Top 10 Summertime Van Halen Songs

There’s no time like the Summertime, and there’s no music like Van Halen. The two go together like an ice cold Corona and a slice of lime.

We think of Van Halen as kind of an America’s Led Zeppelin, but with more humor and attitude. One of their unique attributes which sets them apart from other rock bands is their almost Beach Boys backing vocals, which helped them redefine the classic Southern California sound of Summer.

With Summer 2011 in full swing, we’ll roll out the best Van Halen songs for the hottest months of the year! One could argue that Van Halen has entire albums that are great for summertime listening, such as Diver Down or Van Halen II. One could also say that the band’s entire catalog is perfect for enjoying in the summertime, and we agree! Keep in mind, this isn’t a list of our favorite VH songs. It is, however, a list of songs with a “summertime” vibe.

So whether you’re looking for some rockin’ tunes to hit the beach with, a speedy drive with the top down, a backyard barbeque or kickin’ back on a hot summer night, here’s the Van Halen News Desk’s list of the Top 10 Summertime Van Halen Songs (in order of their release):

“Feel Your Love Tonight”

This is the ultimate weekend song about hittin’ the town with your honey and messing around in the back of your car and trying to score – “even beggin’ on your bended knee” if you have to. What’s more summertime than hanging out with your buddies out behind the bar and anticipating what it will be like to be with the prettiest girl you know later that night? It’s a still-fresh-after-30-years rocker that you can shake your ass to, with amazing feel-good vocal harmonies. This song puts a more racy sexual thrust into the good vibrations of the Beach Boys.

Did you know? When Van Halen played this song live on their first headlining tour in 1979, the entire band would play drums! Alex would start up a drum solo and then Ed, Mike & Dave would all climb up around the drumkit, grab some sticks, and beat the hell out of Alex’s skins. The intense drumming would get faster and faster, building up until the climax, when Roth would throw his sticks in the air and do his amazing flying leap off the drumriser – as the band would launch back into the song.

“Ice Cream Man”

“Summertime’s here babe, need somethin’ to keep you cool!” As soon as Roth’s sultry voice and his bluesy guitar hits your ears you can practically smell the dizzying aroma of suntan lotion, and, of course, ice cream.

Did you know? “Ice Cream Man” was a staple of David Lee Roth’s prior to his teaming forces with the Van Halen brothers. He used to perform it alone on an acoustic guitar at the Pasadena, California Ice House. On Van Halen tours he would play the acoustic first verse on the “Davesickle” – his steel-stringed electric/acoustic that was shaped and painted like a popsickle.

“Dance The Night Away”

Music doesn’t get much better than this timeless pop single about love in the third degree, which was the band’s first Top 20 hit. Words can’t describe how fun this song is, so we won’t even try.

Did you know? David Lee Roth originally wanted to name this song “Dance, Lolita, Dance.” It was Edward’s idea to call it “Dance the Night Away.”

“Beautiful Girls”

Don’t tell the Redheads, but Diamond Dave was the first Van Halen frontman to sing about being a bum in the sun and having fun with a drink in your hand and your toes in the sand! This is the song where Van Halen would hit the beach with a sword in one hand and a sun umbrella in the other, seducing Southern California – one bikini at a time.

It is impossible to hear this song and not be instantly transported to a much better place, where you are “seaside sittin’, just a smokin’ and a drinkin’ on ringside, on top of the world, oh, yeah…”

Did you know? Originally this song’s title and chorus was “Bring On The Girls” instead of “Beautiful Girls.”

“Could This Be Magic?”

“Out upon the islands on a cool summer night…” “Lonely ships upon the water…Sail away with someones daughter…” Hell, this song is so fun, we wish we could somehow transport ourselves INTO this song and live there for the rest of our lives!

Did you know?

  • Producer Ted Templeman suggested that Eddie use a guitar slide, creating the old-timey bottleneck sound that made this original sound like a traditional sea shanty.
  • David Lee Roth joined on second guitar.
  • This song also featured harmony vocals by former Linda Ronstadt session vocalist Nicolette Larson – the first time an outside artist had appeared on a Van Halen recording. She was repaying a favor, as at the end of 1978 Ed made a guest appearance on her album Nicolette and is listed as “?” in the album’s credits.

“Secrets”

This cool, breezy little slice of heaven from Diver Down is both a musical and lyrical masterpiece, conjuring up surreal imagery about a girl that Roth once knew – or did she only exist in his imagination?

“She comes like the secret wind
Shes as strong as the mountains,walks tall as a tree.
She been there before,she’ll never give in,
She’ll be gone tomorrow like the silent breeze.”

Did you know?

  • This song was originally written for Fair Warning.
  • Upon release of Diver Down, it was Eddie’s favorite song on the album.
  • Dave reportedly wrote the lyrics using taglines from postcards and greeting cards he found at a truck stop in New Mexico. The cards were written in the style of American Indian poetry, with lines like “May your moccasins leave happy tracks in the winter snows.”
  • The original title for this track was “Lookin’ Good.”

“Dancing in the Street”

Fans who dismiss this song because it’s a remake of a Motown song or because of it’s silly lyrics are missing out big-time! This isn’t just another cover from Diver Down, this is an absolutely amazing piece of original music that Ed initially wanted for an original song, but Dave and Donn Landee talked him into using it for this cover tune. Ed used a Minimoog synthesizer in conjunction with his echoed guitar to make some truly outta-this-world music, straight from Planet Van Halen. Throw in David Lee Roth’s vocal take on this Motown classic, along with those priceless Michael Anthony fun-in-the-sun, summertime harmonies. Another slice of heaven.

Did you know? What makes this is a cover song is only the vocals. The music itself, done on synthesizer and guitar, is all original Van Halen music, nothing at all like the original.

“Panama”

The singer’s sexy ode to his 1951 Mercury lowrider, “Panama” has it all – big hooks, terrific sing-along chorus, lots of rippin’ guitar, a short but sweet solo and a very sexy breakdown section in the middle of the song.

The song’s video just might be the greatest rock ‘n’ roll video ever made – showing the world’s most kick ass band looking like they’re having more fun than humans are allowed to have! You can almost feel the wind in your hair when you watch the guys drive that awesome car, and you can almost feel the energy of the band and the crowd during the live segments. A true scorcher that never gets old.

Did you know? Most of the lyrics on 1984 were written in the back of Dave’s 1951 Mercury lowrider. As the music was recorded, Roadie Larry Hostler would show up at Dave’s house after lunch and the pair would drive through the Hollywood Hills, up the coast highway, and throughout the San Fernando Valley with the songs blaring. As Dave would come up with lyrics, he would show them to Larry and get his opinion.

“Summer Nights”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWsx9wjTH2I

One of the best songs ever from the Sammy era, the kick-ass guitar intro leads to Sammy singing about partying it up in the summertime, and some of Michael’s most sunny background vocals. Even when you hear it for the thousandth time, you want to crack open some ice cold beers with some friends and kick back and enjoy the warm weather. Instant party!

Did you know? The band worked on this song with Roth before Sammy joined, and they still have demos with Roth singing on it.

“Cabo Wabo”

This ode to that famous little town south of the border fits paradise to a “T”. The lyrics are about Pretty girls, white sand, crashing on the beach, and making love in the sea. It’s alright by me!

Did you know? This song was the seed that led to the Cantina that led to the Tequila that led to the breakup of Van Halen that led to Sammy somewhat reinventing himself into kind of a hard rock Jimmy Buffett. It’s not only a great song, but it changed Sammy’s life, and also changed the lives of thousands of his fans, who now make the pilgrimage to Cabo San Lucas every October to celebrate his annual Birthday Bash.

“California Girls” (Honorable Mention #1)

Fresh off the 1984 tour and while still a member of Van Halen, David Lee Roth covered this timeless Beach Boys original and, along with fellow “Picasso Bother” Pete Angeles, directed one of the most classic videos of all time, which went on to influence the look of subsequent music videos by many other artists.

Did you know? Both the song and video for “California Girls” were insanely popular in 1985. In fact, other than “Jump”, Roth’s “California Girls” charted higher than any other Van Halen, Roth, or Hagar song ever written. The song reaching #3 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks and #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 (“Jump” reached #1 a year earlier, and “Why Can’t This Be Love” would also reach #3 a year later). The song’s video was one of the most popular MTV videos of the year.

“Summertime Blues” (Honorable Mention #2)

The band covered this Eddie Cochran song (performed like The Who’s Live at Leeds cover) occasionally throughout the ’70′s and ’80′s. Written from a teen’s perspective, it took aim at those hard-hearted authority figures — bosses and parents — out to quash a kid’s right to have fun.

What Are Your Favorite Van Halen Songs for Summertime?

Do you like one particular tune on this list the best? Are there another great summer songs that we missed? Let us know which songs you like to blast during the summertime in the comments section below.

  • dominik

    sunday afternoon in the park.

  • Diamond Dean

    coconut grove!

  • Diamond Dean

    Diver down as a whole album is totally a summer album

  • pauleeroth

    1984 hands down. It came out here in Australia in January 1984 which is smack bang in the middle of our summer. I have the fondest memories of gently laying the needle down on that vinyl groove and then hearing “1984″ for the very first time… bliss… I still have that vinyl pressing and six more from other countries around the world which i have collected and never played. Four on tape and the two cd releases. I think i’m obsessed… I say again, bliss :-)

  • Eddie Van Wailin’

    Something about that pic with the VH symbol in the sand and the empty beach chair just seems to eerily capture my mood waiting and waiting for this new VH. Looks like a cloudy end of summer kind of day..

    Nobody on the road, nobody on the beach.. I feel it in the air.. the summer’s out of reach.. lol

  • Sean

    What kind of guitar is Ed using for Summer Nights? Almost looks like a sawed off guitar.

  • dude

    That’s a Steinberger he used on Summer Nights.

  • Rhymes

    @Sean – It’s a Steinberger guitar, Ed also used this guitar when he recorded Me Wise Magic, Summer Nights, Get Up and Fire In The Hole.

  • Jei Essar

    I always like the drums on Fools off of Women and Children First.

  • http://None Dirty Duck

    mike c:

    How could you forget “Girl Gone Bad” man!?
    The drums are killer!!!! Crank it, and tell me the
    last 10 seconds of that song doesnt give you goosebumps!

  • jeff adams

    All tho I have seen VH do “SECRETS” live many times in the early 80′s, seeing Dave and the boys do “SECRETS” on this you tube clips brings back f’n awesome memories of just how bad ass they were. I’ve said it before, but Dave has the coolest voice in the business, along w/ being the coolest dude. Sat front row for that show in 1982 @ the Los Angeles Forum. I was deaf for about 5 days after that show. What an experience, VH right in front of me playing my favorite tunes one after another. Life is good as long as Dave, Ed, and Alex are together.

  • http://www.vhnd.com 5150

    @ Freddygirl

    “…summer’s here and the time is right…”

  • Dawn

    WDFA, yes I agree, I have watched the Unchained video a million times and long to be there!!! So much energy!

  • Towers McQuestion

    Good list! My personal list of “Must Have” beach songs would be:

    Panama
    Unchained
    Ice Cream Man
    Beautiful Girls
    Cabo Wabo
    Summer Nights
    In A Simple Rhyme
    Jump
    Good Enough
    Top Of The World

  • Mike c

    Dirty duck- dude I completely over looked that song! That is probably one of my own personal fav songs to play!! The double base parttern through out the song Is awesome. Honestly no matter what Al does it’s hard rocking knock you socks and kick ass. I figured I’d post something about AVH because we don’t have much coco about him on here it’s always about Dave/Sammy argument. Or how good Eddie is or why can’t they brink Mike bac! Why don’t we ever bring up al?

  • Valen

    Runnin’ With the Devil, You Really Got Me, I’m The One Atomic Punk, Dance The Night Away, Everybody Wants Some, Unchained, Sunday Afternoon in the Park, Hang Em’ High, The Full Bug, Jump, Panama, Drop Dead Legs, Hot For Teacher, Dreams, Summer Nights, 5150, AFU (Naturally Wired), Feels So Good, Poundcake, Runaround, Pleasure Dome, The Dream Is Over.

  • Diamond Dean

    the weakest part of DANCING IN THE STREET is the music

  • Diamond Dean

    Sunburn is a brilliant song ,an underatted gem , that coconut grove , stay the night , are all classic . cabo wabo wld have been if it wasnt for the terrible production ,

    All these VAN HAGAR fans cld they name a worse produced album?

  • Diamond Dean

    Mike c

    I thought alex got better in the VAN HAGAR yrs ,

  • Sparks in ’11

    Eddie Van Wailin’- Excellent post, I’m affraid. I get that same vibe from that pic.

  • http://None Dirty Duck

    Mike C:

    Nothing like discussing that song with a drummer!
    Girl Gone Bad is one of the most underated VH songs.
    How that song doesnt get radio play is beyond me!
    That should be played right next to “Unchained”!
    Eddies guitar sounds amazing….dave sounds like he’s
    been walking the hot summer streets looking for that
    lazy eyed girl he’s singing about…and al’s drums
    are simply bombastic brother! The double bass pattern is
    my fav part of it man….especially at the closing. It sounds
    like he’s playing his ass off cause there’s a cold beer and
    hot girl waiting for him backstage!

    Al is one of the BEST drummers in the world….PERIOD!

    As far as mike is concerned, we all miss him, but life goes on man. After awhile hearing comments about how VH is nothing without mike, or how some here wont see VH with dave because mike isnt there. Are you kidding me? I like mike as much as the next fan, but he’s dedicated to chickenfoot and that’s where he is now. People change….people stop talking…people move on. I wish some of the vh fans around here would do the same.

  • Mike c

    Dirty Duck it is hard to let go of mike for alot of fans including me. But somthines shit happens van halen WILL go on! Mike is happy! The van halwn bomb is gonna blow. And as for mike he is playing along side his best friend and having a blast!!!

    As for al I believe he is SUPER UNDERATED! All of the shit he lays down on the drums is pure gold! Some of the stuff he does is just as unique as his lil bro’s guitar playing!! If we had some isolated drum tracks they would be kick ass!! Girl gone bad just Down right genius! Every aspect of the song def one of my fav van halen tunes! Another one of my fav big al moments is that aimple yet sexy break sown eight after Ed’s solo in Light Up The Sky! maybe I’m alone on that one but what ya think?

  • http://None Dirty Duck

    Mike c:

    Wish there were more fans with common sense like you brother. Mike is one of the founders of VH, gotta respect that right? And I do. But I’m also 36 years old and know, that as life goes on things change….people change. 10 years ago I had so many close friends man. Now? I can count all of em’ on one hand. My point? Nothing stays the same and you have to deal with the fact that life does go on. I think many here are very young and havent experienced that. They will….oh boy will they ever!

    Dude! Al’s solo in “light up the sky” is also one of personal faves. I think the band was more focused on showing more of al’s talents on “VHII” (My personal fave next to 1984). And man did it show! My favourite track on that album is: “Out of love again”. Holy shit man, the first time I heard that I played it over and over and over and over. I tell everyone who’s just getting into VH. Start with “Outta love again”….that song alone showcases all of the bands talents in one big fireball of rock and roll.

  • Mike c

    Dirty duck, all of alex’s music is awesome. The funny thing is dude… Iv been I life long van halen fan but the only thing vh has released in my life time aside from VHIII is balance! Hah I’m only 17 I remember hearin can’t stop loving you for the first time prob about 98 then my parents got me into vh more wen I was younger! Ever sence then I bleed vh. AL is a huge musical influence on me! He got me into paying the drums I UAE been playing for about 10 years now! I have seen vh twice once with Sam and mike once with Dave and wolf! Shit happens but everyone is happy now witch all that matters!

    I’m so excited for new vh ad we all are it will only be the 3rd vh release in my life time that is of course aside from the 2 best of collections.

    But once again al is a huge influence on me and I love everything he and Eddie have done!

  • Todd D.

    ALL GREAT VH SUMMER LISTS!!! HOWEVER, CHECK MINE OUT…

    TODD’S TOP TEN VAN HALEN SUMMER SONGS:

    HONORABLE MENTION: ONE I WANT

    10) BEAUTIFUL GIRLS
    9) LITTLE GUITARS
    8) TOP OF THE WORLD
    7) WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD TIMES GONE?
    6) DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY
    5) WHEN IT’S LOVE
    4) ICE CREAM MAN
    3) CABO WABO
    2) FINISH WHAT YA STARTED
    1) SUMMER NIGHTS

  • b mack

    drop dead legs beats all of them,,you can just see that gal listening to the song.

  • Panama Red

    I got a laugh out of the video here of “Dance The Night Away” that was put together using all of those old 60′s TV shows. That was pretty good.
    There are so many great VH songs to listen to in the summer but the quintessential one for me is “Summer Nights.” That song instantly puts a visual in my head, not just a visual but the actual feeling of having a good time during the summer. I wish I was listening to the new VH album this summer, that would be so awesome, but it’s gonna be great no matter what time of year it’s released.
    I watched all the videos here. Thanks vhnd. I also watched the video of “Get Up” that came up after “Summer Nights” from ‘Live Without A Net.’ Man, that kicks ass!

    @ b mack – You mean Meg Griffin from that alternate universe. LOL
    http://www.vhnd.com/2009/09/29/van-halen-song-on-family-guy/

  • Halen High

    Panama Red says:
    “I got a laugh out of the video here of “Dance The Night Away” that was put together using all of those old 60?s TV shows. That was pretty good.”

    It was good – add snippets of the band and it would make a pretty cool official video. And I gotta say, the brunette standing next to Larry Hagman is a babe!