Henry Rollins on classic Van Halen

Henry Rollins talks about classic Van Halen. From the book, Van Halen 101, by Abel Sanchez.

Henry Rollins:

“To this day, perhaps some of my most played records that I own are the Van Halen albums with Dave.”

I will always consider myself lucky for being teenage when the first Van Halen album was released. I had heard about it before it came out. Someone told me about a song called “Runnin’ With The Devil” and that it was really cool. It was probably getting some airplay and I had not heard it yet. I was in California at a skate contest I think it was and heard a song with that lyric over the PA system. It had to be them. It was. I bought the album the first chance I got.

I was stuck right in the middle of high school. It was a gulag. One of the only things that kept me going was the music I was listening to. Van Halen was in the mix. I remember the night before Van Halen II was released, the played the album in it’s entirety on WPGC FM in Washington DC, where I lived. I listened. We all listened. I taped it by putting my very bad tape recorder up to the radio and sat very still. It sounded horrible but I played it a few times before I bought the album.

I forget what year it was but I made my annual trip to the arena to see Ted Nugent. It was the best show you saw that year, every year. His band was lethal, and Nugent had amazing tone with that hollow body Gibson. What a show, what songs, what a man. On the third voyage to the Nuge there was a great change. There was an opening band that actually stayed in the memory. Usually the opener was a blur but this time it was a band called Van Halen. I remember they hit the stage and went into “Runnin’ With The Devil” after Diamond Dave made his drum riser leap. He acted like his band was the headliner and there was no other band on that night.

I remember very well when Eddie performed “Eruption” and the whole place was in disbelief. At the end of it, he looked down at his hands and shook his head like he didn’t know what came over him. It was amazing. The set was a monster.

” I remember very well when Eddie performed “Eruption” and the whole place was in disbelief.”

Nugent came on a while later and a few songs in, people were chanting “Van-Ha-Len!” over and over and waving newly bought VH t-shirts until the Nuge came to the front of the stage and yelled, “Fuck Van Halen!!!” He then retreated to his cabinets and played the rest of the show looking down at his wedge monitors. Move over Ted!

In 1983 when I encountered Diamond Dave at an art Gallery in Los Angeles, I told him this story and he shot back the date, location and how many people were at the show. To this day, I can’t think of a better interview to read than one where David Lee Roth is full on, which means any interview of his you can find will do. He’s the mouth that scored. You wonder how he keeps it all stored in there. He’s the most quotable man in the business.

To this day, perhaps some of my most played records that I own are the Van Halen albums with Dave. They still work. To transmit on a critical level for just a moment here, let me say this; Van Halen’s perfect synthesis of bone crunching riffs and almost Beach Boys backing vocals is one of the most irresistible and potent concoctions I have ever heard in music. Perfect for radio without selling out or being wimpy. How the hell can you do that?! Something for the guys, something for the ladies. Adding to that, the presentation was second to none. That was a show. Diamond Dave really needed an arena to realize his vision and when he got one, he wasted no time. Van Halen was like the Circus coming to town, like the biggest block party you’ve ever seen and you’re on the invite list.

The proof of the band’s rock solid place in history can be found in all the bands that came immediately after VH broke. All the Eddie clones, Warner Bros. attempt to make another Dave/VH with the ill-fated Bullet Boys, how guitarists changed their approach solos. Every frontman in any hard rock band has a little bit of David Lee in him no matter what they say. Some of the stories around the band are the stuff of legend and are known the world over. Brown M&M’s – ‘nuff said.

The records themselves have lost absolutely no speed after twenty-plus years. Actually, now that I think about it, seeing where music is these days, perhaps those records have picked up a little speed! Hail the Mighty (With Dave) Van Halen!

  • Mark

    Dave Said,


    Yep you will need to hunt some Chickenfoot down so you can get real vocals at a live show not piped in backings!!!

    It’s fact and you know it, Dave’s voice is shot.

    You old schooler’s need to get out of the past, Hell I finally realized that my beloved Motley Crue has become Nostalgia.

    Eddie said it in RS if you are looking for the second coming of WACF it ain’t gonna happen.

    I am sure the mods will delte this but oh well


  • J5150C

    While many of you argue over and over about who’s better between Roth and Hagar, all I can say is that VH is a guitar driven band! A band that caught the attention of the masses because some kid came along and forever changed how we would hear how rock guitar was to be played. The bottom line is that Ed is 80% Van Halen, the rest is just details. You want proof? Go to YouTube and see how many hits EVH’s solos have compared to any given song.

    You guys are wasting your time comparing Roth, Hagar and Charone. Just remember that none of them would be where they got if that kid hadn’t came along and tore it up with his guitar! Think of either of them three (Roth/Hagar/Cherone) with a different band (pre/post Van Halen). Well let’s see: I doubt Vai, Satch, Bethencourt, etc. would have done what they now do (or back then in the 80’s). Why? Because they are living proof that EVH was the one that changed it all and that they amongst many millions more were induced into what we now know as “shredding”! Nobody shredded before EVH! That is a fact my friends! There was nothing even close to it before Eruption came along and changed how a guitar is played and heard (tone wise). Sure, there were others who tapped before EVH, but nobody did what he did with it. And do not, by any means, forget his right hand fast picking. Now that was entirely his creation.

    So stop with the bullshit about Roth/Hagar/Cherone who’s better crap. It’s just getting old! They’re here on these posts, and we’re here on these posts because of Edward Van Halen! Van Halen is Van Halen past, present and futre because of Eddie! Hey Rollins put it best:

    “I remember very well when Eddie performed “Eruption” and the whole place was in disbelief. At the end of it, he looked down at his hands and shook his head like he didn’t know what came over him. It was amazing.”

    Have Roth, Hagar, Cherone, Anthony, A. Van Halen, W. Van Halen ever been acknowledged in this sense: “… and the whole place was in disbelief.”???? Never!!

    Well let’s see: Roth is a great entertainer; Hagar has good range; Cherone is… well… different; Anthony has great backing vocals and is a decent rock bassist; A. Van Halen is a great hard rock drummer, and; W. Van Halen… well he’s Ed’s son so not much can be said there because he’s young and just starting his journey.

    And what can be said about EVH? Let’s put it this way, whether loved or hated, so much can be said about him as a musician that there woundn’t be enough room on this site to fit it all! He IS the king of 10 strings and 6 fingers, after all!

    Thus, stop the bullshit comparisons amongst the rest of the members of VH; past, present and/or future!! Van Halen is EVH!!


  • freddiegirl

    Terry…Thanks! I actually saw the link after I posted so now I have a copy coming to me but thanks for letting me know.. 🙂

    TMH…I have Van Halen 101 coming in the mail now so I can’t yet compare it to ‘Everybody Wants Some’ but I have EWS and I enjoyed it. It doesn’t have in-depth interviews with the band and if you’re a die-hard VH fan you probably know the basics…VH family moves to Pasadena, Alex and Ed start on each other’s intstruments than switch, VH hired Dave because they could save money and not have to rent his PA system…etc. etc. etc. But…it’s still a fun read.

    motorscooter…I agree. I love the Dave-era and to me they are the perfect rock band but you could tell by 1984 the direction the band was going. I love Dave but he left of his own accord. This is coming from a major ‘Roth Army’ person. I’ve always been more of an Ed-girl but there was a point that I couldn’t go musically where Ed and Sam wanted me to follow. I remember loathing ‘Dreams’ instantaneously. I have since grown up and my musical tastes have changed so I appreciate a lot of the Van Hagar era much more than I did as I kid and a young adult.

    Mark….I don’t expect the new VH to be WACF or Fair Warning; those days are over. I just expect it to be good… 😉

  • gadal595

    Yep Rollins you got that right.
    Van Halen 101 is the best book I read about our band. Zlozlower’s book is great but it’s mostly pictures. Abel Sanchez also knows a thing or 2 about VH. I’ve been a VH fan since 1980 and I agreed about everything in this book except one thing, just one. He says something like: In my opinion, the missing link between Jimi Hendrix and Eddie is…Ted Nugent.
    I just couldn’t believe it. I understand everybody would have a different opinion.
    I would have said Ritchie Blackmore, one of the most underrated player. I see a straight line between JH, RB and EVH. Eddie was somewhat influenced by Ritchie.
    They are all 3 great songwriters, Strat players, very creative around the pentatonic scale and all 3 had a musical use of the tremolo. They were all huge influences on the next generations.
    Nugent? not that sure.
    Otherwise this VH101 book is worth every penny. Seems written by someone who was there in the VH Family. He talks about everything VH. Just one thing I haven’t found in it. Who came up with the VH logo on the classic albums?

  • Sparks on the Horizon!!!

    Mark wrote “Eddie said it in RS if you are looking for the second coming of WACF it ain’t gonna happen.” Wow. I haven’t seen that one. If Ed put words out there like that, that’s great. Cementing the newness that is version 4.0! Bold statement.

    I’m so over all of this MA talk and bickering of eras. Damn, let’s just speculate the greatness forthcoming and hold tight on to something still that it lifts off the ground and breaks the kick-ass barrier.

  • big bad bill

    I remember the first time heard VH I was in 7th grade 1978. I was in my friends basement and he put on a record of his sister’s it was VH1 I was blown away. We played it over and over. The way I looked at life changed it was way more colorful and more attitude. Life was more interesting. The world tilted on its axis. At the time I loved aerosmith and AC/DC. We listed to “Eruption” with amazement. Life would never be the same.

    “WINNER” “BRING IT” I think Charlie has gotten a little Dave in him.

    I will never forget it. It was May 5, 1980 in Buffalo NY at the Memorial Auditorium, I was in 8th grade, My first VH show. I sitting in the blue seats, someone fired off a roman candle and were throwing M80s into the crowd on the floor. It was fucking crazy. We were on the runway ready for takeoff with the rest of the crowd, about to go supesonic.

    I remember the first time, hearing “Eruption” live after hearing it so many times on the record. It was fucking amazing. Seeing Ed in a white spotlight and dark stage. It was kind of like a surreal experience. Sometimes you just know your in the presence of greatness. Its a little scary and just feeling the chills. I remember Dave with a bottle of Jack in one hand and a microphone and joint in the other, which someone threw on stage from the crowd. Dave loved to talk to the crowd during “aint talking bout love” and would get into a great story. You were hanging on every word. Some other momements I can’t remember for other fun reasons. The sound was crisp, clear and extremely loud, I remember my ears ringing for days after. Where would I go from here, I started at the top. It was fucking awesome.

    The next shows went was in July 81 and 1984 they were great too. The 1980 show was the best. That day my life had changed it was the best concert I had ever seen and heard to this day and was just the very beginning of many concerts I have seen in my life. Sometimes you just know your are experiencing greatness you can feel it. I saved my ticket stubs and kept my concert tees and still have them. They were and still are the best in the business.

    I used to listen with my headphones on in silence for maxium motovation on the field before football games. Unchained would be going through my head when I stepped on to the field, in the huddle,at the snap of the ball. The music sound especially good when I was crusing in my 70 cutlass and hanging and partying with my friends.

    I have loved and listened to VH(DAVE) to this day, and how the music enhanced my life.

    What can I say about Henry love his music,seen his shows and got a pix with him. Awesome human being and music legend. Ultimate credibility. He felt the power of VH. “WINNER”

  • littledreamer

    Robert & Big Bad Bill –
    Thanks for sharing. I like reading posts about people’s experience at VH shows with Dave. I missed the entire Roth era. I get goosebumps every time I watch “Unchained” and “If This is Love” from ’81 Oakland on YouTube. Robert, I am beyond envious that you were there. Why doesn’t VH release one of the live shows from the Dave era?

  • jeff adams

    big bad bill: What a great story (experience) I was a freshman in high school when VH1 came out. When I heard “Runn’in w/ the Devil” I thought this is fuck’in unreal. The sound that band made and the vocals and screams were bone chilling. Then I went to see them live, they opened for Sabbath and needless to say the blew Sabbath off the stage. Now that I had seen them live I was able to put a face (show) w/ the music, and holy shitballs that was the coolest looking, sounding thing I had ever seen and heard EVER. Still to this day there is nothing cooler or better than Van Halen w/ Dave. I too played football, we would be in the huddle singing Van Halen songs during the game. again, needless to say we didn’t have a good year on the field, but we knew Van Halen would back in our town soon and it was all good.

  • jeff adams

    Great Charlie Sheen reference too by the way. I do see some Dave in him.

  • JF

    Thank God for Van Halen.

  • the atomicpunk

    awesome article!i remember hearing about some new kid playing guitar like no other.i was 15yrs old when “running with the devil” was played on a radio station in syracuse ny.man i was blown away everyone in my school was talking about it.all the guitar players were making excuses why he sounded so fast and euruption was done in 10 different tracks.well in 2002 i had my 9yr old nephew in my vette and he asked if he could put in a snoop dog cd and i told him not in here you aint!funny when i turned on my cd player which i have alot of different vh cd’s ‘running with the devil’ came on and he asked “who are these guys are they new they’re off the hook man i’m gonna call my friends can we get this cd”that my friends felt like the first day i heard the mighty van halen!i’m 45yrs old now and i still listen to the old vh roth yr. cd’s alot of good memories but nothing like that day when i was a kid if you could only see the look on my nephew’s face! he felt just like i did!nothing like it man, nothing like it!

  • freddiegirl

    The atomicpunk…that is an awesome story! I had a similar experiance with my goddaughter who’d been playing Rock Band obsessively. She was so excited to have me hear this ‘new’ band she’d discovered..the band was Bon Scott-era AC/DC. I felt bad having to tell her that not only were they not a new band but that Bon was no longer with us! I too remember first hearing ‘Eruption’ as an 8 year old. I hope your nephew tells all his friends to recruit a new generation of VH fans!

  • DiamondDean

    Absolutely theres a lot of Dave in charlie sheen interviews , i bit of howerd stern too

  • TearItUp

    GREAT article! Love the Nugent story!haha I agree, the albums VH did with Roth are timeless & haven’t lost any steam whatsoever. Eddie really did write some of his best riffs ever during the Roth era.

    The first incarnation of VH will ALWAYS be the best in my opinion!!

  • ersan5150

    it all goes to show that early Van Halen was appreciated by attitude people like Rollins, rather than the musically inclined. After Dave’s exit Ed got a break from “attitude” to concentrate on “music,” and he also got a “real singer,” with a powerful tenor voice, like a Robert Plant on steroids, who could deliver meticulously crafted, instrumentally challenging music of Van Halen mark 2. Dave, too, unleashed his own musical style with his new spectacular band “Yankee Rose.” 1985 till 91 was a great time for rock music. Then, of course, talentless trash like Rollins and Nirvana took the scene and you know the rest of the story…MTV doesn’t play music videos anymore. Why should they?


    FREDDIEGIRL…that is a very cool story.i’m sure there alot of good stories like ours out there!those days when we were kids are some of the greatest rock bands that would ever hit the stage and we got to see most of them!in “79” i went to my 1st concert it was ted nugent live gonzo sick man just sick!hey ERSAN5150..as much as i love the old VH with ROTH and i am a true vh freak!i think that those 1st few albums was his best work because it was like no other. when people heard it, it made them stop in there tracks and say WTF WAS THAT?!still today there isn’t a band that can do that!ROTH sings likes he’s doing a broadway play and eddie doesnt play like he gives a shit about the good old days!kinda sad!i have to admit i’m not into SAMMY H.but he and vh looked and sounded more impressive that vh with roth today.sammy is a great singer and musician and i didnt care for eddies words on mike.but then again thats just the way the mop flopps!!!!!!!

  • Take My Whisky Home

    Man, right on Henry. That’s about the best VH tribute I’ve ever read.

    I had just gotten into Van Halen in the 4th grade…when the band promptly split up. I was crushed – they were simply the best rock band I had ever heard. Over the years, while other bands would come and go in my CD rotation, one would always remain: Classic Van Halen. I had to wait 24 years until 2007 when I FINALLY got to see Dave back with VH live. 24 years.

    How many times over the years, around pre-teen summer camp fires, at highschool raucus parties, in college dorms, at my friend’s bachelor parties had the subject of: “What if David reunites with Van Halen” come up? Countless. 24 years.

    I definitely thought it would neveer happen. Never, ever, ever. How many false rumors, almost reunions, one second reunions and break ups did we all endure? Until…it happened.

    And then in 2007, I was priviledged to witness the greatest concert I had ever scene. The stage show that never was supposed to exist again…the stuff of legends…for me, no less surpising and great than as if Bob Marley, Elvis and Kurt Cobain had showed up and played that night…

    Yup, I was too young to experience the good ol’ days of the real Van Halen circa the late 70s /early 80s.

    But do I consider myself lucky? Hell yes! : )