Friday, December 21, 2007


Van Halen

Michael Anthony (bass, vocals; born June 20, 1954), Sammy Hagar (vocals; born October 13, 1947), David Lee Roth (vocals; born October 10, 1955), Alex Van Halen (drums; born May 8, 1953), Eddie Van Halen (guitar, synthesizer; January 26, 1955)

Van Halen formed in 1974 but emerged in public view with the 1978 release of their self-titled debut album, which quickly established them as the hottest American hard-rock band since Aerosmith. Van Halen reinvigorated hard rock during a period of doldrums by bringing youthful, West Coast bravado and blistering virtuosity to the genre. Much of the latter was provided by Eddie Van Halen, who exhibited blinding speed, control and innovation on the guitar. His two-handed fretboard-tapping was just one technique that he introduced to legions of young guitarists. Counterpointing Eddie’s musical genius was vocalist David Lee Roth, a flamboyant extrovert whose gruff voice, salacious wit and gymnastic moves sparked Van Halen’s live shows. Rounding out the quartet were Alex Van Halen (Eddie’s brother), a thunderous and inventive drummer, and bassist and harmony singer Michael Anthony.

Van Halen came together in Pasadena, California, where all four lived and went to school. Born in the Netherlands, the Van Halen brothers were the sons of a classical musician who relocated the family to Southern California in 1962. Roth’s opthalmologist father moved the family to Pasadena from Indiana. Anthony hailed from Chicago. Members of rival high-school bands, all four of them wound up attending Pasadena City College, where they combined forces as Mammoth and then dropped out to pursue their rock and roll dreams. Eventually, Warner Bros. offered the group a contract. Because there was already another Mammoth, the group renamed itself Van Halen, at Roth’s suggestion.

Released in 1978, Van Halen’s self-titled album opened with a virtuosic blast of energy from Eddie entitled “Eruption.”

It included a hard-rock remake of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and such powerhouse originals as “Running with the Devil” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love.” Van Halen peaked at Number 19 but stayed on the charts for more than three years. After 30 years and 11 studio releases—four of which reached Number One—Van Halen remains the band’s top seller, with U.S. sales of more than 10 million. The band’s other blockbuster, 1984, has also surpassed the 10 million mark. To date, Van Halen has sold more than 56 million records in the U.S., which places them among the top 20 best-selling artists of all time.

Van Halen followed up its initial success with a string of dependably hard-rocking albums on a yearly timetable: Van Halen II (1979), Women and Children First (1980), Fair Warning (1981) and Diver Down (1982). In concert, the group delivered its self-described “big rock” with deafening intensity and bacchanalian abandon. Roth derived inspiration from such pre-rock entertainers as Al Jolson and Louis Prima, and the combination of his showmanship and the Van Halen brothers’ musical acumen proved irresistible.

The band hit a pinnacle with 1984, which was issued in that portentous year. The album had little to do with George Orwell’s novel of the same name, except for implicitly debunking its dire prophecies with some of the year’s hardest-rocking party music. 1984 contains three classics—"Jump," “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher"—that became staples of both Van Halen’s live show and MTV.

However, interpersonal strains between Roth —who cut a successful solo EP (Crazy from the Heat) and began eying a film career— and his band mates resulted in what Roth later termed a “bitter and ugly divorce” in the wake of their 1984 world tour.

However, Van Halen bounced back strong following Roth’s departure. The group recruited Sammy Hagar, who sang and played guitar. Hagar had started out with the hard-rock group Montrose and had a highly successful solo career. He fit well with Van Halen, with whom he was more personally compatible than his predecessor. In fact, the newly harmonious group scored its first Number One album with 5150, on which Hagar handles lead vocals.

It was the first of four consecutive chart-topping studio albums—the others being OU812, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and Balance—from the reconfigured lineup. Even the 1993 double-disc Live: Right Here, Right Now made the Top Five. Meanwhile, the second incarnation of Van Halen often found itself on the singles charts with such hits as “Why Can’t This Be Love” (Number Three),

“When It’s Love” (Number Five),

“Top of the World” (Number 27) and “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” (Number 30).

Much less successful was Van Halen III, the sole Van Halen album recorded with former Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone after Hagar’s ouster in 1996. Despite that commercial lapse, the Van Halen catalog has otherwise displayed remarkable consistency, with all 10 studio albums from the Roth and Hagar eras having been certified multi-platinum (more than one million copies sold). Although the merits of each vocalist’s tenure have been hotly debated, it should be noted that both halves of Van Halen’s career succeeded for different reasons. The first era worked because of the band members’ differences with Roth, while the second half worked because of their similarities with Hagar.


October 13, 1947: Vocalist Sammy Hagar is born in Monterey, California.

October 10, 1953: David Lee Roth is born in Bloomington, Indiana.

May 8, 1953: Drummer Alex Van Halen is born in Niijmegen, Netherlands.

June 20, 1954: Bassist Michael Anthony of Van Halen is born in Chicago, Illinois.

January 26, 1955: Guitarist Eddie Van Halen is born in Niijmegen, Netherlands.

1962: Eddie and Alex Van Halen move to America with their family.

1977: Van Halen is signed to Warner Bros. after label executives catch one of their performances at Los Angeles’ Starwood Club.

March 11, 1978: Van Halen’s self-titled debut album enters the album charts, where it will remain for 169 weeks and peak at #19.

April 24, 1978: Six weeks after its release, Van Halen is certified gold (500,000 sold). Eighteen years later, it will be certified 10 times platinum (10 million sold).

July 14, 1979: “Dance the Night Away,” from Van Halen II, becomes the group’s first Top Twenty single, reaching #15.

April 11, 1981: Guitarist Eddie Van Halen marries actress Valerie Bertinelli.

April 3, 1983: Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” which features a ripping solo from guitarist Eddie Van Halen, hits #1.

May 28, 1983: Van Halen performs at the second US Festival in California for the highest fee to date for a concert performance: $1 million. That works out to $12,500 per minute.

February 25, 1984: “Jump,” by Van Halen, reaches #1 on the Billboard singles Top 100, where it will remain for five weeks.

January 28, 1984: 1984, the sixth and final Van Halen album to feature vocalist David Lee Roth, debuts on the charts, where it will stay for a year and a half and peak at #2. Hit singles: “Jump” (#1), “Panama” (#13), “I’ll Wait” (#13), “Hot for Teacher” (#56).

April 26, 1986: 5150, the first Van Halen album with vocalist/guitarist Sammy Hagar, tops the chart for the first of four weeks. It will sell 6 million copies and launch three hits: “Why Can’t This Be Love” (#3), “Love Walks In” (#22) and “Dreams”


June 25, 1988: OU812 becomes the second consecutive Van Halen album to top the album chart.

July 6, 1991: Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge enters the album chart at #1, where it will remain for three weeks.

June 1996: Vocalist Sammy Hagar leaves Van Halen. His replacement is Gary Cherone, formerly of the progressive-rock group Extreme.

November 9, 1996: The Best of Van Halen, Volume 1, is released. The retrospective includes two new songs recorded with original vocalist David Lee Roth. It becomes Van Halen’s fifth #1 album.

November 1997: Van Halen III - the first and last album to feature the group’s short-lived third singer, Gary Cherone - is released.

February 8, 1999: 1984, by Van Halen, receives multi-platinum certification from the RIAA for 10 million copies sold.

July 20, 2004: The Best of Both Worlds, a double-CD Van Halen compilation, is released. It includes three new songs recorded with vocalist Sammy Hagar.

February 2, 2007: Van Halen announces that original vocalist David Lee Roth is rejoining the group for its 2007 world tour and that Eddie Van Halen’s son Wolfgang is bassist Michael Anthony’s replacement.

March 12, 2007: Van Halen is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the 22nd annual induction dinner.


love walks in

Friday, December 7, 2007


Neil Young

(vocals, guitar, banjo, keyboards, harmonica; born November 12, 1945)

Neil Young is one of rock and roll’s greatest songwriters and performers. In a career that extends back to his mid-Sixties roots as a coffeehouse folkie in his native Canada, this principled and unpredictable maverick has pursued an often winding course across the rock and roll landscape. He’s been a cult hero, a chart-topping rock star, and all things in-between, remaining true to his restless muse all the while. At various times, Young has delved into folk, country, garage-rock and grunge. His biggest album, Harvest (1972) , apotheosized the laid-back singer/songwriter genre he helped invent. By contrast, Rust Never Sleeps (1979), Young’s second-best seller, was a loud, brawling masterpiece whose title track, an homage to Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, contained the oft-quoted line “Better to burn out than it is to rust.”

Several of his more modest-selling titles - for example, Tonight’s the Night, Comes a Time and Trans - contain some of his most trenchant performances. It is typical of Young that he followed his most polished and popular album, Harvest, with one of his most raw and uncommercial, Time Fades Away. While he’s avoided sticking to one style for very long, the unifying factors throughout Young’s peripatetic musical journey have been his unmistakable voice, his raw and expressive guitar playing, and his consummate songwriting skill.

In the early 1960s the Canadian-born Young performed as a self-accompanied folksinger on the Toronto scene. As a budding rock and roller, he hooked up with such groups as the Squires and the Mynah Birds; the latter was briefly signed to Motown and also included budding funk-rocker Rick James. Buffalo Springfield came together in 1966, inaugurating a collaboration between Young and Stephen Stills that has been intermittently revived down the decades. As a member of Buffalo Springfield, Young contributed lead guitar and a raft of bittersweet folk-rock originals that included “Mr. Soul,” “Broken Arrow” and “Expecting to Fly.”

Young’s solo career took flight in 1969 with Neil Young, an album of pretty, brooding songs that included “The Loner.” This singer/songwriter debut was one of the first solo albums by a rock and roll figure, and it quietly presaged a major direction that music would take in the Seventies. In the more than 30 years since that album’s appearance, Young has recorded and toured tirelessly, releasing 35 albums. In addition to his prolific solo output, Young has undertaken occasional liaisons with Crosby, Stills and Nash (1970’s Déjà vu, 1988’s American Dream, 1999’s Looking Forward) and with Stephen Stills (1976’s Long May You Run, credited to the Stills-Young Band).

More lasting has been Young’s association with Crazy Horse, his steadiest backup band since 1969. Crazy Horse first turned up on Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Young’s second album, which contained the lengthy, jam-filled “Down by the River” and “Cowgirl in the Sand” and one of Young’s most memorable songs, “Cinnamon Girl.”

The group provided a solid, rocking base for Young’s songs and solos, and they’ve played with him on albums ranging from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and After the Gold Rush (1970) to Ragged Glory (1990) and Broken Arrow (1996). The mellower, more acoustic and folk-flavored side of Neil Young has surfaced on numerous albums, notably Harvest (1972) and its sequel, Harvest Moon (1993). He has also made detours into country music (1985’s Old Ways) and big-band blues (1988’s This Note’s for You). The one entity that Neil Young has come back to again and again, however, is Crazy Horse.

The original Crazy Horse included guitarist Danny Whitten, bass player Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina. Whitten died of a heroin overdose in 1972, and his loss inspired much of the material on Young’s tempestuous and biographical Tonight’s the Night. Its release was delayed until 1975 out of fear it was too raw for the market Young had courted so successfully with Harvest (1972) and its #1 hit, “Heart of Gold.” Frank Sampedro joined Crazy Horse on guitar in 1976, making his debut on Young’s Zuma album. Young has termed his association with Crazy Horse “the essence of my musical life. This is the core, the smoldering thing I come back to over and over again....If I had never done anything else, the Crazy Horse stuff would just stand on its own.”

Over the years, Young has made his mark as an incorrigible artist with a distinctive, unvarnished style on electric guitar. His long, feedback-filled solos owe a debt to Jimi Hendrix, in spirit if not strictly in style. Young attributes his uncompromising approach to his early taste of success. The mass popularity he attained with “Heart of Gold,” a #1 hit in 1972, caused him to balk. “This song put me in the middle of the road,” he wrote in the liner notes to his retrospective Decade anthology. “Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride, but I saw more interesting people there.”

Nonetheless, one of his most successful albums, Rust Never Sleeps, was also one of his most uncompromising. Released in 1979, Rust Never Sleeps became an instant favorite of fans and critics. Mixing acoustic and electric numbers, it was largely inspired by the punk-rock insurgency – especially its anthemic title track, “Rust Never Sleeps (Hey Hey, My My [Into the Black])

. Rust Never Sleeps was followed by a concert video and double live album, Live Rust. At this point, Young was at a peak of popularity rivaling that of the early Seventies, when he was on top with After the Gold Rush and Harvest. Displaying no interest in repeating a formula, however, he followed Rust with the quiet, acoustic Hawks & Doves (1980) and the squalling, electric Re-ac-tor (1981).

Young’s ride became particularly bumpy during the Eighties, following his move from Reprise to Geffen Records. He veered somewhat recklessly from style to style, moving from computerized music made with sequencers and samplers (Trans) to backward-looking neo-rockabilly for the Reagan era (Everybody’s Rockin’) to a return to roots on the countrified Old Ways. In 1985, Young performed at the Live Aid fundraising extravaganza and then became one of the organizers and participants in Farm Aid, a yearly concert and consciousness-raising event. Young and his wife, Pegi, also founded San Francisco’s Bridge School, a learning center for handicapped children with communication disabilities.

After his checkered tenure at Geffen Records, during which Young was actually sued by the label for allegedly releasing non-commercial records, Young returned to the Reprise label. Like a man unshackled, Neil Young released the buoyant, bluesy and horn-stoked This Note’s for You, which found him backed by the ten-man Bluenotes. The title track mocked corporate sponsorship and MTV. Ironically, though it had been banned by the music channel upon its release in 1988, “This Note’s for You” won MTV’s Best Video award a year later.

Young’s career became more clearly focused, though no less given to willful shifts in style, mood and volume, with the release of Freedom 1989. Considered a return to form and his most vital work since Rust Never Sleeps, it included acoustic and electric versions of “Rockin’ in the Free World.” From there, Young entered the Nineties full of fire and drive. He kicked off the decade with Ragged Glory, which reunited him with Crazy Horse, and collaborated with alternative-rock heroes Pearl Jam on 1995’s Mirror Ball. He also nodded to his most popular album, 1972’s Harvest, by releasing a sequel, Harvest Moon, in 1992. Songs like “From Hank to Hendrix” and the title track assessed a generation’s coming of age and paid tribute to the enduring verities of friends, family and unconditional love. In the Nineties, Young’s studio releases were often followed by tours, live albums and video documentaries, revealing his relish for the energy and spontaneity of the stage.

Throughout his self-described “bumpy ride,” Young has consistently demonstrated the unbridled passion of an artist who understands that self-renewal is the only way to avoid burning out. For this reason, he has remained one of the most significant artists of the rock and roll era.


November 12, 1945: Neil Young is born in Toronto, Canada.

January 23, 1969: In the wake of Buffalo Springfield’s demise, Neil Young releases his self-titled first solo album, which fails to make Billboard’s Top 200 album chart

May 27, 1969: Only five months after his debut album, Neil Young releases ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,’ the first of many with Crazy Horse.

March 17, 1970: ‘Deja Vu,’ by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, is released. With the addition of Neil Young giving the band a more electric edge, the album goes to #1 and sells more than 7 million copies.

September 16, 1970: Neil Young’s third solo album, ‘After the Gold Rush,’ is released. It peaks at #8 and yields a major hit, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.”

March 11, 1972: Neil Young’s fourth solo album, ‘Harvest,’ tops the album charts for the first of two weeks. Having sold more than 4 million copies, it remains his best-selling album.

March 18, 1972: “Heart of Gold,” by Neil Young—and featuring Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor on harmony vocals—tops the singles charts.

May 3, 1972: “Old Man,” by Neil Young, peaks at #31 on the pop chart. It is the third and last time Young will crack the Top Forty

October 14, 1973: ‘Time Fades Away’, the first of three consecutive Neil Young albums that break with the mellow sound of the best-selling ‘Harvest,’ is released.

August 15, 1974: Neil Young taps into the spirit of Seventies malaise with ‘On the Beach,’ which ‘Rolling Stone’ calls “the most despairing album of the decade.”

July 16, 1975: Neil Young’s ‘Tonight’s the Night,’ an inspired by and dedicated to a pair of musical acquaintances who died of drug overdoses, is released.

November 25, 1976: Neil Young performs “Helpless” at ‘The Last Waltz,’ the Band’s farewell concert.

December 17, 1977: ‘Decade,’ a triple-album Neil Young retrospective personally assembled by the artist, is released.

October 18, 1978: ‘Comes a Time’, by Neil Young, is released.

One of Young’s most personal and intimate works, it peaks at #7 – a chart showing surpassed only by 1972’s Harvest (#1) and 1995’s Mirror Ball (#5)

July 19, 1979: ‘Rust Never Sleeps,’ by Neil Young, is released. It peaks at #8 and is certified platinum (one million sales) a year later.

November 19, 1981: ‘Re-ac-tor,’ Neil Young’s 16th and final album for Reprise Records – until his return to the label in 1988 – is released.

January 13, 1983: Neil Young kicks off his association with a new label, Geffen Records, with ‘Trans,’ an album of heavily synthesized, computer-generated songs interspersed with breezy love songs. It reaches #17, his best showing until ‘Harvest Moon’ peaks at #16 in 1992.

September 20, 1985: ‘Old Ways,’ a straightforward country-flavored album by Neil Young, is released.

April 21, 1988: Marking his return to Reprise Record, Neil Young releases ‘This Note’s for You,’ a bluesy, swinging album featuring a full horn section.

September 6, 1989: MTV presents “The 1989 MTV Video Music Awards” live from the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.” Arsenio Hall is the host the Neil Young’s “This Note’s For You” takes home Video of the Year.

September 22, 1989: Neil Young releases ‘Freedom,’ his best album in a decade. A blistering performance of the opening track, “Rockin’ in the Free World,” on ‘Saturday Night Live’ is regarded as one of that show’s best performances.

September 23, 1990: ‘Ragged Glory,’ an electric return to form by Neil Young and Crazy Horse, is released.

October 24, 1992: Twenty years after the release of his milestone ‘Harvest,’ Neil Young issues a sequel, ‘Harvest Moon.’ It becomes his first million-seller since 1979’s ‘Rust Never Sleeps.’

July 15, 1993: Neil Young’s ‘Unplugged’ CD and video are released. Recorded on February 7th in Los Angeles and first aired on MTV in March, it is an all-acoustic 14-song set.

March 21, 1994: Neil Young’s Grammy-nominated “Philadelphia,” from the AIDS-themed movie of the same name, loses to Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia’ (also on the soundtrack), for Best Song from a Motion Picture.

July 25, 1994: Neil Young releases ‘Sleeps With Angels,’ whose harder-edged sound nods to Seattle grunge-rockers and pays tribute to the late Kurt Cobain.

January 12, 1995: Neil Young is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the tenth annual induction dinner. Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam is his presenter.

May 26, 1995: Neil Young’s ‘Mirror Ball,’ an album recorded in Seattle with Pearl Jam, is released.

May 27, 1996: ‘Broken Arrow,’ which reunites Neil Young with Crazy Horse, is released.

April 25, 2000: Neil Young releases ‘Silver & Gold,’ one of his most intimate and personal albums.

November 21, 2000: ‘Road Rock Volume 1,’ a live album credited to Neil Young, Friends & Relatives, is released.