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 American Led Zeppelin, but with an an added dose of humor and attitude. Another unique attribute which sets them apart from other rock bands is their almost Beach Boys-esque backing vocals, which helped them redefine the classic Southern California sound of Summer.
With Summer beginning, 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 is not simply a list of our favorite VH songs. It is, however, a list of songs which feature lyrics with a “summertime” vibe, from Van Halen’s debut album through A Different Kind Of Truth.
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 Summertime Van Halen Songs (in order of their release):
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.
“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.
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.
The final track on Van Halen II, with it’s bump-and-grind riff, raunchy rhythm and lascivious lyrics is guaranteed to get you you going!
“Well, I’m a bum in the sun and I’m having fun. And I know you know I got no special plans. All the bills are paid. I got it made in the shade, and all I nee, nee, need is the woman. What a sweet talkin’ honey with a little bit of money can turn your head around. Creature from the sea with the looks to me like she’d like to fool around.”
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.”
“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 Women And Children First 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. Hint to VH: Perfect box set material!
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 many of his fans, as thousands have made the pilgrimage to Cabo San Lucas in October to celebrate his annual Birthday Bash — and many go every year!
“Feels So Good”
This little gem on OU812 is so beachy and laid back that you can almost feel the sand in your toes and smell the salty air. As the title says, it simply feels so good!
Everyday I watch the tide roll in
Stay until it rolls away
Though nothing’s on the shore
I’m running back for more
I’ll send the message in a bottle
Pray for the mercy of the sea
Stormy weather, oh yeah
Waitin’ for love to rescue me
Did you know? This was the third song written for OU812. The video for the song was filmed on a sound stage in Hollywood, CA. This video featured the only known video appearance of Ed’s Charvel Frankenstrat outfitted with a striped headstock.
“Take Me Back (Déjà Vu)”
Dreamy acoustic song about a love that was found and then lost on “Some desert island off Morocco.” Contains some nice slide guitar by EVH.
Did you know? The music for this song was originally written for For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.
The intro for this song was the same intro used for “No More Waiting,” an unreleased Van Halen song dating back to the band’s club days circa 1977.
Two complete sets of lyrics were rejected by producer Bruce Fairburn before a final third set from Sammy was accepted. This may be one of the reasons Sammy wanted this song dropped from the album and replaced with “Crossing Over.”
“Blood And Fire”
“Blood and Fire,” A Different Kind Of Truth’s fifth track, washes over you like a time-machine and takes you back to the carefree days of cruising around on a summer day, windows down, blasting Diver Down or 1984 from your custom Alpine car stereo with the fluorescent green buttons.
Did you know? Bootleg collectors know this song as “Ripley,” a tune Eddie recorded for the The Wild Life soundtrack in the mid 1980s. A full version of the song surfaced on VHND in 2010, and was the only piece of music from The Wild Life sessions that featured Alex Van Halen on drums. “Ripley” was probably written around 1983 and is rumored to have been one of a handful of songs in consideration for the 1984 album. Nearly 30 years on, “Blood and Fire” was worth the wait. Featuring nostalgic lyrics and his live trademark, “Look at all the people here tonight,” Dave has the charming ability to boast without making us hate him for it. “Told you I was coming back,” he proclaims. “Tell me you missed me. Say it like you mean it!” Speaking of boasting, Eddie Van Halen tears up the solo in this song, one of his best on the new album.
The new boogie that BEGS to be played live!
Did you know? David Lee Roth played the fingerpicked, country-style blues guitar intro. His guitar playing often gets overlooked. Eddie Van Halen told Guitar World: “He played guitar on that song up until the band came in, and then I took over on acoustic. He played that on nylon-string flamenco guitar. It’s an interesting sound. But he can really fingerpick! Even on our first album, a lot of people thought that I played the intro to “Ice Cream Man” but that was Dave.”
“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.