On this day in 2007, Van Halen performed the first show of its reunion tour with David Lee Roth in Charlotte, NC. It was the first time Roth had performed with the band had in 22 years.
The first line-up of Roth, guitarist Eddie Van Halen, drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony burst onto the rock scene in the 1970s. Then Roth left the band to pursue a solo career so Van Halen replaced him with Sammy Hagar. That line-up made several great albums before Hagar was kicked out of the band in 1996 and replaced by Roth for about five minutes. Van Halen then kicked Roth out of the band and Gary Cherone became the band’s lead singer. He lasted for one album and then left the band.
Hagar rejoined the band for a greatest hits album and tour in 2004 before calling it quits again. Finally, in 2007 the band announced that it would reunite with Roth with Eddie’s son, Wolfgang, handling bass duties. The tour was wickedly successful (I caught the Greensboro and Philadelphia shows.) and this current line-up is still playing today.
Few rock bands have had as many line-up changes as Van Halen and continued playing arenas. Then again, few bands have had rock’s most influential guitarist and two of its greatest singers. Van Halen has also made consistently great music. Here are what I think are the 25 best songs that span their entire career and all three lead singers.
25. Why Can’t This Be Love – 5150
Hagar said he experienced an amazing connection when playing with Van Halen for the first time. This song exemplifies that.
24. Beautiful Girls – Van Halen II
This song was immortalized on Saturday Night Live’s “Schmitt’s Gay” beer commercial, but you can’t find the version on YouTube because it was changed to generic rock music because of licensing costs.
23. Fire in the Hole – Van Halen III
The best song the band recorded with Cherone was also featured in “Lethal Weapon 4.”
22. Blood and Fire – A Different Kind of Truth
The most introspective song Van Halen has ever recorded with Roth showed they still had it.
21. Poundcake – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
The best use of a drill in music history.
20. Runnin’ with the Devil – Van Halen
Many fans would put this higher but this ranking in of the greatest bodies of work in rock history is still pretty impressive.
19. Baluchitherium – Balance
This instrumental was one of the many gems on the last studio album with Hagar. It’s a shame they split because it seemed like they were on the verge of recording a masterpiece.
18. On Fire – Van Halen
The early demo of this song shows the band’s heavy punk influence.
17. Everybody Wants Some – Women and Children First
When the band performs this song live, Roth uses the middle to spend a few minutes chatting it up with the audience and the band.
16. Hot for Teacher – 1984
This rudest song the band they ever recorded shows how Van Halen could expertly walk the fine line between excessiveness and greatness.
15. Humans Being – Twister Soundtrack
Bizarre creative differences over this song allegedly ended the first round with Hagar; a shame because this is one of their best.
14. I’ll Wait – 1984
One of the band’s first forays into synthesizers and ballads is amazing live.
13. Romeo Delight – Women and Children First
This one is also amazing live (check out this video from 1982 in Largo, MD) and captures the band at its most energetic.
12. Runaround – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
Everyone gets hung up on a song that they play over and over. This was one for me.
11. Panama – 1984
This classic song about a car of course has a double entendre.
10. Eruption – Van Halen
The most badass guitar solo ever recorded. Why? Because it stands on its own.
9. You Really Got Me – Van Halen
And it precedes one of the few times a guitar virtuoso has taken another virtuoso’s (Ray Davies of The Kinks) work and made it his own.
8. When It’s Love – OU812
The guitar solo on this essential 80s power ballad is a nod to Eric Clapton.
7. Jump – 1984
The band’s only #1 Billboard single. Enough said.
6. Dance the Night Away – Van Halen II
Van Halen has been given many labels. This song had fans everywhere calling them a party band.
5. Best of Both Worlds – 5150
When the band performed this on the MTV Video Music Awards, they set the record for the longest performance in this awards show’s history… 19 minutes.
4. Right Now – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
This song was overplayed to death, most notably in the Crystal Pepsi ads, but is still as moving today as it was in 1991.
3. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love – Van Halen
This great track’s influence can be seen everywhere from rap albums to Drive-By Truckers shows to Gillette Stadium.
2. Dreams – 5150
This song makes you see all of the greater good in Van Halen’s turmoil. I hope it does the same for the band.
1. Unchained – Fair Warning
Eddie says he still gets goose bumps when he plays this song. Fans get them too when they hear it.