Runnin’ With The Devil

Runnin’ With The Devil / Eruption USA 7″

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On this day in 1978 (May 6th), Van Halen released their first original single, “Runnin’ With The Devil”, with “Eruption” as a B-Side. The song reached number 84 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2009, VH1 rated it as the 9th greatest hard rock song of all time.

“Runnin’ With The Devil” is the first track on Van Halen.

The noise at the beginning of this song is a collection of car horns. The horns were taken from the band’s own cars, including Alex’s Opel, Eddie’s Volvo, a Mercedes Benz and a Volkswagen. The horns were mounted in a box and powered by two car batteries, with a foot switch to turn them on and off. Producer Ted Templemanslowed the horns down before adding them to the track. This same idea was first used during the band’s club sets and appeared on the Gene Simmons Demo on House of Pain, sounding after each verse. On the demo the horns also acted as a segue to Runnin’ with the Devil. Eddie recalled that the horns were detrimental to the songs on the demo and may have been partly responsible for its failure.

Runnin’ With The Devil / Eruption UK 7″

The lyrics were inspired by the Ohio Players song “Runnin’ From The Devil”.

There was a mixing error when this song appeared on Best of Volume 1. The error was corrected in later pressings of the album.

The video for the song (filmed at the Whisky A GoGo in 1977) starts off in much the same way as the song had been performed live: Mike seemingly plucking the strings with his teeth. Dave provides one of his more glaring lip-sync errors in the first few seconds by missing half a scream. Eddie and Mike launch into what would later be called a Kiss impersonation, rocking back and forth perfectly choreographed twice. Near the end of the video a crew member accidentally shares the stage during a shot; he flees, realizing his mistake.

Runnin’ With The Devil / You Really Got Me Holland 7″

From Guitar World:

On the two occasions that Van Halen recorded this song as a demo – first with Gene Simmons producing in 1976 and again in 1977 with Ted Templeman and Moe Austin as producers – it came directly after “House of Pain.” The intro’s unique dissonant, descending sound effect, created using a collection of car horns and tape manipulation, was actually the ending of “House of Pain,” and the car horns appeared briefly throughout that song. While the effect was somewhat distracting between songs, Templeman realized it would make a brilliant attention-getting intro, so he decided to sequence “Runnin with the Devil” as the first song on Van Halen’s debut album.

With its basic chord progression and melodic guitar “solos,” ”Runnin with the Devil” is one of the simplest songs Van Halen ever recorded, but like “Smoke on the Water” and “Iron Man,” a big part of its power comes from that simplicity. Yet, to paraphrase Roth’s lyrics, the simple things weren’t so simple. Little embellishments – like the harmonized vocals on the chorus, the rhythm section’s deep groove that swings as much as it stomps, and even the way Eddie rakes the strings between the bridge and stop tailpiece on his Ibanez Destroyer on the intro – make Van Halen’s recording nearly inimitable. Perhaps the most striking feature of this song is Van Halen’s raw, violent and hungry attitude. It’s the kind of thing that only exists during that magical make-or-break moment when a band announces its presence to the world at large.

 Official Music Video:

Vocal Track:

Guitar Track:

 

Lyrics:

I live my life like there’s no tomorrow
And all I’ve got I had to steal
Least I don’t need to beg or borrow
Yes, I’m living at a pace that kills
Runnin’ with the devil
Runnin’ with the devil
I’ll tell y’all about it
I found the simple life ain’t so simple
When I jumped out on that road
I got no love, no love you’d call real
Ain’t got nobody waiting at home
Runnin’ with the devil
God damn it lady, you know I ain’t lying to ya
I’m wanna tell you one time
Aah-yeah
Running with the devil
Yes I am
Yeah

Woo
Woo

You know I, I found the simple life, weren’t so simple, no
When I jumped out on that road
Got no love, no love you’d call real
Got nobody waiting at home
Runnin’ with the devil
Runnin’ with the devil
Runnin’ with the devil
Runnin’ with the devil
[Repeat and fade]

Runnin’ With The Devil / Eruption German 7″

Runnin’ With The Devil / D.O.A. UK 7″

View all the song pages for Van Halen’s debut album on our Van Halen page.