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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.