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Shane’s Rock Challenge: VAN HALEN – 1986 – 5150

| 24 July 2014 | Reply

Shane’s Rock Challenge: VAN HALEN – 1986 – 5150
By Shane Pinnegar

Van Halen - 5150 cover

How the hell do you replace David Lee Roth?

Van Halen wondered the same thing and considered – amongst others – Jimmy Barnes and Patty Smythe for the job, but even on paper they didn’t seem a decent fit.

One chance encounter at Eddie Van Halen’s mechanic’s shop later, and Sammy Hagar was in, and what an album they made on their first outing!

Named after the California Police code for a mentally disturbed person, 5150 did the unthinkable – it bettered not only former singer David Lee Roth’s debut solo album, but even went one better than the bands previous effort – the U.S. #2 album 1984 (ironically held off the #1 spot by Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which Eddie Van Halen had played on)

Hagar himself had enjoyed a prolific and successful solo career in the late 70’s and 80’s, and both fans and critics jokingly labelled the new line-up ‘Van Hagar’. There were plenty of critics too – the new Van Halen had very little musically in common with the old. This was a band that played ballads and sung love songs, whereas in the Diamond Dave era it was all about getting laid and partying hard. Hagar was a damn fine guitarist as well, giving Eddie free rein to spend more times on keyboards – sacrilege for many axeheads. The new singer even cut his hair into some floppy on top thing. WTF?!

The sound may be different, but the quality remains the same and if anything, Hagar brought emotional depth to the band, not to mention being a far better singer (though Dave would always be a better frontman.)

Kicking off with the strident Good Enough, the album instantly hits all the right buttons: this is party central, baby! Next up is Why Can’t This Be Love and fans were genuinely confused: this sounded NOTHING like Van Halen, what the fuck is going on?! It remains, to this day, a great song. Dreams is almost a Hagar anthem nowadays, an absolute classic lyrically, before Summer Nights and Best Of Both Worlds rock out again, before another balled – Love Walks In. Again, it’s a killer. Inside closes the curtains, and it’s a weird one – full of supposedly ‘ad libbed’ bar-room banter, but it sounds like filler then and now.

There’s no denying that the Sammy Hagar era Van Halen was a very different beast to the DLE-fronted band, but there’s no reason fans can’t enjoy both, and 5150 is a great mid-eighties rock album.

Category: Shane's Rock Challenge

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