To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Van Halen’s magnum opus, we’re declaring it “Fair Warning Week” at VHND, were we’re featuring a different story about the album every day for the next seven days.
Happy Birthday, Fair Warning.
On April 29th, 1981, Van Halen unleashed their darkest album. From the opening out-of-this-world sounds of “Mean Street” to the insane fade out of “One Foot Out the Door” this album is nothing short of a masterpiece. Although it’s the worst selling album ever made with Dave or Sammy (though it did go double platinum), it’s always been one of the favorite albums of many fans. It’s one of those few albums that can still give you goose bumps the thousandth time you hear it.
Mean Street * Dirty Movies * Sinner’s Swing * Hear about It Later * Unchained * Push Comes to Shove *So This is Love? * Sunday Afternoon in the Park * One Foot Out the Door
Much of this album was written in the early morning hours when Ed and Donn Landee would retreat to the studio after the rest of the band had gone home. This practice signaled a turning point in Van Halen’s career, Edward was becoming increasingly frustrated about not being able to express himself the way he wanted to; he felt he was growing musically but was being suppressed by Ted Templeman and Roth. Tensions between the guitarist and the vocalist increased, and Edward briefly considered quitting the band. Alex convinced him to stick it out, and Fair Warning was the result. However, the anger and unhappiness comes through in the music, giving the album its dark undertones. The Fair Warning sessions were also the seed for Edward’s desire to have his own studio, and in fewer than three years, 5150 Studio became a reality in his own backyard.
Is Fair Warning your favorite Van Halen album? What did you think of it the first time you heard it? Favorite songs? How were you guitar players influenced by it? Share your thoughts in our Comments section. (Note that since Sammy had nothing to do with this album, none of the tired “Sammy versus Dave” comments that have been overrunning VHND lately will be allowed in the Fair Warning stories. If you must argue about the singers, stick to this story, where the fans are discussing Sammy’s book).