For the 35th anniversary of the release of “Hot For Teacher” today, we’re featuring Van Halen Rising author Greg Renoff’s new piece for Ultimate Classic Rock:
In the fall of 1984, Van Halen dominated rock ‘n’ roll.
Their latest album, 1984, had sold a jaw-dropping 4 million copies in less than a year. The album’s debut single, the keyboard-driven “Jump,” became a No. 1 hit, an achievement aided by its irresistible video, which was ubiquitous on MTV immediately after its release. The band had just completed a multi-month, sold-out tour, and, to close out the year, prepared to release the fourth single from 1984, “Hot for Teacher.”
There was only one apparent problem with this state of affairs: Guitarist Eddie Van Halen and singer David Lee Roth weren’t doing much creative work together. While Roth and Pete Angelus, the band’s behind-the-scenes creative force and video director, huddled in a video editing bay to put the finishing touches on the “Hot for Teacher” promotional clip, Van Halen was sequestered in his 5150 studio with the group’s longtime engineer, Donn Landee, working on the soundtrack to the Cameron Crowe’s teenage comedy The Wild Life. This behind-the-scenes creative divide between the singer and guitarist would only grow in the coming months.
A year prior, however, Van Halen were firing on all cylinders. Soon after its triumphant performance at the massive US Festival, the band recorded “Hot for Teacher” at 5150. Musically, the track smoked. Drummer Alex Van Halen’s jackhammer double-bass technique, paired with a classic Eddie tapping riff and a ferocious Michael Anthony bass line, birthed a ZZ Top-on-steroids-power shuffle in the spirit of Van Halen tracks like “I’m the One” and “The Full Bug.” Still, Eddie thought “Teacher” stood alone in the band’s canon, terming it “beyond any boogie I’ve ever heard.”