Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 25
Today I was driving when I heard this song for the very first time. I was immediately taken with it. I had that feeling, the one you get when you discover a new favorite song. This is definitely a favorite feeling of mine. Perhaps my favorite feeling of all.
I’ve played this song at least 20 times today. I don’t know much about the artist other than he’s worked with other people I’ve heard of. Lucinda Williams sings backup on this song too. It’s alright because this post isn’t about the artist or the song itself. This post is all about the moment of discovery. The feeling you get during those first few listens.
That’s all for now, I’m not gonna ramble about the moment. I’m gonna continue to experience it by listening to my newest favorite song again.
Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 22
Seems to me, I have a backlog of music-related posts to make. The recent passing of Eddie Van Halen moves the band that takes his name to the top of that list of posts.
I’m not going to wax poetic about how brilliant a guitarist Eddie Van Halen was. Everyone knows he was a virtuoso that reinvented the instrument in ways unlike anyone else before or since. All rock fans have anecdotal moments centered around the virtuosity of Eddie Van Halen. My personal favorite is how the song “Eruption” instantly became the ultimate test for any aspiring guitarist. If you could play that you weren’t just good you were awesome. My mind goes back to that college dorm room with that guitar guy playing his attempt at that solo for the other dudes in the hall. It happened a lot. Usually followed by “Wish You Were Here” on acoustic, you know, to chill things out after the heat coming from that semi-blistering version of “Eruption.”
Instead, I want to reflect on my life at the time Eddie Van Halen came into my world. It was 1978 and I was nine years old. I was already starting to get into music. I had a record player of my own. I owned a few full-length albums. Bought them when going to neighborhood garage sales with my Mom. I had a few singles of my own too. Ultimately, Van Halen’s first releases were some of my very first albums on cassette tape.
When Van Halen’s debut came out, I heard it everywhere and like everyone else, it caught my ear. Never before had I heard any guitar like that. It was crunchy and fast but strangely smooth and slippery too. I have vivid memories of hearing that band in those days. Didn’t matter where I was, Van Halen was there too; the local recreation center, the swimming pool, the playground, the backseat of my Mom’s car, even coming from someone else’s car at a red light. Eventually, from my Walkman.
The gestalt present in their sound is unique. It’s simultaneously a cohesive unit and a single dominant force (Eddie Van Halen). Van Halen, Van Halen II and Fair Warning are my favorites. I could have chosen any song from the debut album. The album is that good. I decided to feature the song “On Fire” in my post for a few reasons. “On Fire” is the closing track and it’s a barnburner. It comes as advertised, three minutes of fire. It has remained one of my absolute favorite Van Halen tracks over all these years. Unlike many Van Halen songs, this song means business. It has a speed metal intensity and its purpose is to kick your ass. It’s not messing around. (“Mean Street” on Fair Warning is my all-time favorite Van Halen song for a similar reason). “On Fire” is good enough to close out their debut AND be an opening track in concert (see attached video).
To be fair, I started to lose interest in their music a couple of years into the Sammy Hagar era. That said, I can still listen to all the David Lee Roth albums with a smile on my face. That’s the secret ingredient and the true magic of Eddie Van Halen and the band Van Halen. They just wanted to put a smile on your face and that’s what they did best. Eddie Van Halen’s smile while playing guitar is my indelible, unforgettable memory of him.
“I Shot The Sherriff” by Eric Clapton was my first rock & roll record. The first record I ever owned. I was 5 or 6 years old. It happened when Mom let me pick out a record at the store. I don’t even think it was a record store. I was 5 or 6 years old. At the time I had no idea who Eric Clapton was and I certainly did not know who Bob Marley was either. This song was one that I was familiar with from the radio in Mom’s car. Clapton’s version of the Bob Marley song was a #1 hit in 1974 and still all over the radio a year or two later when I chose it to be my first rock & roll record.
This record ended up being quite a prolific choice. It is a rock legend covering the king of reggae. It’s a number one hit. Over time, this record turned out to be merely the first purchase of thousands made over the last 40 years. Even after all this time, I can say with confidence that my first was certainly not my worst.