Flashback Album of the Week

Jeff Yerger

If there is any album you should have when stranded on an island, it has to be Van Halen’s self-titled debut. These guys invented the idea of “rocking-out,” and on their debut, Van Halen unleashes the supernatural guitarist virtuoso that is Eddie Van Halen to the world.

In Van Halen’s early days, Eddie would play his guitar solos with his back facing the audience, for fear of anyone stealing his unique guitar-playing technique. Yet on the debut, Van Halen shows no trace of shyness, taking the world by storm with David Lee Roth’s shrill vocals, Alex Van Halen’s tenacious drumming, Michael Anthony’s lively bass lines and, of course, Eddie’s unmatched control over his guitar.

His signature finger-tapping, dive bombing and lightning fast guitar licks are all over this album. It comes as no surprise why he became rock’s greatest guitarist of all time.

It is all killer no filler right from the start. The album opens with “Running With The Devil,” an in-your-face rocker built around a thumping bass line that has David Lee Roth stating his band’s philosophy proudly: “I live my life like there’s no tomorrow.”

To be honest, the first two songs on the album are tame by Van Halen standards, but as soon as the opening chord of “Eruption” blasts through your speakers, you are bound to be blown away as Eddie takes the spotlight on what was originally meant to be a “warm-up” routine before a show. The only thing this blazing instrumental warms you up for is the next set of high-octane songs which include the energetic Kinks cover “You Really Got Me” and the album highlight “I’m The One.”

Although this album could be said to be the start of hair metal, “Van Halen” is anything but. Van Halen makes use of each member’s powerful vocal and instrumental chops to create loud pop songs like “Feel Your Love Tonight,” “Jamie’s Cryin'” and “Little Dreamer.”

They sport this blend of metal, rock and pop perfectly. They even dip into 12-bar blues on “Ice Cream Man,” with a Van Halen twist of course, as this song contains one of Eddie’s most electrifying solos of his career.

Van Halen’s debut album can be viewed as not only one of the best debut albums of all time but also one of the greatest rock albums in history.

It’s got all the swagger, attitude and power rock bands spend decades trying to achieve. It blew the world away in 1978 when released, and today it continues to amaze.