Eruption: The 10 Greatest Van Halen Moments of the David Lee Roth Era

by Guitar World Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2015 at 8:32am

It's hard to overstate Van Halen's impact in the world of rock music.

Led by Eddie Van Halen's ferocious, fiery and always innovative guitar playing, Van Halen carved out a niche in music that hadn't existed before, and spawned innumerable imitators.

Their music was as flamboyant as their personalities; grabbing you by the collar and shaking out any resistance or ill will, until you couldn't help but find yourself enjoying their technical, complicated but feel-good brand of hard rock.

During David Lee Roth's original tenure with the band, which lasted until 1984, Van Halen went from perennial L.A. underdogs to one of the most popular bands on the planet.

In celebration of Rhino's upcoming Roth-era reissues, let's look back at the "grapes of Roth," also known as the top 10 Van Halen moments of the David Lee Roth era.

NOTE: These songs are ordered alphabetically, not by preference.

"Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love"

This track, one of the last written for the band's self-titled debut, is a straightforward, two-chord basher. Featuring an opening riff built on palm-muted, arpeggiated chords and a third-verse breakdown filled with chiming harmonics, it has become one of Van Halen's most iconic tunes.

Not only has it become a staple of classic-rock radio, it's one of the few tracks that has ended up on the set lists of almost every one of the band's tours.




"And the Cradle Will Rock..."

"And The Cradle Will Rock..." was the sound of Eddie Van Halen changing gears. The first Van Halen track on which he used keyboards, he performed its rhythm part on a Wurlitzer electric piano, fed into his MXR Flanger, which was cranked through his 100-watt Marshall. Though some fans (and some of Eddie's bandmates) were hesitant about the shift, it forecast some of what was to come for the band.




"Atomic Punk"

Though Eddie often credited Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi as an early influence (an influence you can hear in the "Paranoid"-evoking staccato eighth notes he plays in the verses of this track), Iommi never played anything as boisterous as this song's intro. Eddie summons a wash of dissonant noise by rubbing the strings with his palm and processing the signal with an MXR Phase 90, creating an aggressive, truly otherworldly sound.




"Eruption"

Though the first few seconds are taken straight from the intro to Cactus' "Let Me Swim," what follows is arguably the most inventive, groundbreaking and utterly mind-blowing rock guitar demonstration of the past 35 years. Eddie Van Halen's tour de force simply explodes with screaming pinch harmonies, insane dive bombs and furious tremolo picking. Since its release, this piece has been the barometer by which all shredfests have been measured.




"Everybody Wants Some!!"

This is Van Halen at their most feral. While Roth whoops and wails, and Alex Van Halen pounds out a ferocious beat, Eddie rubs out animalistic noises on his strings before raining down massive chunks of chording. This is a hungry, powerful band at the height of its powers.




"Hot for Teacher"

With thundering drums, rumbling bass, outrageously cocky vocals, a killer riff and an acrobatic solo, "Hot for Teacher" is one of Van Halen's definitive songs. After his brother Alex kicks things off with a rapid-fire double-kick intro, Eddie kicks things up an notch, furiously tapping the fretboard of his Flying V before blasting off into what can only be described as power-chord overdrive.

His solo is pure excitement, defined by dazzling ascending runs and a loose, fluid feel that makes even its most challenging passages sound effortless.




"Little Guitars"

Named after the miniature Les Paul replica built by David Petschulat that Eddie used for the song, this track is noteworthy for its bright tone and the way Eddie plucks chordal figures on several strings simultaneously to create a choppy effect.




"Mean Street"

Originally a demo titled "Voodoo Queen," "Mean Street" soon evolved into a darker, more dramatic tune. Eddie's outrageous intro for the tune, inspired by funk slap bass, paves the way for the brashness of the song.




"Spanish Fly"

As a sort-of encore to his world-dominating performance on "Eruption," Eddie unleashed another stunning, tap-infused shredfest ... on an acoustic guitar. Brief as it is, it's another jaw-dropping performance.




"Unchained"

This is the Van Halen song that sold a million MXR M-117 stomp boxes. By setting the flanger speed to sweep up in pitch one half of the main riff and down on the next, Eddie created a rising-and-falling effect that gave fans a roller coaster ride.

The song is a perfect showcase for Roth's swagger, Michael Anthony's harmonies, Alex's percussive thunder and plenty of spellbinding guitar overdubs.


Add a Comment
0 Comments

Similar Guitar News

Watch One of the 'Minions' Play Van Halen's "Eruption" — Video (7/10/2015)
As you might've detected from the non-stop (and fairly annoying) TV commercials, Minions opened in theaters today. The animated comedy, which is about gibberish-spewing yellow creatures who are looking for someone to serve, happens to feature a ...
Watch Eddie Van Halen Shred at Van Halen’s Hollywood Bowl Tour Finale — Video (10/5/2015)
Last night marked the end of Van Halen’s 2015 North American tour, and the band made sure it was a night to remember. They took the stage at the Hollywood Bowl for two nights, October 2 and 4, returning to Los Angeles, where they kicked off the ...
Watch Eddie Van Halen Play Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles — Video (7/9/2015)
Bassist Billy Sheehan recently appeared on Eddie Trunk’s podcast, where he revealed that Van Halen had twice invited him to join the group to replace Michael Anthony. Sheehan also noted in that interview that he has played with all the members ...
Van Halen Perform "Panama" at Billboard Music Awards — Video (5/18/2015)
Last night, Van Halen kicked off the Billboard Music Awards with a powerful performance of "Panama," which you can check out below. David Lee Roth turned in a solid vocal performance that was a step up from Van Halen's recent appearances on Jimm...
Thirty Guitar Legends — Including Eddie Van Halen, Dimebag Darrell and Jeff Beck — Pick the Song They'd Most Want to Be Remembered By, Part 1 (6/24/2015)
From the GW Archive: This feature originally appeared in the May 2002 issue of Guitar World. The story has a "time capsule" theme: We asked several veteran guitarists to choose the one song they'd most want to be remembered by after many years. ...
Sammy Hagar Responds to Eddie Van Halen's Billboard Interview: "F— You, You’re a Liar!” — Video (6/22/2015)
Over the weekend, singer Sammy Hagar responded to several claims made by Eddie Van Halen in a high-profile new Billboard interview. Hagar was particularly upset about Van Halen’s statements concerning former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony. I...
Roth Erupts and Van Halen Stop Show When Fan Throws Beer Onstage — Video [NSFW] (8/31/2015)
David Lee Roth had some choice words for a fan who threw a beer onstage at Van Halen’s August 27 performance in Camden, New Jersey. The group were just launching into “Dirty Movies” at the Susquehanna Bank Center when Roth stopped the show. “So...
Rosie Botterill Covers Joe Satriani's "Satch Boogie" and Eddie Van Halen's "Beat It" Guitar Solo — Video (10/20/2015)
Here's something we found on a growing Facebook community called Shreddelicious: Female Guitar Players Community. It's a new cover (October 16) of Joe Satriani's "Satch Boogie" by guitarist Rosie Botterill. The track is from Satch’s landmark Sur...
Readers' Poll: The Best American Rock Band Ever — Van Halen Vs. Red Hot Chili Peppers (9/9/2015)
When Labor Day came and went earlier this month, it reminded us of the American labor movement and the contributions American workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of the good ol' U.S. of A. However, since we're Guitar Wor...
Readers' Poll: The Best American Rock Band Ever — Van Halen Vs. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band (9/30/2015)
When Labor Day came and went earlier this month, it reminded us of the American labor movement and the contributions American workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of the good ol' U.S. of A. However, since we're Guitar Wor...
Readers' Poll: Best Rock Headphone Song Ever — "Tomorrow Never Knows" (The Beatles) Vs. "Girl Gone Bad" (Van Halen) (11/3/2015)
What, exactly, is a headphone song? The definition changes depending on who you are. For audiophiles, a headphone song—or album, for that matter—is a work that is so exquisite that it demands you listen to each beautifully recorded note under a ...
Paul Gilbert Performs Van Halen's "Spanish Fly" — Video (6/29/2015)
Below, check out a video of Racer X/Mr. Big guitarist Paul Gilbert playing "Spanish Fly," a classic 1979 instrumental tune by Van Halen. Although we're not sure when (or where) the brief clip was filmed, we do know it was posted to YouTube early...
Lady Gaga Covers Van Halen's "Panama" at New York City Show — Video (6/23/2015)
Over the weekend, Lady Gaga let her love for hard rock, specifically Van Halen, show. The pop superstar performed a wild version of Van Halen's "Panama" with the Dirty Pearls at the band's gig at New York's Gramercy Theatre. Check it out below,...
Jim Dunlop Introduces MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive Pedal, Designed with Eddie Van Halen — Demo Video (11/10/2015)
The MXR design team has collaborated with Eddie Van Halen to deliver a full range of powerful saturation and hyper-driven tones right at your feet. The resulting EVH 5150 Overdrive joins hand-adjusted multi-stage MOSFETs with a full complement o...
Hear Van Halen Play “All Day and All of the Night” in Newly Unearthed 1976 Live Recording (9/11/2015)
The clip below presents a newly unearthed soundboard recording of Van Halen performing the Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night” live at the Pasadena Civic Center November 19, 1976. This recording, which has never been presented before, comes co...