LOS ANGELES — Watchdog groups are voicing their concerns that modern society has started to resemble the dystopian world depicted in hard rock band Van Halen’s album 1984.
“We’re definitely living in a world very similar to the hellish one described in 1984,” says John Bircham, who heads a group dedicated to monitoring developments that they describe as “Van-Halenian.”
“The signs are all there: the over-sexualization of society, described in ‘Drop Dead Legs’ and ‘Girl Gone Bad,’ widespread sexual congress between instructors and their pupils as detailed in ‘Hot for Teacher,’ and the ascent to the world stage of Venezuela, which is near Panama, the country described in ‘Panama.’ What more do you people need?”
Groups like Bircham’s do have their detractors. Ian Thompkins, a freelance media analyst, disputes many of Bircham’s claims. ”’Panama‘ should not be interpreted in any sort of geopolitical context,” he says. “It isn’t even about chasing women. It’s about a car. [Bircham] is misinforming the public.”
Though not their first foray into social commentary—the 1978 single “Feel Your Love Tonight” is believed to be an allegory of the Russian Revolution of 1917—1984 has been the subject of intense discussion between historians and metal enthusiasts alike. Some view it as a dire prediction of an inevitable future, while others argue that it is a mainstream rock album that yielded the group’s first #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
Despite the debate, Bircham and his colleagues are convinced that the end is near. “The pieces are falling into place. First it wasTyler Perry’s House of Payne, predicted by the similarly titled track #9, ‘House of Pain.’ Now all that’s left is for the person described in ‘Top Jimmy’ to appear,” says Bircham.
“Hummala bebhuhla zeebuhla boobuhla hummala bebhuhla zeebuhla bop.”– David Lee Roth
“He’s described this way: ‘ Top Jimmy cooks. Top Jimmy swings. He’s got the look. Woo. Top Jimmy, he’s the king.’ Sounds like a certain Muslim president, doesn’t it?”
However vague the description, Bircham knows for sure what the solution is. “Diamond Dave says it clearly: might as well jump. We take him to mean ‘commit suicide.’”
Thompkins disagrees. “It’s a metaphor! Diamond Dave is exhorting a woman to ‘jump’ into a relationship with him. These guys were probably wasted when they wrote this stuff; they’re a rock band. What is wrong with you people?”
Van Halen vocalist David Lee Roth, who wrote the bulk of the lyrics for 1984, was asked for comment, but was still talking at press time.