From left to right: Michael Anthony, Eddie Van Halen, David Lee Roth, and Alex Van Halen.
Origin: Pasadena, California, United States
Genres: Hard rock, heavy metal, glam metal
Years active: 1972–present
Labels: Warner Bros. Interscope Records
Associated acts: Montrose Chickenfoot Mad Anthony Xpress Extreme The David Lee Roth Band
David Lee Roth
Eddie Van Halen
Alex Van Halen
Wolfgang Van Halen
Discography at Wikipedia
Eddie Van Halen – lead guitar, lead vocals (1972–1974); lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals (1974–present)
Alex Van Halen – drums (1972–present)
David Lee Roth – lead vocals, occasional acoustic guitars (1974–85, 1996, 2007–present)
Wolfgang Van Halen – bass, backing vocals (2006–present)
Mark Stone – bass, backing vocals (1972–74)
Michael Anthony – bass, backing vocals (1974–2006)
Sammy Hagar – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, occasional co-lead guitars (1985–96, 2003–05)
Gary Cherone – lead vocals (1996–99)
Van Halen is an American rock band formed in Pasadena, California, in 1972. From 1974 until 1985, the band comprised guitarist Eddie Van Halen, vocalist David Lee Roth, drummer Alex Van Halen, and bassist Michael Anthony.
The band went on to become major stars, and by the early 1980s they were one of the most successful rock acts of the time. 1984 was their most successful album. The lead single, "Jump", became an international hit and their only single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The following singles, "Panama" and "I'll Wait", both hit number 13 on the U.S. charts. The album went on to sell over 12 million copies in the U.S. alone. In 1985, the band replaced lead singer David Lee Roth with ex-Montrose lead vocalist Sammy Hagar. With Hagar, the group would release four U.S. number-one albums over the course of 11 years. Hagar left the band in 1996 shortly before the release of the band's first greatest hits collection, Best Of – Volume I. Former Extreme frontman Gary Cherone was quickly recruited as lead singer to replace Hagar, and Van Halen III was released in 1998. Cherone left the band in frustration in 1999 after the tour due to the poor commercial performance of the album.
Van Halen went on hiatus until 2003 when they reunited with Hagar for a worldwide tour. The reunited band released a second greatest hits collection the following year, The Best of Both Worlds. Like Volume I before it, The Best of Both Worlds included material from both the Roth and Hagar eras but omitted any Cherone era tracks. The album featured three brand new tracks recorded by the reunited band, two of which were released as singles. Hagar again left Van Halen in 2005, and in 2006 Roth returned as lead vocalist for their highest-grossing tour, and one of the highest-grossing tours of that year. Anthony was not invited to participate in the tour and was essentially fired from the band, replaced by Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie's son. In 2012, the band released the commercially and critically successful, A Different Kind of Truth, with Roth as lead vocalist. According to the RIAA, Van Halen is the 19th-best-selling band/artist in United States history, selling 56 million albums in the U.S. They were also revealed at number 4 on the Billboard's top moneymakers list in 2013. Van Halen is one of only five rock bands that have had two studio albums sell more than 10 million copies in the U.S. Additionally, Van Halen charted the most number-one hits in the history of Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart and they are one of the world's best-selling bands of all time, having sold more than 80 million records.
Van Halen achieved worldwide fame for their many popular songs and larger-than-life stage performances; they also became known for the drama surrounding the departures of former members. Controversy surrounded the band following the exits of Roth, Hagar, and Anthony; this controversy often included numerous conflicting press statements between the former members and the band. In 2007, Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. VH1 ranked them 7th on their list of the top 100 hard rock artists of all time.
Formation and early history (1972–77)
The Van Halen brothers were born in The Netherlands; Edward Van Halen in Nijmegen and Alex Van Halen in Amsterdam, sons to musician Jan Van Halen. Young Edward first began studying classical piano, and became quite proficient (although he never fully mastered the art of reading sheet music). Eventually the brothers started playing music together in the 1960s – Eddie on drums and Alex on guitar. While Eddie was delivering newspapers to pay for his new drum set, Alex would sneak over and play them. Eventually Eddie found out about it, and out of frustration he told Alex, "OK, you play drums and I'll go play your guitar."
The Van Halen brothers formed their very first band called The Broken Combs in early 1970s. As they progressed and gained popularity, they started to play many backyard parties and changed the name of their band to The Trojan Rubber Co. In 1972, the Van Halen brothers formed a band called Genesis featuring Eddie as lead vocalist/guitarist, Alex on drums, and Mark Stone on bass. They initially rented a sound system from David Lee Roth but decided to save money by letting him join as lead vocalist even though his previous audition(s) had been unsuccessful. By 1974, the band decided to replace Stone, so Michael Anthony, bassist and lead vocalist from local band Snake was auditioned. Following an all-night jam session, he was hired for bass and backing vocals.
The band later changed its name to Mammoth when they discovered the name Genesis was already being used. In 1974, Mammoth officially changed its name to Van Halen. According to Roth, this was his brainchild. He felt it was a name that had power, like Santana. They played backyard parties and on a flatbed truck at Hamilton Park. Van Halen played clubs in Pasadena and Hollywood to growing audiences, increasing their popularity through self-promotion: before each gig they would pass out flyers at local high schools. This sort of self-promotion soon built them a major following. Later that year, the band got its first break when it was hired to play at Gazzarri's, a formerly famous but down-at-the-heels night club on the Sunset Strip which closed in 1996.
Earlier, they had auditioned for the owner, Bill Gazzarri, but he claimed they were "too loud," and would not hire them. But their new managers, Mark Algorri and Mario Miranda, who had coincidentally taken over Gazzarri's hiring, did the deal. Shortly afterwards, they recorded their first demo tape at the now-defunct Cherokee Studios in Northridge where Steely Dan recently had completed an album. Van Halen became a staple of the Los Angeles music scene during the mid-1970s, playing at well-known clubs like the Whisky a Go Go.
According to a January 4, 1977, L.A. Times article by Robert Hilburn, entitled "HOMEGROWN PUNK," Rodney Bingenheimer saw Van Halen at the Gazzarri club in the summer of 1976, so he took Gene Simmons of Kiss to see Van Halen. Gene Simmons then produced a Van Halen demo tape with recording beginning at the Village Recorder studios in Los Angeles and finished with overdubs at the Electric Lady Studios in New York. Simmons wanted to change the band's name to "Daddy Longlegs," but the band stuck with Van Halen. Simmons then opted out of further involvement after he took the demo to Kiss management and was told that "they had no chance of making it" and that they wouldn't take them.
In mid-1977 Mo Ostin and Ted Templeman of Warner Bros. Records saw Van Halen perform at the Starwood in Hollywood. Although the audience was small, the two were so impressed with Van Halen that within a week they offered the band a recording contract. The group recorded their debut album at Sunset Sound Recorders studio in mid-September to early October 1977, recording guitar parts for one week and then recording vocals for two additional weeks. All of the tracks were laid down with little over-dubbing or double-tracking. Minor mistakes were purposely left on the record and a simple musical set-up was used to give the record a live feel. During this time, they continued to play various venues in Southern California, including some notable concerts at the Pasadena Convention Center produced by their promoter and impresario, Steve Tortomasi, himself a fixture in the local rock and roll scene.
David Lee Roth era (1978–85)
Upon its release, Van Halen reached No. 19 on the Billboard pop music charts, one of rock's most commercially successful debuts. It was highly regarded as both a heavy metal and hard rock album. The album included songs now regarded as Van Halen classics, like "Runnin' with the Devil" and the guitar solo "Eruption", which showcased Eddie's use of a technique known as "finger-tapping". The band toured for nearly a year, opening for Black Sabbath and establishing a reputation for their performances. The band's chemistry owed much to Eddie Van Halen's technical guitar wizardry and David Lee Roth's flamboyant antics and stage persona, strong points which later made them rivals. The band returned to the studio in late 1978 to record Van Halen II, a 1979 album similar in style to their debut. This record yielded the band's first hit single, "Dance the Night Away."
Over the next few years, the band alternated album releases and touring (see Van Halen concert tours). Their Women and Children First album was released in 1980 and further cemented Van Halen's status. But in 1981, during the recording of the Fair Warning album, tensions rose. Eddie's desire for more serious and complex songs was at odds with Roth's poppy style. Nonetheless, Roth (and producer Templeman) acquiesced to Eddie's wishes.
Diver Down performed better. The band then earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest-paid single appearance of a band: $1.5 million for a 90-minute set at the 1983 US Festival. Despite this return to form, Roth and Eddie's differences continued, and this caused friction with other band members. Billy Sheehan, after his band Talas completed a tour with Van Halen, claims he was approached by Eddie Van Halen to replace Michael Anthony. The reasons for this were never clear to Sheehan because nothing came of it. During this time, Eddie and Alex Van Halen contributed the score and instrumental songs to the movie The Wild Life, starring Eric Stoltz. The score was heavy on the keyboards, similar to the sound used on the previous two albums and much more like the sound coming in their next album.
1984 (released on January 9, 1984) was their commercial pinnacle. Recorded at Eddie Van Halen's newly built 5150 Studios, the album featured keyboards, which had only been used sporadically on previous albums. The lead single, "Jump," featured a synthesizer hook and anthemic lyrics, and became the band's first and only No. 1 pop hit, garnering them a Grammy nomination. Other singles included "Panama" (No. 13 U.S.), "I'll Wait" (also No. 13 U.S.), and "Hot for Teacher." Three of the songs had popular music videos on MTV. 1984 was praised by critics and fans alike, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard charts behind Michael Jackson's Thriller.
The album, however, was also a breaking point for the band. In the midst of the 1984 Tour, the artistic and personal tensions among the musicians reached a fever pitch. Reasons for the breakup vary based on the band member interviewed, but were rooted in control of the band's sound and image. Roth was upset about Eddie playing music outside of Van Halen without checking with the band, and his alleged drug abuse that allegedly prevented the band from viable practices. Roth was also launching a successful solo career with two hit songs off his Crazy from the Heat EP, a remake of The Beach Boys classic "California Girls" (#3 U.S.) and the old standard "Just a Gigolo" (#12 U.S.). Roth was also offered a $20-million film deal for a script entitled Crazy from the Heat. Roth hoped Van Halen would contribute the soundtrack; however, the film deal fell through when MGM Pictures was sold in 1986.
Sammy Hagar era (1986–96)
Eddie invited Patty Smyth of Scandal to replace Roth but she declined. Eddie was then introduced by an auto mechanic to Sammy Hagar, formerly of a 1970s band Montrose, and at that time a solo artist coming off a very successful year. His hit single "I Can't Drive 55" came from his 1984 album VOA, produced by Ted Templeman who had also produced Hagar's first album Montrose, as well as all of Van Halen's albums up to that point. Hagar agreed to join and also serve as a rhythm guitarist on stage to add to the Van Halen sound.
In the May 2015 season premiere episode of the TV show Live from Daryl's House, musical guest Hagar stated that he had heard a rumor from "several people" and asked host Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates to confirm if he had been "asked by Eddie to sing in Van Halen." Hall affirmed that he had been asked after a Hall & Oates concert in 1985, but declined.
The 1986 Van Halen album 5150 was a huge hit, becoming the band's first No. 1 album on the Billboard charts, driven by the keyboard-dominated singles "Why Can't This Be Love" (#3 U.S.), "Dreams," and "Love Walks In" (Top 30 U.S.). To further introduce the new era for the band, a new Van Halen logo was put on the cover. The new logo retained elements of the original, but now the lines extending from either side of 'VH' wrapped around and formed a ring.
Following the release of the 5150 album, a tour was launched to support it across North America. Named the "1986 Tour," the title was a homage to the previous "1984 Tour" in support of the 1984 album. Footage was released on VHS and DVD as "Live Without a Net." In the tour Hagar wanted to minimize the use of pre-Hagar Van Halen songs in the set, other than the band's best known classics. This was a trend that continued, with the expanding repertoire of Hagar-era songs slowly whittling away at the number of Roth-era songs on the set list.
All four studio albums produced during this period reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop music charts and 17 singles breached the top 12 of the mainstream rock tracks chart. During that era, a single taken from 1988's OU812, "When It's Love," reached the Top Five, peaking at No. 5. In addition, Van Halen was nominated for two Grammy Awards, winning the 1992 Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal award for the album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Van Halen continued to enjoy success throughout the mid-1990s. In 1995, Van Halen released the album Balance and supported Bon Jovi on their European Summer stadium tour. They also made a live album called Live: Right Here, Right Now.
During the recording of songs for the film Twister, escalating tension between Hagar and the Van Halen brothers boiled over and Hagar departed on Father's Day, 1996. The band had recorded "Humans Being," a song for which Eddie claimed he had to write all the lyrics since Hagar's were "too cheesy." This upset Hagar, and when they were to record a second song for the soundtrack, Hagar was in Hawaii for the birth of his child. It was not an easy birth as the baby was breech, so needed to be delivered via C-section. He was not keen on doing soundtrack work since it would make the music hard to obtain for fans, "abusing" them, so the second track the band were to record became an Eddie/Alex instrumental, "Respect the Wind."
The band was also working on a compilation album. This led to conflicts with Hagar and the group's new manager, Ray Danniels, (Ed Leffler's replacement and Alex Van Halen's former brother-in-law), even though it was Leffler who had renewed their contract with Warner Bros. Records and had added in the Best Of album option years before. Hagar was reluctant to work on a compilation album before a new album came out and the band fell out, leaving the management siding with Eddie and Alex. Hagar also had concerns over comparisons on an album which featured both his work and Roth's.
Hagar claimed that he was fired; Van Halen claimed that he had quit.
A temporary reunion with Roth (1996)
David Lee Roth called Eddie to discuss what tracks would be included on a planned Van Halen compilation (work on which had actually begun before Hagar's departure). They got along well, and Eddie invited him up to his house/studio. Shortly afterwards, Roth re-entered the studio with the band and producer Glen Ballard. Two songs from those sessions were added to the band's Greatest Hits album and released as singles to promote it.
In September, Van Halen was asked to present an award at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards. They agreed, and on September 4, 1996, the four original members of Van Halen made their first public appearance together in over eleven years. This helped to bring the compilation to No. 1 on the U.S. album charts. However, unknown to Roth, Eddie and Alex were still auditioning other singers, including Mitch Malloy.
The band's appearance on the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards fueled reunion speculation. But several weeks after the awards show, it was discovered that Roth was out of Van Halen again. Roth released a statement in which he apologized to the media and the fans, stating that he was an unwitting participant in a publicity stunt by Van Halen and manager Ray Danniels. The next day, Eddie and Alex released their own statement, claiming they had been completely honest with Roth and had never suggested he was guaranteed to be the next lead singer.
Eddie Van Halen would later explain (in regard to the MTV Video Music Awards appearance) that he had initially been embarrassed by Roth's antics while on camera behind Beck, who was giving an acceptance speech for the award that Van Halen had presented to him. Immediately following this, the band had been taken to a backstage press conference where press queries about a reunion tour were met with Eddie Van Halen saying that he needed a hip replacement and would have to record an entire new studio album before any tour. In private Roth told Eddie to avoid talking about negative things like his hip and the two almost came to blows, thereby shattering any chance of a full-scale reunion.
Gary Cherone era (1996–99)
Vocalist Gary Cherone (pictured in 2008) joined the band briefly in the late 1990s
Van Halen's next lead singer was Gary Cherone, frontman of the then-defunct Boston-based band Extreme, a group which had enjoyed some popular success in the early 1990s. The result was the album Van Halen III. Many songs were longer and more experimental than Van Halen's earlier work. It was a notable contrast from their previous material, with more focus on ballads than traditional rock songs ("How Many Say I," with Eddie on vocals). Sales were poor by the band's standards, only reaching Gold certification, despite the album peaking at No. 4 on the U.S. charts. However, Van Halen III did produce the hit "Without You," and another album track, "Fire in the Hole," appeared on the Lethal Weapon 4 soundtrack. The album was followed by a tour. The III Tour saw Van Halen playing in new countries, including first ever visits to Australia and New Zealand.
Shortly afterwards, Van Halen returned to the studio and in early 1999, they started work on a new album. Working titles of songs included "Left for Dead," "River Wide," "Say Uncle," "You Wear it Well," "More Than Yesterday," "I Don't Miss You ... Much," "Love Divine," and "From Here, Where Do We Go?". The project was left unfinished when Cherone left the band amicably in November 1999. Citing musical differences, it is likely III's poor sales and critical reception had a big impact. None of the material from these sessions has ever been released, and in fact the band released no new material at all until three new songs were included on the 2004 Best of Both Worlds compilation. Lyrics that Cherone had written for the Van Halen III follow up would be used in his next project with Tribe of Judah.
Touring with Cherone had proven disappointing in terms of attendance. Eddie would later admit that "the powers that be" (Warner Bros.) had forced his hand in parting with Cherone. Unlike with the previous two singers, there was reportedly no bad blood behind the breakup, and Cherone remained in contact and on good terms with Van Halen. As when Hagar left, speculation resumed on a Roth reunion.
Hiatus from public (1999–2003)
Eddie recovered from his hip surgery in November 1999, but from 2000 to early 2004 no official statements were made by Van Halen and no music was released. However, information about members past and present trickled in. The Van Halen brothers continued writing at 5150 studios, Cherone recorded an album and toured with new band Tribe of Judah. One of the songs that Cherone had written for the scrapped second album with Van Halen entitled "Left For Dead" would see its lyrics set to a completely new musical arrangement with Tribe of Judah.
As reported by Slawterhouse, in 2000 at 5150, the band worked with Roth writing new music before falling out again. Eddie kept quiet, but made a rare appearance at the Los Angeles Police Department charity golf tournament during May 2001. Any band progress would have been interrupted on October 15, 2001, when Eddie and his wife of 21 years, actress Valerie Bertinelli, separated (though the couple would not file for divorce until December 8, 2005). In November 2001, Anthony claimed Roth had been working with the band again for a few months, but lawyers had shut it down. Anthony later denied this. The band was also dropped from Warner Bros. Records, which had first signed them in 1978. More positively, Eddie underwent treatment for cancer and announced his recovery on Van Halen's website in May 2002.
Eddie's only live performances during this period were joining Mountain to play "Never in My Life" in August 2002 and participating in a private audience jam at NAMM in January 2003. This jam took place at the Peavey booth (Peavey produced Eddie's signature "Wolfgang" model guitar). When word quickly spread through the NAMM show that Eddie was to play at the Peavey booth, he attracted a large number of people. But Eddie showed up late and drunk, and when he finally appeared, he was incoherent. As a result, Peavey chose not to offer an extension on their contract with Eddie, and thus stopped producing any EVH-signature products. Fender, which had purchased Charvel-Jackson, began a licensing deal with the EVH brand, including producing new amps and signature guitars, such as a copy of Eddie's famous "Frankenstein" Strat-style guitar.
In the summer of 2002, Roth and Hagar teamed up in the Song for Song, the Heavyweight Champs of Rock and Roll tour (also known as the 'Sans-Halen' or 'Sam & Dave' Tour). The joint tour headlining both former lead singers attracted media and audience fascination because it seemed more improbable than even a Van Halen tour with Roth or Hagar could be. The tour drew large crowds and featured no opening acts, Roth and Hagar alternating opening as the first act during the tour. In an interview, Roth contrasted his personality with Hagar's, saying, "He's the kind of guy you go out with to split a bottle with a friend. I'm the kind of guy you go out with if you want to split your friend with a bottle." Michael Anthony guested with Hagar's band, The Waboritas, numerous times and sometimes even sang lead vocals. During performances, Hagar would tease Anthony by asking, "Do the brothers know you're here?" Anthony never played with Roth. Cherone appeared on occasion. Hagar released a live album (Hallelujah), featuring vocals by Mike and Gary, and a documentary DVD, Long Road to Cabo, about touring with Roth. Next, Hagar joined with Joe Satriani and Journey guitarist Neal Schon to form a side project, Planet Us, along with Michael Anthony and Deen Castronovo (also of Journey) on drums. The band recorded just two songs and played live a few times before dissolving when Hagar and Anthony rejoined Van Halen. While the two lead singers promoted the tour and publicly claimed mutual respect, rumors of bitter acrimony and mutual loathing between the two singers swirled. The allegations were later supported in back stage video, which showed Roth and Hagar camps maintaining strict separation.
On July 4, 2004, Roth performed with one of the world's most popular orchestras, the Boston Pops, at United States' annual Pops Goes the Fourth celebration in Boston. Hagar remained active, releasing five albums and creating his own merchandising brand Cabo Wabo, which lends its name to his line of tequila, as well as his franchise of cantinas. He reunited with Montrose in 2003 and 2005 for a few performances and maintained contact with Michael Anthony, often playing with him. With Van Halen inactive, Anthony set up a website and worked on merchandising projects such as his signature Yamaha bass and range of hot sauces. He became involved with the annual music industry NAMM Show.
Reunion with Hagar (2003–05)
Van Halen during their 2004 reunion period, left to right: Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Eddie Van Halen
During January 2003, the VHND (Van Halen News Desk) website reported that Sammy Hagar was working with the Van Halens. No official confirmation came for an extended period of time. In late March 2004, Van Halen and Hagar announced that Hagar would reunite with the band for a new compilation release and a Summer concert tour of the USA.
In July 2004, Van Halen released a new 2-CD compilation featuring three new songs with Hagar: "It's About Time," "Up for Breakfast," and "Learning to See." These new songs were credited to Hagar/Van Halen/Van Halen, which was unusual since normally the entire lineup, which also included Michael Anthony, would be credited. However, the performance was credited to the entire band. Anthony would later reveal in interviews that Eddie Van Halen had in fact not wanted him to be a part of the reunion and for this reason Anthony had not been allowed to perform in the sessions (explaining his lack of a songwriting credit), with Eddie playing the bass parts himself instead. However, Anthony did provide backing vocals for the three tracks. No songs with Gary Cherone from Van Halen III were included. It was certified platinum in the USA in August 2004.
The Summer 2004 tour grossed almost US$55 million, and Pollstar listed Van Halen in the top 10 grossing tours of 2004. Professional reviews of the tour, however, proved to be mixed. On some shows, Eddie's son Wolfgang came onstage and played guitar with his father during "316," a song dedicated to his son, taking its name from his birthday. During the later stages of the tour, stories of Eddie being drunk began to surface along with fan-shot video footage of poor playing. At the band's final show of the tour, in Tucson, Eddie smashed one of his guitars at the end of the show.
After the tour, things broke down. At first Hagar stated he had yet to decide what he would be doing with Van Halen, although he was still an official member of the band. Soon after, however, both Hagar and Anthony admitted that Eddie had problems with alcohol during the tour that affected everyone involved. Hagar stated that he was "done with Van Halen" and wished that everyone would have "taken it more seriously." Despite this, Eddie later described himself as "satisfied" with the tour.
After the tour ended, Hagar returned to his solo band The Waboritas, and Anthony appeared with him on tour occasionally. The band quickly faded from view after Hagar left again. In December 2005 Anthony revealed in an interview with Mark & Brian that he had not talked with the Van Halens and was unsure of their plans.