20th Anniversary of Van Halen’s ‘Balance’

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Twenty years ago today, Van Halen released their fourth and final album with vocalist Sammy Hagar, Balance.

Released January 24th, 1995, Balance became Van Halen’s fourth consecutive number 1 studio album. It quickly went double platinum— just two months after it’s release—proving that this hard rock outfit could do just fine, thank you, during the new grunge era. It was later certified triple platinum, in 2004.

Balance-egg-on-guitarTrack List:

1. The Seventh Seal
2. Can’t Stop Lovin’ You
3. Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do)
4. Amsterdam
5. Big Fat Money
6. Strung Out
7. Not Enough
8. Aftershock
9. Doin’ TIme
10. Baluchitherium
11. Take Me Back (Deja Vu)
12. Feelin’

The album was recorded in just over three months—May 25th through Sept 2nd. Most of the album was recorded at Van Halen’s 5150 Studios. Five of the lead vocal tracks were recorded in Vancouver, Canada, so that producer Bruce Fairbairn could spend more time with his family.

Ed did not use his Soldano amp for this album. Instead, he went back to his Marshall, which had restoration work done to it, and also used his new Peavey 5150.

Before the band settled on the title to their 10th studio album, they considered calling it The Club, a title dedicated to deceased manager Ed Leffler, and also considered Seventh Seal, before the band settled on the calmer approach of Balance. “We were going through some inner band turmoil and disagreements,” Alex told Metal Edge. “Things got really out of kilter, but when we got into the studio and played . . . it’s like things were back into balance.”

Balance_640Album Cover

The image of the twins on the teeter-totter was created from two photos of the same child, Photoshopped to appear as conjoined twins. Note that the child is not Wolfgang Van Halen, as has been rumored.

Alex Van Halen commented on the cover during a 2/20/95 interview on Rockline. “It’s kind of a duality. It has to do with one person. What you do to another, it comes back to you pretty quickly. It has to do with a balance within everybody; the age old struggle between good and evil. And before I get too deep, ‘Balance’ is really the title of the picture.”

Glen Wexler, the creator of the cover clarifies, “The image was created by photographing a 4-year-old child model who was cast in Los Angeles. Wolfie was two at the time, had dark brown hair, and was never a consideration.

“MTV manufactured and aired a ‘news’ story that the cover was ‘banned in Japan.’ The fake news only became more distorted over the years. It was known to the label (Warner Bros.) that there would be cultural sensitivity to the conjoined twins in Japan. They proactively commissioned the alternative version specifically for that market PRIOR to the release. 

“There was a religious group from Boston who objected to the cover, wanted it banned from WalMart, and received some press over it. While the cover was intended to be disturbing, the ‘controversy’ tends to be largely overstated and distorted.”

The artwork on the compact disc itself is Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.

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Japanese Version with Alternate Cover And Bonus Track

The Japanese version of Balance has only one child on the cover because the Japanese took offense at the conjoined twins. The band needed to alter the cover for Japan, and tossed around the idea of using the second child in the background as a ghost, but that idea didn’t go over well, either. Balance was the first Van Halen album to hit #1 on the Japanese charts. This version of the album also includes the extra track “Crossing Over.”

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Unfinished Songs from Balance Recording Sessions

Balance_posterThat year, Eddie told Guitar World, “We demoed about 20 songs for Bruce. Actually, we over-cut! There are like four songs that aren’t even on the record. It just got too long. We had an hour’s worth of music in the can, and Bruce said, “Do you want to do a double CD or what?” Out of, say, 20 songs, the ones that got finished first ended up on the record. Sometimes, when I focus on writing, I start blazing: I’ll come up with all kinds of shit and it overwhelms Sammy for a bit. The way he works best is when he focuses on one thing and writes lyrics for it. So, since I was writing so much, a lot of lyrics weren’t done. For example, for the instrumental track, “Baluchitherium,” we were actually working on lyrics and we ended up going, “Fuck it, it sounds pretty good without vocals,” so we left it. And Sammy was relieved-”Okay, I got one less to work on.” So, yeah, there are actually four more tunes that the music is finished for. We’ll finish those for the next record, or whenever.”

The only song we know for sure that was cut from Balance was an instrumental that became “Cant Get The Stuff No More,” which was recorded with David Lee Roth and released the next year as part of the Greatest Hits, Volume One package.

Official music videos for “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” “Not Enough” & “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do)”

 

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