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Van Halen Ruined My Childhood (Part I)



Van Halen Ruined My Childhood (Part I)


"In the game of life, it's not whether you win or lose that counts, 
but how good you looked."

 David Lee Roth

It was 1984. Not the book. Not the year. But the album. (Though the album did come out in that year.) Anyway, I will leave the cautionary tale stuff about addiction and fame to others who have more expertise than I. What's eating me is all about the music.

In 1984 I was deeply in love with rock and roll and heavy metal music. I was a 16 year old High School Junior who had heard Led Zeppelin blasting from someone's boombox a few years before and was now infatuated with all things musically hard and heavy. I dove head first in to the music of bands like Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Kiss and AC DC because they said what I wanted to say. Their music was all about being young, rebellious and in search of who the hell I really was.

The first time I heard Van Halen was in 1981. "Everybody Wants Some" was playing on a boombox at a football game. It sounded heavy, dirty, and definitely different from anything I had ever heard. And I loved it. This was the beginning of 20 years of record store patronage, when I would grab my hard earned summer job money and shoot on down to the local record store, cash in hand and a smile on my face. I would head straight home and pop in my latest purchase (on cassette because CDs were still years away) in to my Sharp boombox and find out each time just how loud the sucker could go. According to my parents, the answer was "way too loud" or "are you deaf?"

After the football game ear opener I picked up "Women and Children First" at said store and was blown away, beyond redemption this time. The "Dear God my kid is into rock and roll!" lyrics of "And the Cradle Will Rock", the whimsical acoustic guitar opening of "Take Your Whiskey Home" that led into a pounding criticism/celebration of binge drinking, it was all so in your face that I fell head over heels in whatever comes twos steps after love.

But what really hooked me (and millions of teenagers from Santa Barbara to Pluto) was that guitar. There was something about Eddie Van Halen's playing that just mezmerized me. Once I pretty much committed the album to memory, I spent hour after hour isolating the guitar from the rest of the band and just letting that damned guitar pound my ears, over and over until I was satisfied, at least for a little while.

No one at the time was playing like EVH. He scraped, pounded and tapped his guitar like he wanted to damage it. And he actually did. Now in the American History Museum in Washington, his original "Frankenstrat" was a second hand model that he bored in to with a drill, painted, altered and otherwise until he achieved the most unique sounding instrument in rock music.

(Stay tuned for Part II Soon.)

Enjoy the music.


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