It’s a photo Van Halen fans have seen many times over the years. Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth standing under the McDonald’s arch grabbing a bite to eat on a cold, gray winter day. While many have seen it, few know just where that photo was taken. Until now.
A brand new mini-documentary from the St. Louis Classic Rock YouTube channel has been released and in it is the story behind that iconic photo, which was taken on March 5th, 1978.
At the time Van Halen had just hit the road as the opening act for Journey while their recently released debut single “You Really Got Me” was just starting to take off. Eddie and David had just finished being interviewed by St. Louis rock radio station KSHE FM and decided they wanted to get something to eat. They traveled about a mile down the road to the nearest McDonalds.
A young photographer named Richard Upper was hired to travel with the band and take photos. Upper would go on to shoot a long list of legendary bands and artists including The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Rod Stewart & Faces, Blondie among many others. Of all the images he’s captured throughout his stellar career, it’s this quick shot of Eddie and Dave under the big golden arch that’s become possibly the most recognizable of his career.
Here’s Upper’s story:
“So it’s winter, ’78, the songs out, we’re hitting these radio stations, [Dave & Eddie are] doing their interviews and so forth,” said Upper. “We’re also hitting the distribution centers for Warner/Elektra and everybody just loves these guys, they’re so much fun and so we’re taking a break in the limousine and we go to this McDonalds. You can see the jackets they’re wearing, they’re both wearing the same jackets. They didn’t have enough money to get nice coats so they went to an Army Surplus store and bought these two Army fur line jackets so they’re both green. So I take this picture of them standing in front of this – one of the early McDonalds with the single arch – and that becomes this photograph of these two guys just goofin’ around and it becomes hugely popular.”
Over the years Upper would remember the photo being taken in Detroit but fans online would often contact him saying it was, in fact, taken in St. Louis. That location was confirmed by John Sebben, co-founder of the St. Louis Classic Rock Preservation Society and part of Keep Live Alive Saint Louis. Sebben said the McDonalds was specifically located in Crestwood, a city in south St. Louis County, Missouri.
Sebben takes viewers back to the original site of the photo in the video which you can watch above. A great trip back to a great time in Van Halen history!
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