Happy Birthday! David Lee Roth, lead singer of Van Halen, expresses delight at a surprise birthday party given him after the group’s European opening concert in Hamburg. Stefan Michel, left, product manager U.S. repertoire for WEA musik, and Michael Anthony, the group’s bass player, share the fun.
Just how big was Van Halen’s first album? Warner Bros. had the band booked to kick off a worldwide tour on March 3, 1978, just three weeks after the album was released. Primarily as a supporting act for big hitters like Journey and Black Sabbath, the foursome performed 174 shows over ten months. Who’s still saving their ’78 Sabbath/Van Halen black tour shirt? Send us pics!
All told, Van Halen played 124 shows in the US, two in Canada, nine in Japan and 39 in Europe (as the headliner in Japan and Europe). Pretty awesome stuff, but we can’t help but point out some interesting tidbits about the band as well as big headlines during the 1978 tour. Take a look…
Feb 5th-7th: The monstrous Blizzard of ’78 is one of the country’s worst natural disasters, burying the Northeast and killing over 100 people while piling up snow and over half a billion dollars in damage. The storm dropped more than 27 inches of snow on Boston and many other cities in its path. (Can you imagine waiting outside a record store in those temperatures on the 10th, when VAN HALEN finally hit the shelves?)
Also in February, the first computer BBS (Bulletin Board Service) is created. Who’s your daddy, VHND!?!
March 3rd: Van Halen 1978 tour begins, opening for Journey at the Aragon Ballroom in bassist Michael Anthony’s hometown, Chicago, Illinois. Not a bad way to make your return, eh?
March 7th: After getting bumped off the bill at the Madison Orpheum Theatre because the stage couldn’t accommodate the equipment of three bands, Van Halen wound up playing a club gig at the Shuffle Inn. Following the show, the band trashed the 7th floor of the Sheraton Inn, destroying furniture, TVs and even toilet seats. Telephones were tossed out windows, and Alex Van Halen glued other guests’ doorknobs or put Vaseline on knobs so people couldn’t turn them.
When confronted about the damage, they blamed it all on Journey. The liner notes of Van Halen II, however, would give a special thanks to the hotel. (Want to know more about all the mayhem that ensued that week? Read this exclusive account.)
March 14th: Van Halen invades Canada, blistering Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada. (Were you there for the first VH appearance North of the Border? (Got pics? We’d love to share some!)
April 2nd: CBS launches the nighttime soap DALLAS, which goes on to be a modest hit for the network. We still think it should have hired Van Halen to do a JR’s Cryin’ opening theme.
April 7th: President Jimmy Carter declares, “I am not an atomic punk,” (well, perhaps not in those exact words), and decides to suspend production of the neutron bomb.
May 5th: Pete Rose gets his 3,000th hit, putting him only 2,998 ahead of Van Halen, who are busy rocking the Dutch at the Delft Civic Auditorium in the Netherlands.
May 8th: Alex spends his 25th birthday on stage at the Markthalle Convention Center in Hamburg, Germany, just three days after he and brother Eddie celebrate a triumphant Netherlands homecoming – being that both founding members were born there. We suspect some ladies in Delft were perhaps allowed to celebrate with the hometown heroes after their concert at the Civic Auditorium. Eddie was in his real-life birthplace the following evening, when the band played to a standing room only crowd at Club Paradiso in Amsterdam.
May 12th: Van Halen opens for Black Sabbath on their Never Say Die tour, tearing the roof off of the Theatre Mogador in Paris, France.
May 20th: Mavis Hutchinson becomes the first woman to run across the United States. No word from Mavis’ family if “Runnin With the Devil” was on her playlist.
June 1st: Van Halen roars into the Hammersmith Odeon in London, England. We’ve never confirmed if the Queen was there or not. Just a “No comment.”
June 12th: GREASE makes a couple of bucks in theatres for Paramount Pictures, but alas, the studio fails to include any VH on the soundtrack. Probably why it was only the No. 2 selling album for the year.
June 15th: Not quite as thunderous as Godzilla, Van Halen takes Japan, including an appearance on Japanese television.
June 20th: Michael had an off day on his birthday in 1978 as the band traveled to play the Nakano Sun Plaza Hall in Tokyo on the 21st. (We suspect someone was getting laid, but that’s just a guess.)
June 28th: The Rainbow Flag flies for the first time for the LGBT community. Who said “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love?”
July 1st: Exhausted after returning from Japan, the band realizes all its equipment was sent to Chicago instead of Texas for their performance at the Cotton Bowl as part of Texxas Jam. They played a stellar show for 82,000 people on rented equipment.
Aug 13th: The massive Santa Barbara earthquake hits central California. However, rumors that it was begun during a rehearsal of “Eruption” by EVH are unfounded, as the band was in Landover, Maryland at the time.
Aug 27th: The gang returns to the city that never sleeps. Only this time, instead of the cozy confines of New York’s Palladium, the band takes the stage at Madison Square Garden for the very first time.
Sept 23rd: The band steals thunder from Boston and Black Sabbath with the brilliant parachute stunt.
October 10th: Diamond Dave spends his birthday rocking a SRO crowd in Essen, Germany, as the band plays the world-famous Grugahalle, a concert venue whose long list of headlining acts included (at the time) Ella Fitzgerald, Bill Haley & the Comets, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Led Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead, Beach Boys and lots of fellow Rock & Roll Hall of Famers.
Surprise! Warner Bros. group Van Halen celebrate the birthday of lead singer David Lee Roth, second from left, at a post-concert surprise party after the opening night of their European tour in Hamburg. With Roth are Van Halen members Michael Anthony, Alex Van Halen and Edward Van Halen.
November 23rd: Van Halen mashes potatoes with thunderous guitar and drum solos, celebrating Thanksgiving in Houston, Texas, rocking a sold-out Sam Houston Coliseum.
December 3rd: The 2nd show of the 29th season of The Bob Hope Show airs, featuring Lucille Ball, Ginger Rogers, Donny and Marie Osmond and Gerald Ford. All those folks, while Van Halen closes out its first tour at the San Diego Sports Arena.
Were you fortunate enough to have caught Van Halen during the 1978 tour? We’d love to hear your memories about this big part of the band’s history. Chime in below!