It does not take a math genius or even a calculator to realize that this year is the thirtieth anniversary of 1984, as in the Van Halen, not the book which turns 65 this year. Up until that point, Van Halen was mostly an underground band whose biggest hit up to that point was a cover of a Roy Orbison song that bordered on novelty. Then 1984 arrived with four massive hits on radio and a new music video channel. Unfortunately the band got too big and we did not get a proper follow up to the album by the collaboration of the Van Halen brothers and lead singer David Lee Roth (even then founding member Michael Anthony was let go for a third Van Helen member) and even that turned out to be the underwhelming A Different Kind of Truth.
1984, this month’s induction into the Scooter Hall of Fame, was a shock to the fans of the guitar virtuoso of Eddie Van Hanel they came to love as the first single and opening track Jump was very synth heavy, borrowing from the New Wave movement of the time but still was able to sound like a rock song. It was a smooth transition as a short guitar solo does come in at the end of the song. That single was followed up but another synthesizer heavy I’ll Wait which was more menacing than the jukebox anthem that preceded it.
Rock purists finally got the rock heroes they were used to when Panama dropped. A hard driving song with one of the greatest breaks in rock history when the band slows it down, and David Lee Roth purred, “We’re running a little bit hot tonight. I can barely see the road from the heat coming off of it. I reach down in between my legs… ease the seat back.” Before the song comes roaring back for a triumphant finish. Both Van Halen brothers shine on Hot for Teacher, possibly drummer Alex’s best work ever while Roth was never on his friskiest than on the song. Of course who could forget one of the early great music videos on MTV that probably has you wondering right now whatever did happen to Waldo?
After the album Roth embarked on a only memorable because of the music videos solo career while the Van Halen with Michael Anthony dominated the soft rock landscape for the second half of the eighties after recruiting singer Sammy Hager. Neither was able to recapture the hard rock flamboyance magic of 1984. Roth was brought back into the fold when the band was working on a Greatest Hit package which was short lived after the brothers Van Halen were embarrassed by his antics at the MTV Video Music Awards. Of course that was not nearly as embarrassing as the Gary Cherone era.