We are proud to feature a very unique story from Chris Moore, a VHND reader who was lucky enough to be able to attend a rehearsal(!) for Van Halen’s Women and Children First tour. As this week in the anniversary of the kickoff of that tour, it’s a perfect time to share Chris’s story…
“When I was in middle school & high school, I played in a band with Michael Anthony’s brother, Dennis. Dennis & I were very good friends and pretty much spent our time listening to Van Halen instead of doing homework!
In early 1980, Van Halen was putting the finishing touches on Women and Children First and they were rehearsing for the “1980 INVASION” tour. Dennis called and said there might be a chance for us to go see them rehearse that night. I rushed over to his house and we waited…
Michael Anthony showed up, driving a pickup truck belonging to his then-fiancé (now wife) Sue’s father. We noticed he had a couple of bass cases in the back with the VH logo on them. We jumped the truck, and tried very hard to contain our excitement…we were about to see our favorite band rehearse!
On the way, we pulled into a gas station. One of the guys who worked there walked over, looked in the back of the truck and said, “geeter boxes, eh?” ~ he had no idea what the logo meant or who Mike was!
Mike drove us to SIR Studios in Hollywood. We walked into a huge warehouse-like room (“the big room”) and there was the entire “1980 INVASION” stage setup. Alex’s drumkit was the white one with the vacuum hoses connecting the kick drums. The bass and guitar cabinets were staggered in three rows so the guys could climb and stand on them during the show. Over the stage, there were more rows of lights than I could count. The stage had a cushioned tumbling mat in front of the drum riser so that David Lee Roth could do insane jumps and not get hurt.
We walked back to the sound & light boards to check everything out. Dennis turned around & said, “Diamond Dave!” and there was David Lee Roth walking toward us. He shook our hands and was very cool to us. We chatted for a few minutes, and then we let him go to get ready. Suddenly, we heard it ~ that unmistakable guitar tone. Ed was on the stage, checking his gear. He played some amazing chops, then nodded and put his guitar down. We walked up to his side of the stage and said hello. He was standing next to a guitar stand that had the black & yellow Charvel Superstrat from Van Halen II on it ~ the guitar had a pretty good size chunk taken out of it. When we asked him about it, he laughed and said something about “normal wear & tear.”
The band was really excited to begin the tour…a tour they nicknamed the “Party ‘Til You Die” tour!
The time had come for Van Halen to get down to business. Dennis & I sat on the floor, front & center, about 10 feet from the stage (which was about a foot off the floor). They launched into “Romeo Delight” and the lights came up; I’ll never forget the intense heat of the lights and, of course, the brightness! The sound was incredible ~ they were full blast from the first note. Even though it was rehearsal, they rocked it as though they were in front of 20,000 people (which they would be very soon). They played through most of the first 3 records, including Mike on keyboards for “And The Cradle Will Rock,” which I’d heard him practicing at home for weeks. For most of the rehearsal, Mike was playing a new red BC Rich “Bitch” bass. If I remember correctly, he played that bass for the first part of that tour, along with his now-famous Yamaha. He loved the Yamaha so much that he ended up going back to it as his main bass. Alex, Mike, & Ed did not do their solos at this rehearsal, but it didn’t matter. They were phenomenal. During the “show” Mike, Ed & Dave would come up in front of us and totally start goofing off & jamming for us ~ that was, without a doubt, the coolest part of the whole thing. Here’s a couple of kids at what became their own private Van Halen concert; the only people there were the band, crew, and Dennis & me. Crazy.
After the rehearsal, we hung out and talked with everybody for a bit. Being a drummer, I was waiting for a chance to meet Alex, and finally, there he was! He was very cordial and down to earth. I was telling him about a drum teacher I was working with who was trying to change the way I played and instill more technique into my drumming. Alex said, “look, nobody in the audience knows what the fuck a paradiddle is and they don’t care! The important thing is that you play what you feel.” I’ve always remembered that. We were talking about his kit & he told me he did all the custom work himself, because “I don’t trust anybody else with my shit!” He said, “go on up & check it out if you wanna play it.” I climbed behind the drumkit, which was way high up when I looked over the back of the riser. I started goofing around and playing a few things. Ed was on the stage below, talking with his guitar tech, Rude (“Rudy”) and I didn’t want to interrupt them. Alex’s tech, Gregg Emerson was egging me on, yelling, “floor tom action!!” I was totally intimidated – I’d never played on a kit with monitors at that point. It was super loud and very powerful. Afterward, I picked one of Alex’s broken sticks, which he let me keep (and I still have). We thanked the guys and took off with Mike.
The next day at school, I was numb. I knew what I wanted to do – what I HAD TO do. Imagine trying to sit through classes after an experience like that the night before!
I’ll always remember the impact of that night, what a once in a lifetime experience it was. Later on, I was able to attend other Van Halen rehearsals ~ it became pretty well known when Van Halen was rehearsing (beginning with the “Fair Warning” tour, they started rehearsing at Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios) ~ the rehearsals ended up becoming a big party, with at least 1,000 people on the final dress rehearsal night. But that one night with just the band, crew, and Dennis & me was unforgettable. They were on top of their game and it was very intense. Van Halen was every bit as good in a “private concert” as in front of 20,000 people. No sequencers, no click track, no modern technology ~ it was just Van Halen…the greatest band on earth…kicking ass!!