. Dave (& all of them) maturing. Evocative, sensual, sensitive. Too bad they (fired?) Roth (quit?) after this album, as it pointed the way to exploring new ground, but not losing power (as they ended up doing with Hagar the Horrible)  (6)
  20. SINNERS SWING‘Alright you sinners, swing!,’ commands the voice of degeneration. Dave later sings the F-word (to my pre-teen delight when I first got it). The older brother behind the kit imitating a jazzy Bam-Bam. A jitterbug for the Atari 2600 generation.(4)
  21. BEAUTIFUL GIRLS – Famous mostly for being licensed by Schmitt’s Gay Beer for the commercial starring Sandler & Farley. Some perfect BG’s by Michael Anthony. No other band makes music that rocks so hard, but swings so free. I think we’re gonna like it here. Ah, Yeah. (2)
  22. OUTTA LOVE AGAIN- The single greatest cowbell hit ever just before the solo. They unearthed this song on the last tour for the first time in over 30 years, much to my astonishment. Must’ve been the kids idea. (2)
  23. COULD THIS BE MAGIC – If I’m not mistaken, the only fully acoustic song in the cannon. Eddie sliding away while Dave channels his inner Al Jolsen. Love the ‘Edward…thank you’ that starts the solo. Also notable for the fact that it’s the only VH tune with a female singer on it (Nicolette Larson, who worked with Neil Young alot, was in the studio next door, and asked over on a whim) (3)
  24. BOTTOMS UP – My drum teacher, when I was a kid, told me his cover band opened with this song. I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. An ode to drinking from the man who brings a 26 of JD onstage & says,”This aint ice tea in here. Who do you think we are, Quiet Riot?”. (2)
  25. BIG BAD BILL (IS SWEET WILLIAM NOW) – A jazz tune notable for the fact that Van Halen patriarch JAN plays Clarinet on it. (5)
  26. RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL- Track 1, side 1 of the most important hard rock debut platter of all time. With prominent placement like that, it must be good. A guitar solo so wacky, catchy, & great that Ed decides to play it over again later in the song. (1)
  27. HOUSE OF PAIN- They close out their biggest album with a re-worked demo from a decade past, apparently at Alex’s insistence. I have the original version produced by Gene Simmons (who sorta discovered them, making an albums worth of demos). The best VH outro ever. Listen to Ed and Alex lock in as it’s fading out. Bye Dave. One break coming up. Things would never be the same again after this, until… (6)
  28. ME WISE MAGIC- …they were the same again. This song made the previous decade seem like just a bad dream. (from VH greatest hits)
  29. ROMEO DELIGHT – Dave’s ‘taking whiskey to the party tonight, & looking for somebody to squeeze.’ A concert staple to this very day. (3)
  30. SECRETS- No distortion on the guitars, or not much anyway. An under the wire type song. Overlooked for the most part, though performed plenty of times. Philosopher Dave behind the mic, taking his cue from American Indian greeting cards.  (5)
  31. GIRL GONE BAD – The summit of musical virtuosity. Probably the track that has their best ‘band’ performance on record. There a very few musicians that could pull off any of these parts, let alone tightly together. (6)
  32. SHE’S THE WOMAN- Re-worked from a seventies demo. Wolfie changing bits a bit, getting writing credit on something began 16 years before his birth. Dave the, ‘knight in shining pick up truck, before the city tows my other apartment.’  In awe of a gal who’s doorbell says, ‘bring it, or don’t ring it.’ (7)
  33. STAY FROSTY- A sequel of sorts to Ice Cream Man from the ground zero debut. Play them back to back & it sure doesn’t feel like 34 years have passed. Dave, now in his mid/late fifties, giving us such advice as ‘if you wanna be a monk, gotta cook a lot of rice,’ & ‘god is love, but get it in writing.’ (7)
  34. BLOOD & FIRE- The Diamond manages to slyly work his most oft repeated stage banter into the lyrics. ‘Look at all the people here tonight.’  This track is a great example of them firing on all cylinders, from the writing to playing. Eddie using his stereo Ripley guitar, which can pan each string separately left or right in the mix. (7)
  35. DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY- The quintessential VH summer jam. Eddie strums Hawaiian Ukulele style, albeit through enough wattage to be heard all the way to the Marshall (amplifier) Islands. The middle breakdown is all coconut percussion under cathedral harmonics. MVP for me is the big bro, whose wickedly tasteful choice of where to choke the hi-hats make the song slightly stagger in the best beach-buzz sort of way. “Oooh, baby baby,” indeed. (2)
  36. YOU & YOUR BLUES- Rather than his usual stream of (barely) consciousness, I get the feeling that Roth really took pains to sculpt these lyrics . A pastiche of common phrase blues idioms aimed at dismissing those whose “bad mood’s permanent”. Dave’s pathos hits home in the chorus, where he reaches vocal registers as high as any from the perfect six-pack of original albums. Perhaps though, I’m reading too much into the whole affair, & it’s all tongue firmly in cheek. After all, like the great (front)man once said, “Joke ’em if they can’t take a fuck”. (7)
  37. IN A SIMPLE RHYME– Happy hard rock? That’s about the best way I can describe this jubilant jam that dates to the backyard party days. Not sure how they decided to dust it off for their 3rd LP, but so glad they did. Alex the (muppet) Animal does his marching band best with a complex snare/kick syncopated rhythm. Eddie layers more than usual (at least for the early days), overdubbing some rare 12 string guitar. Mikey almost gets lost in the murk, but still manages some octave-based, Entwistle licks. Diamond Dave carries the wordy vocal with glee, sounding even happier when his brothers-in-arms join in on the heavenly chorus. (3)
  38. SOMEBODY GET ME A DOCTOR- A concert constant to this very day, the brothers actually let their long-suffering bassist grab a bit of glory with the lead vocal during the Cherone-era tour. This is the kind of basher that had the snooty critics of the age throwing around terms like, “dunderhead neanderthals”, & “mindlessly juvenile.” All the while, the rest of us unruly rockers screamed, “MORE PLEASE!”. (2)
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One Comment

  1. You have a silver tongue indeed and anyone who wants to write about rock n roll should read you first. But hey, no slagging Aerosmith known as American’s BEST rock and roll band!


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