The Van Halen Holy Grail: 1981 Oakland Footage

Oakland_Jump

Mystery of the Fair Warning tour footage — Does a complete Oakland concert exist on film?

Anyone even remotely familiar with the third Indiana Jones film “The Last Crusade” is aware the film dealt with Dr. Jones pursuit of the Holy Grail. Through much intrigue, action and hardship, Jones finally had the Grail in his grasp…

A similar chase has been undertaken by die-hard Van Halen fans and bootleg collectors for nearly thirty years now: the Sacred Footage of Van Halen’s three night stand at the Oakland Coliseum, June 11-13, 1981, which in and of itself constitutes the Holy Grail in Van Halen mythology.

This footage was filmed during the incredible Fair Warning tour, to be aired on MTV, as well as such television programs as Don Kirshner Rock Concert, Entertainment Tonight, and American Bandstand. The band even hoped that Solid Gold would at least air the “So This Is Love” video, but the program director refused, saying they wouldn’t air it unless the band made an in-person appearance, which never came to pass.

1981_VHND.comThe only three songs from this taping that have ever aired are “Unchained,” “Hear About it Later” and “So This Is Love,”  which together make up some of the most cherished footage of early Van Halen. Some fans consider the Fair Warning tour as the pinnacle of Van Halen’s powers, based on what precious little footage has circulated from the David Lee Roth era.

Since only three videos have emerged from this taping, this begs two questions from the VH faithful: Were any or all of the three Oakland concerts filmed in their entirety? And, if so, then where the hell is the footage??

As with any object bordering on myth-like status, the answer depends solely upon what the seeker wishes to believe. In interviews with The Inside magazine several years ago, Mike Anthony’s longtime bass tech, Kevin Dugan, expressed doubt that the shows were filmed in their entirety, and that only the three songs presently circulating were captured. A second former VH roadie, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Inside staff the same thing. He said that the reason the band didn’t film a whole show was simply because filming was very expensive and they felt there was no reason to film a whole concert when they just wanted to put together some videos for MTV. And then last year, when Michael Anthony told the Van Halen News Desk that, unfortunately, he, too, believes the full shows weren’t filmed, many fans considered that to be the final nail in the coffin.

dave-vhndcomYet in a video interview coinciding with the original video release to TV in 1981, David Lee Roth confided in Los Angeles DJ, Jim Ladd. Roth implied that the complete shows were indeed filmed, yet most of the footage turned out to be unusable — a “dismal disaster” in Roth’s words. This is borne out by a careful study of the three videos, which reveal several quick cuts that appear to be from other songs or portions of the evening.

So if footage of a complete Fair Warning concert does indeed exist, who has it, and when is Van Halen finally going to release it?

This is where things get nebulously speculative. The band has never been exactly forthcoming with what resides in its vaults. And even if a member of Van Halen tells you that it does or doesn’t exist, how much trust could you put in their memory?

The VHND has recently learned that the footage was jointly financed by Warner Bros. Records and Van Halen, and that Warner Bros. may not stand in Van Halen’s way if they wanted to release the footage, as both parties would simply share the profits.

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So the footage could be in a warehouse owned by Time/Warner, and/or gathering dust in some closet at 5150 studios. In a recent interview Edward Van Halen has mentioned that the band has a stockpile of footage that remains unreleased, including “things like me playing guitar at the 6th grade talent show. There’s all kinds of cool and funny shit we could put out.” If this footage does exist and happens to be in rough shape, the technology is available today to make it potentially viable for release, either as a complete show, or as the three songs used as supplementary material in a home viewing package, as in the 2003 Led Zeppelin DVD.

For the fans that have been seeking this material for nearly three decades, let’s hope the wait isn’t much longer.

You can watch upgrades of the three videos here.

  • pushtoshove

    I know….Just giving you grief…although what you said was friggin funny….But the votes are in…WE WANT NEW MUSIC…..sorry about the cap’s…heh.

  • pete

    the dream is over is a very underated song.i think ed’s tank is empty or we would have had new stuff a long time ago.

  • Mark

    Great vids truly great love to have seen this tour .

  • http://vanhalennewsdesk doug

    CAN ANYONE TELL ME THE POINT IN THE NEWS DESK RELEASING 30 YEAR OLD VIDEOS, WHEN PROFESSIONAL FOOTAGE OF THE ENTIRE ’07/’08 TOUR EXISTS?? EVERY TRUE HALEN FAN HAS ALREADY SEEN THIS, KNOWS THIS SHIT IS “DOPE”, THAT “FAIR WARNING” IS THE BEST ALBUM & THAT THIS IS THE BEST VERSION OF THE BAND. EDDIE, IF YOU READ THESE COMMENTS, YOU MUST THINK YOU ARE GOING TO LIVE FOREVER? WHY TELL THE FANS ABOUT A LIVE CD/DVD AND THEN SLAP US IN THE FACE, BY REFUSING TO RELEASE IT?? THE FANS SUPPORTED YOU AND YOUR SON, WITH THE HIGHEST GROSSING TOUR OF YOUR LIFE & YOU TREAT US LIKE THIS?

  • http://myspace.com/mervmusic Merv

    BTW… I saw the Fair Warning tour 4 times. Incredible.

  • pete

    caps button on the left.

  • http://vanhalennewsdesk GUY

    I HAD THE HONOR OF BEING AT ONE OF THESE OAKLAND SHOWS. I WENT THE FIRST NIGHT ON 6-11. ALL I CAN SAY IS THAT THIS WAS ABSOLUTELY THE BEST CONCERT I HAVE EVER ATTENDED. THE BANDS ENERGY WAS UNREAL AND YES THEY WERE AT THEIR PEAK. I SAW THEM ON TWO TOURS BEFORE AND THE TWO AFTER AND THIS WAS THE BEST. I WAS STAGE RIGHT ABOUT 10 ROWS OFF THE FLOOR AND THE ENERGY AND SOUND MELTED MY FACE OFF. I VERY MUCH REMEMBER THE SHOW BEING FILMED. THERE WERE 3 LARGE CAMERAS IN THE PIT AND I REMEMBEROTH GYRATING HIS HIPS AND SINGING TO THE CAMERAS THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT. THE 3 VIDEOS WERE FILMED ON THE SECOND NIGHT BECAUSE I SAW SOME PICTURES OF THIS SHOW FROM FRIENDS THAT WENT THAT NIGHT. THE “OAKLAND SCARF” WAS WRAPPED AROUND EDDIES MICROPHONE IN THE PICTURE. SO IF THE FIRST NIGHT WAS FILMED ALSO, WERE IS IT NOW????? WOLFGANG… IF YOUR’E READING THIS, THEN TELL YOUR FATHER WE OLDER FANS ARE BEGGING FOR THIS RELEASE. WE DONT WANT TO BE IN OUR 60′S AND 70′S FINALLY HAVING THE CHANCE TO RELIVE THESE GREAT MOMENTS. I WILL NEVER FORGET THE SOUND AND POWER THAT HIT ME IN THE CHEST FROM THE OPENING OF ON FIRE TO THE CLOSING OF AINT TALKIN BOUT LOVE.

  • Ted

    I think that if there were unearthed footage, it might be tough to release because any overdubs that need to be put in (a-la KISS Alive) might be hard to replicate (Dave’s voice has changed a bit, and Ed’s guitar tone is differed). There’s obvious overdubs on Hear about it Later, but that’s par for the course.

  • Steve Morris

    There’s got to be a lot more footage of the 3 shows at Oakland in 1981. If anyone would pay attention, during the “Unchained” video, at the 2:25 mark, you’ll notice that Ed’s guitar changes from the black/white model he’s using for 99.9% of the video, to the traditional red with black & white stripes Frankestein model that he made famous, and then back to the black/white model.

    Surprised that nobody ever brings that up!!

  • Johnnyh

    This tour brings back sooo many memories !! Talk about cool it doesn’t get any better. I would love to have a DVD of this tour. My buddies and I tried to buy scalped tickets for this show in Buffalo and didn’t bring enough CASH !! AGH !

  • http://www.johnnybeane.com Johnny Beane

    I first saw the “Unchained” video on head bangers ball on mtv in 1988 when i was 13.

    I could not believe what i was seeing and grabbed a tape recorder and recorded the audio off the tv.

    I would listen to that tape for 6 years till i got a vhs tape with a bunch of rare VH footage and the 3 Oakland videos were on it.

    Now you can just go to youtube are see all this classic stuff but back 10-20 years ago you had to pay $$$ for a vhs tape out of some magazine.
    JB

  • Steve

    The reason there has never been–and never will be–a concert DVD released with DLR is that he sucks live. He can’t sing the harmonies correctly let alone remember the words. It would be an utter embarrassment to everyone involved.

  • Dennis

    If you wanna find something, find the video they shot for Fair Warning (dunno which song) with the dinosaurs.

  • sturodrive

    I agree with Dennis, someone has to find that video with the dinosaurs or at least let us know what video it was.

  • GVH

    If you won’t release any of your stuff, can you at least contact Delores Rhoads and have some Randy stuff put out.

  • wilfredo

    estos son unos de los mejopres videos de van halen de los 80′s

  • TOM PAPADOPOULOS

    WHAT ABOUT THE 1979 TOUR? THREE SONGS WERE FILMED… BOTTOMS UP, YOU’RE NO GOOD AND DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY.
    BOTTOMS UP HAS TO BE THE MOST ENERGETIC PERFORMANCE BY VH CAUGHT ON FILM. IT EVEN RIVALS UNCHAINED. I HOPE THIS STUFF GETS PROFESSIONALLY CLEANED UP AND RELEASED. THE TECHNOLOGY IS AVAILABLE.

  • Leo

    It’s a crime that all of the best video footage hasn’t been released by this time. At the very least, one would think that Eddie would want something as a testament to the band’s glorious past. Rare video concert footage and back stage footage is pricless, and I’m also one of those who has waited for ages for it to emerge.

    I don’t know if a commercial home DVD release like this would be a diamond studded cash cow for the band, but you have to believe that it would move a lot of units. There are fans who have been onboard with this band since the beginning, and it’s time now for an extensove retrospective piece to be done. VH is one of our last truly legendary rock bands, and now is the time for Eddie & the gang to sit down and start going through the vaults.

  • Matt

    Yes call Pete Bogdonovitch, what he did with Tom Petty’s movie/documentry was Incredible!!!