Listen To This Eddie is a weekly column that examines the important people and events in the classic rock canon and how they continue to impact the world of popular music.
In 1977, after years and years toiling in obscurity in rough and tumble bars on the Sunset Strip, massive backyard parties around the San Fernando Valley, and a go-nowhere demo session with Kiss’s Gene Simmons, Van Halen finally secured a deal with a major label to release their first album. With three weeks of studio time and a $54,000 budget, guitar savant Eddie Van Halen, his bombastic drummer brother Alex, bassist Michael Anthony, and their over-the-top frontman David Lee Roth cooked up one of the most jaw-dropping debut albums in history.
Fueled by copious amounts of alcohol, the promise of carnal delight, a whole lot of angst, and some of the wildest guitar solos anyone had ever heard before, Van Halen captured the imaginations of pissed off teens from coast to coast when it dropped on February 10, 1978. At a time when rock was either taking itself too seriously with dense, intricately orchestrated prog-projects or not seriously enough, like so many flash-in-the-pan punk outfits, Van Halen showed up like saviors, ready and eager to get the party started. You can almost smell the quarter-filled cups of stale beer and cigarette butt-filled ashtrays as you pore through its 11 tracks.
On the occasion of Van Halen’s 40th anniversary, I thought I might run through the 40 different reasons why it remains one of the greatest albums ever made.