1984 (1984)


1. 1984
2. Jump
3. Panama
4. Top Jimmy
5. Drop Dead Leg
6. Hot For Teacher
7. I'll Wait
8. Girl Gone Bad
9. House of Pain





 

Coming out almost two years after their last release, fans were very hungry for something new. Interestingly, Van Halen, at this point, wasn't really a 'singles' band. They had a built up a reputation as a stellar, party-rock entity that would provide just about the best show that money could buy during this time, so it's no surprise that since the 'rock video' era was just now coming onto the scene, that the band was about to explode popularity-wise embracing this new medium.

The leadoff single, Jump lacks a lot of bite that their more familiar tunes had at this point in their career. It's a very 'poppish' single for Van Halen standards, and a lot of the hard core were a bit turned off initially when they first heard the track. Not to mention it was kinda synthesizer heavy as well. Still, though, the song evolved into one of the most loved, and definitely best known song the band ever recorded. Which leads to the video. The band paid a paltry $6,000 to basically film the guys on stage singing and gyrating to the track with an 8mm camera. It almost seems a bit odd that such a simplistic video would be so successful and memorable, yet we have to keep in mind that these guys were, in fact, a very visual band. So just seeing the guys on stage doing their thing (in a few different costumes) was enough to generate solid interest.

Then there was the track Panama, which seemed to be much more typical to what the guys were used to delivering. Again, not a flashy video ' simply the guys on stage (in an actual concert setting this time, I think) doing what they do best. They only take full advantage of what video can offer on the wonderful track Hot For Teacher. The video is hilarious in its own twisted way. It's very hard to listen to the song without visualizing the video ' which is why I'm bringing it up here. It's a bit of a shame that Van Halen didn't have more stuff like this in their video arsenal.

The other song that received radio airplay was I'll Wait, that like Jump, was very heavy laden with synthesizers. There are many who label this as Van Halen's 'synthesizer' album, but other than these two songs (plus the intro title song that only lasts about 90 seconds), there really isn't that much synthesizer here. Other than these four songs, the remainder of the album isn't necessarily stellar, although the only song that really falls a bit flat is Top Jimmy. Unlike the Sammy Hagar era Van Halen, all of the Roth albums tended to be fairly short (usually 30-35 minutes), so if you had four 'really good' songs, this made up for easily half the album.

Although this was their best album in terms of sales and popularity, it also essentially broke up the band. There have been so many different stories, so I'm not exactly sure what happened. Plus, this would only be the beginning of the Van Halen soap opera that would permeate the rock and roll headlines for more than a quarter of a century to follow. From what I can tell, Eddie and Dave (the two biggest stars in terms of creativity) weren't getting along and each wanted to pull the band in different directions. Roth wanted to be more 'goofy', Eddie wanted to be more 'serious'. So Roth either was quit or fired (depending on who you talked to) after the tour. Fortunately, there was a lot of life left in Van Halen without the star singer, and although the new guy took them in a bit of a different direction, most of the masses were pleased. At least for the next decade or so.

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