On this month in 1996 Van Halen released the single “Humans Being”. Twenty five years later it stands out as a shining moment in what would soon become a dark period in Van Halen history.
“Humans Being” was one of two tracks the band recorded for Twister – a film all about impending destructive windstorms. Little did Van Halen fans know at the time that there was a storm brewing within the Van Halen camp. When the dust settled, the band was once again without a lead singer as Sammy Hagar and Van Halen parted ways just two months after the song was released.
The Story Of “Humans Being”
In January of ’96, the members of Van Halen were enjoying some down time after completing their tour in support of the 1995 studio album ‘Balance’. Manager Ray Danniels informed Eddie Van Halen and his brother Alex that Warner Bros. wanted them to record music for their upcoming film Twister. Hagar wasn’t initially up to it since his wife Kari was expected to deliver their child in April. Besides, he thought, Eddie and Alex were in no shape to record either. Eddie was using a cane and taking painkillers due to a hip injury and Alex wore a neck brace on the last tour due to various injuries over the years. But eventually Hagar relented and, injuries or no injuries, Eddie and Alex were more than willing to get back to work.
Eddie & Alex In The Studio Previewing “Humans Being” For Dutch TV Station:
According to his 1997 interview with Guitar World Hagar “Humans Being” began as a song called “The Silent Extreme” but was later renamed by Alex who had agreed with Eddie that the lyrics Hagar had written for “The Silent Extreme” needed to be changed. Alex called the film’s director, Jan De Bont, to ask him how closely he wanted the lyrics to be related to the movie’s context. De Bont replied “Oh, please don’t write about tornadoes. I don’t want this to be a narrative for the movie.” Hagar then asked De Bont for some footage of Twister and was also given a folder with terms used by storm chasers.
After some disagreements over the lyrics, Hagar and the Van Halen brothers finally settled their differences with some assistance from producer Bruce Fairbairn, who co-wrote two verses with Hagar. Now it was time to record the vocals. Once again, problems.
Hagar wanted to record his vocals from Hawaii, where he and his wife had arranged for a natural delivery of the baby. Eddie and Alex preferred he record them at 5150 in Los Angeles. After three trips to California, Hagar eventually decided to move with his wife back to his San Francisco home to keep her near and eventually his vocals were completed.
There were attempts to have a second track recorded called “Between Us Two”. It was, along with “Humans Being”, one of two songs Hagar and Eddie had written together. But the strained relationship between Hagar and the Van Halen brothers couldn’t be extended any longer so Eddie and Alex instead recorded an instrumental called “Respect The Wind”, which would be played over the film’s final credits. “Humans Being” would be included during one of the scenes with an orchestral intro scored by Mark Mancina and featuring Eddie on guitar.
“Humans Being” Scene In Twister
“Humans Being” was another hit single for Van Halen. It reached #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for two weeks, becoming the band’s 11th chart-topper. It received mostly positive reviews from critics. Billboard praised the “tasty riffs and vocal acrobatics” of the song. In the years since its release it’s proven to stand up just as well. Chuck Klosterman of Vulture.com ranked it the 15th-best Van Halen song of all time.
“Humans Being” was included on both the Twister soundtrack and Van Halen’s 1996 ‘Best Of – Volume I’ compilation. Two years later the band performed it live for the first time. It was during their 1998 tour featuring lead singer Gary Cherone.
In 2004 Hagar would finally have the chance to perform “Humans Being” on stage with Van Halen when he rejoined the band for a reunion tour in 2004.
Thankfully Hagar and the Van Halen brothers were able to complete “Humans Being” despite their differences. Maybe it was because of those differences that the song delivers such an emotional punch. The angst that had been building inside of Eddie was purged here; it’s spilling all over every note. In fact, “Humans Being” would draw comparisons to the similarly aggression-fueled music that made up Van Halen’s darkest album to date: 1981’s ‘Fair Warning’.
The battles between Van Halen band members over the years have been well documented. In the end, though, it’ll be the songs they created during those difficult times that will be remembered most. A song like “Humans Being” is proof that this band could weather any storm with their music.