Van Halen’s ‘Women and Children First’ album has just turned 40 and like a bottle of David Lee Roth’s best party-ready whiskey, it’s only gotten better with age.
To celebrate the anniversary of the classic Van Halen album released on March 26th, 1980, the podcast The Rocker Life recently released an episode featuring host Aaron K. and a pair of musicians/die-hard Van Halen fans sharing their thoughts and opinions on ‘Women and Children First’.
Stryper frontman Michael Sweet and guitarist Jeremy Asbrock (Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Thee Rock and Roll Residency) join in on what was the debut of the podcast’s “Classic Rock Rundown” series which features guests breaking down the tracks of a different album each episode. What better way to kick off a series than with a Van Halen album? Sweet couldn’t have agreed more with Aaron K.’s decision.
“I like ‘Women and Children First’ equally as much as [‘Van Halen’ and ‘Van Halen II’],” said Sweet. “Man, it’s a great album. I wore that album out as I did with one and two and ‘Fair Warning’ which is another great album of course. ‘Women and Children First’. What can you say about it? It’s just a killer, legendary album.”
Sweet, Asbrock and Aaron K. all shared stories regarding the first time they heard ‘Women and Children First’.
Sweet: “My earliest memories would be going to the beach. I’d catch the bus down Beach Boulevard from where I lived which was La Mirada [California]. My buddy and I would go down to Seal Beach or Huntington Beach and boogie board and surf and that [album] would always be a beach favorite…always. I just remember those amazing days, a 75 or 80-degree day on the beach listening to Van Halen.”
Asbrock: “I got into Van Halen right when ‘1984’ came out. I was eight years old and I’d gotten a boom box that Christmas and that was when I discovered 103 KDF, Nashville’s Rock and Roll Station! Van Halen was comin’ to town two months later so whenever they’d play a Van Halen song, if you were the ninth caller, you’d win tickets. I just remember dialing 737-R-O-C-K over and over and tryin’ to win tickets with a rotary phone…my God. And they weren’t just playing ‘1984’. They were playing all the stuff and I remember ‘And The Cradle Will Rock’ was in regular rotation. Early Van Halen reminds me of discovering rock radio.”
Aaron K.: “Paying my way through school I actually worked at Camelot Music which became FYE and at that point, I had the entire Van Halen catalog with the exception of ‘Women & Children First’ and ‘Diver Down’. I went and bought ‘Women and Children First’ and just remember thinking, ‘Where did I miss this album and why do I not have this in my collection? Where did I go wrong and how did I overlook this? Because this is incredible.’ I [remember] very quickly forming off of that album probably four or five songs that are just some of my favorite Van Halen songs. If I was going to make the ultimate Van Halen playlist those songs would definitely be on there.”
Aaron K. followed by posing some album-related questions to his guests. Below are some of those responses.
WHAT IS THE BEST TRACK ON ‘WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST’?
Asbrock: “’Romeo Delight’”.
Sweet: “Jeremy just took my pick man! Absolutely. [‘Romeo Delight’ is] a brilliant song and it’s so different. It’s laid out incredibly well. I would play that song over and over and over much more than any other song [from the album] and that has to mean something.”
Aaron K.: “We’re gonna make this thing a hat trick I’m gonna say ‘Romeo Delight’.”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TRACK ON ‘WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST?
Aaron K.: “I’m gonna say ‘Take Your Whiskey Home’.
Sweet: “Gosh. That’s a tough one. It really depends on what mood I’m in. If I’m in a more swampy, edgy, kinda ‘UHH!’ mood I’m goin’ with ‘Take Your Whiskey Home’ as well. That’s one that I used to play a lot as well in the car. I’d crank that one up. I’d go one notch louder on that one.”
Asbrock: “This is an easy ‘Fools’ for me. That quarter note shuffle. That was the one where finally, like, ‘Dave’s a bluesman! Listen to that intro man!’”
“Take Your Whiskey Home”:
WHO IS THE ALBUM MVP?
Sweet: “Michael Anthony. I think he’s probably the most underrated rock player of all time. Not only that but he’s probably my favorite rock player of all time. I love his groove and he’s such an incredibly solid bass player in terms of just that eighth note, lay down the pocket groove. And everybody knows what an amazing singer he is as well.”
Asbrock: “Ed was already established as sort of the MVP guitar player but I really think that Dave pulled out some stuff for ‘Women and Children First’ that was a little different than just being a vocalist prior to that. He showed that he was a little bit of a bluesman. He did it in the intro to ‘Take Your Whisky Home’. That whiskey-soaked voice really made an appearance on this record and then something like ‘Loss of Control’. What are you gonna do over those verses? I don’t know I’ll just talk like I’m talkin’ through a walkie-talkie or a CB radio like I’m in a helicopter or something. That’s pretty inventive. I wouldn’t have thought that. So I’m gonna give MVP to Dave on this one.”
Sweet: “I’m with ya too. I think that’s a good one. I’m givin’ it to Michael you give it to David but I think both are worthy for sure and Eddie doesn’t have anything to prove. I’ve been saying lately on social media that David Lee Roth gets bagged on so often. He’s, in my opinion, so much better than people give him credit for. Does he sound the same? No. But does anybody sound the same 35 years or 40 years later? No. But he’s such a great singer and has so much character to his voice and one of the best frontmen/showmen of all time.
Aaron K.: “I’m gonna close this one out. I’m gonna give this one to Michael Anthony but I will tell you my answer was gonna be a two-way tie – Michael Anthony and David Lee Roth – so how cool was that it worked out that way?”
“Loss Of Control”:
Listen to the entire episode of The Rocker Life’s ‘Women and Children First’ Anniversary Podcast below:
For more on “The Rocker Life” Podcast go here.
‘Women and Children First’ [Complete Album]:
So VHND’ers we want to know – When did you first hear ‘Women and Children First’? What are your favorite tracks, and why? Who do you think is the MVP of the album? Share your comments below.