30 years ago today, Van Halen Mach II was born! 5150 ushered in a decade of #1 albums and sold out tours with vocalist Sammy Hagar.
Where did Van Halen get the idea for the “5150” title? 5150 is the California statute for holding those with grave mental disabilities involuntarily for 72 hours and sometimes longer pending further psychiatric evaluation. Many police departments across the U.S. use the term to indicate insanity in suspects. The album 5150, the song, and the studio are all named after this code.
5150 was Van Halen’s seventh album. It took three and a half months to record and was released on March 24th, 86. 5150 spent 64 weeks on the charts and reached #1 on the U.S. charts three weeks after its release. This was Van Halen’s first #1 album. 7 million copies have been sold in the U.S. It was certified gold, platinum, and double platinum on 05/28/86; triple platinum on 10/10/86; quadruple platinum on 01/18/89; and platinum five times over on 08/17/94.
The album introduced the band’s new lead singer, Sammy Hagar. Eddie originally toyed with the idea of having Patty Smyth take over as lead vocalist, but apparently she wasn’t comfortable being in a band with three men. Australia’s Jimmy Barnes was another proposed choice; however, Eddie felt Barnes wasn’t right for the type of music he writes. Edward also tossed around the idea of doing an album with a different vocalist for each track. Singers considered included Phil Collins, Joe Cocker, Mike Rutherford and Pete Townsend, but it would have been a scheduling nightmare, and Alex convinced Eddie that it would work for only one album, which wouldn’t be feasible.
The band decided against making videos for 5150 because they wanted the fans’ first visual experience with Sammy Hagar to come from a live performance. Several videos were shown on MTV, most taken from Van Halen’s first live video, Live without a Net, and a video made by the Blue Angels using “Dreams” as the accompanying music.
Longtime Van Halen producer Ted Templeman came to one band rehearsal and heard four or five songs, but was unable to produce 5150 because he already had a contract with David Lee Roth. Other producers considered included Quincy Jones, Nile Rodgers and Rupert Hine before the band selected Mick Jones, who was Sammy Hagar’s idea.
Originally, the band wanted to name the album Best of Both Worlds, but decided against it because it might have been seen as misleading or as having some kind of religious connotation. 5150 was Sammy Hagar’s idea.