Ah, wow, man. Wait a second, man. Waddaya think “Hot For Teacher” is gonna sound like this time?
It’s hard to imagine hearing Van Halen’s classic “Hot For Teacher” and not being able to recite every lyric word for word. Even harder to imagine is hearing the song with an entirely different set of lyrics but that’s exactly what engineer Brian Kehew has revealed.
In a recent interview with Sunset Sound Recorders, Kehew said he was hired as an independent contractor to sort through the Warner Bros. archives around 15 years ago. His mission was to find Van Halen material worthy of inclusion on reissues of the band’s early David Lee Roth era studio albums. Among the songs he found was an alternate version of “Hot For Teacher” from the ‘1984’ album featuring a whole different set of lyrics. But that was just one of many release-worthy recordings Kehew found which dated back to Van Halen’s earliest days at Sunset Sound in 1977 right up through the recording of ‘1984’ which was tracked at Eddie Van Halen’s 5150 Studios in 1983.
Also found in the vaults were first-generation versions of demos that have been circulating among VH bootleggers for decades including “Bring on the Girls” which later became “Beautiful Girls” from 1979’s ‘Van Halen II’. Kehew said there is also a different recording of “Little Dreamer” – a cut off of the band’s 1978 debut album. In fact, Kehew recalled that there was four CDs worth of material worthy of releasing.
“[Engineer/Producer] Bill Inglot and I have done many, many projects for Warner Bros. together; he as producer, I was engineer,” Kehew told the Van Halen News Desk. “We could not find original mix tapes for the demos, but the multitracks tapes still existed, so we could mix from that.”
Kehew said rather than giving the tracks an “updated” sound, he aimed to recreate the sound of Van Halen’s ’78 debut which was produced by Ted Templeman and engineered by Donn Landee.
“Not knowing what the original ‘intent’ or sound of those demos was supposed to be, we went for the sound of the original first album,” said Kehew. “That’s the same team, the same rooms, and many of the same songs. Of the material we found, that was the strongest, some songs known today – like ‘Running with the Devil’, or ‘On Fire’. Some that came out later, in modified or rewritten form, like ‘Voodoo Queen’ becoming ‘Mean Streets’. But some have never been re-recorded or re-released.”
“It’s probably fair to say those songs weren’t as strong, but for anyone today, even to hear a different version of a classic song, or an unheard version of a never-released one – that’s fair to hear,” Kehew added. “It’s happened for hundreds of bands, from Hendrix to The Beatles to Fleetwood Mac: Here are the demos, an early version, a different mix of something.”
Kehew told Sunset Sound that “Hot For Teacher” also featured a different intro. The alternate version features Eddie playing both guitar and bass. Kehew compared the sound of that version to the David Lee Roth song “Shyboy” from his 1986 solo album ‘Eat ‘Em and Smile’.
During his Sunset Sound interview Kehew explained why these unearthed songs never surfaced saying it was primarily due to bad timing. He said that at the time the songs were considered for release, Sammy Hagar was back in the group so promoting anything with Roth was out of the question. When Dave did return to Van Halen in 2007 the label preferred to focus more on getting new music from the band to release rather than re-releasing old material.
Kehew added that he hopes these songs do eventually see the light of day. If they do, it will be a reminder of the legendary sound of Van Halen.
“Van Halen deserves as much attention as those [songs] do, and I hope it comes along in due time. I think it will make everyone appreciate them even more, in retrospect,” Kehew told VHND. “Great songs. Great performances and groove. Swinging timing, while being heavy. [Eddie is] possibly one of the greatest rhythm guitarists ever. People don’t mention that, but Ed plays 90% more rhythm than lead, and he is right there with Alex in the pocket. Always.”
Below is the complete Sunset Sound/Keith Kehew interview:
Here is a clip of original Sunset Sound owner Paul Camarata talking about when Van Halen entered the studios in 1977: