Extraneous Noises in Songs

I’ve come to a conclusion: I’m not a fan of “Uhn”s, or “WHOOO”s in my music. It just seems … blah. I don’t know. Contrived? Cliche’? Boring?

This morning, for my at-work listening pleasure, I turned in to the Jim Rome show on WGR in Buffalo NY. I was hoping to catch a local sports radio show, but apparently Rome Fills from 9-1. So I tried listening to him for a bit. At some point, he announced that he would have Sammy Hagar on his show. Having grown up with Van halen in all their various forms (except that Cherone “moment.” That was pretty desperate.), I thought it’d be interesting to listen to, especially since he just released an autobiographical book.

After the interview, I thought, “Hmm … now I’m in the mood for some VH, Hagar style.” I queued up 5150 and OU812. Yah …

While I still find there to be some gems of good songs on there, the excessive use of “WOOOOOOWWW” and “UUUUHHHHNNNN” just set me in a foul mood. Along with all the “babe”s, “baby”s, “honey”s, and whatever other ridiculous words that have almost zero place in a song beyond one time, and even then, there can only be one–not all three.

I do not, nor will I ever, deny that I still find Edward Van Halen one of the most fascinating, explosive guitarists ever. Not that I’ve heard anything he’s done recently, but that could be because he hasn’t done anything recently. Nothing published, anyway. Nothing we common folk get to hear.

Having said that, like I said, there are still some gems that I still enjoy. From 5150,  I still enjoy “Get Up,” “Dreams,” “Best of Both Worlds,” “5150,” and “Inside.” I believe that constitutes more than half the CD.  From Ou812, the list is considerably shorter. “Mine All Mine” is still great,” “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired),” “Source of Infection” … all good songs. Other than that … not so much. From “The Red Album” (For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge), “Judgement Day” and “Pleasuredome” is about it. I won’t even attempt Balance, mainly becaues I don’t own it and I barely remember anything off that CD. I do remember that when it was being released, there was an article in some magazine where the band claimed something like “This is our most serious CD to date: musically and lyrically.” Then they proceeded to produce a track about getting high in Amsterdam. Maybe it’s just me, but that does not scream “forward progress” to me. At all. If you want to get high, that’s your thing, but please … don’t bore me with details on the size of your blunt and the grade of the roll. I. Do not. Care.

So yah. I think this whole resurgence of “liking” Van Halen may be winding down. Not sure yet, but I’m fairly confident that the 10 or so tracks I mentioned are all I need from the Van Hagar era.

Glad To Be Back

Sorry for the absence the last couple of days. A bit about me: I get *wicked* serious tension headaches and back aches, to the point where they’re actually debilitating. I’ve been hospitalized for these in the past for the most severe cases–twice in about 20 years, but still … having to go to the hospital because of a headache is kind of ridiculous. Fortunately, I’ve discovered some techniques to combat these without having to check myself in at the local emergency room. Yesterday and Thursday though … holy crap. It felt like hundreds of knives were digging into my shoulders, middle back …

and of coures, after that HUGE Sabres win against the Flyers IN PHILLY isn’t helping me any. Too much cheering, jumping, thrashing and celebrating. Okay, maybe not TOO much of any of that cuz hey–how is there too much celebrating when the win is THAT huge?!

Anyway, now you know the reason for being in abesntia for the last couple of days. And now, back to your regularly scheduled post.

So I actually started writing this around 7 am. I was up, I hadn’t written in what seemed like forever, so I thought I’d jump in. The first thing I did was hit my “Stumble” button and see what popped up. This is what greeted me. If you’re a Van Halen fan, this … this may hurt to read. Not in a painful, “Kill me now; my life is over” kind of way … but in a “Dude. Dude …” kind of way. Read it, then come back.

All done? See what I mean? I mean, even if you’re not a VH fan, that’s still tragic. There is hardly a honest to goodness musician who would not tell you that Eddie Van Halen was a virtuoso with the guitar. He innovated some playing techniques that were simply out of this world. He constantly tweaked his sound and tinkered with different ways to get different noises. My favorite was finding out that he used an actual drill on his strings to achieve the sound at the beginning of “Poundcake.”

You’ll notice that the video is from the 1991 MTV awards. This was the opening performance, and did it ever set the tone for the rest of the evening. There were a ridiculous number of amazing performances from just that show. Queensryche performing what I consider to be the best live version of “Silent Lucidity” ever; Guns & Roses performing “Live and Let Die“; Metallica performing “Enter Sandman“; L.L. Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out“; EMF performing “Unbelievable” … of course, there were some “less than” performances too, like Mariah Carey doing some stupid ditty, so it wasn’t all highlights. But man.

Yah, that Queensryche performance was just mind-blowing back then. Even this evening when I watched it for the first time in probably 19-20 years, it floored me how pure and precise Geoff Tate’s voice was then. Even today he can still belt it out. I saw another video of him and a couple of the other band members doing “Killing Words” from an acoustic set in May 2008. NAILED it. As if he had just recorded Rage for Order and decided to do an in-store performance for kicks. There are few voices in music that hold more power than his.


If a CD Disappears from a Band’s Website, Did It Ever Really Exist?

Today is my birthday. Hooray me.

It is also Wayne Gretzky’s birthday. He’s infinitely more cool than I could ever hope to be. I mean, hi … he’s The Great One. And for a good reason. Oddly, I didn’t know that he and I share the same birthday until today. Also, I assumed he was lightyears older than I am. Not quite so.

I *did* know that I share this special “dia do nascimento” (as say the Portuguese. And Brazilians.) with one Edward Van Halen. Yes–the very same. The guitar viruoso that brought tapping to the forefront. He of “Eruption” fame. Eddie. The chants were deafening. I only got to see him twice, both in support of their For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge CD. For all of you with sensitve eyes, don’t try to make an acronym out of that. You’ll probably cry.

The first time I saw Van Halen was in August of 1991. My buddies Eric, Steve, and Jeff  and I all drove from western New York to Akron Ohio to see them at the beautiful Blossom Music Center. Opening for them was this long-haired, weird sounding freak show that only seemed interested in swinging their heads of long hair around such that their mops would flail around in circles. It looked ridiculous. Oh. And the lead singer? Just sat on a stool. Well, bar stool. Not poop. But yah. Just sat there, wearing sunglasses and sporting short blond hair. They didn’t make it very far into their set before we booed them off stage. I do believe some gesticulations of an avian nature were directed in our direction. By “our,” I mean the entire crowd. Or at least a vast majority of us.

The band? No other than Alice in Chains.

Oh how I hang my head in shame … truly we deserved the bird we were given. In hindsight, I wish we had been more open-minded–more understanding … more tolerant. How is that for a microcosm of how life should be lived?

Alas, we were not. Oh well. Live and learn.

So ANYway, I celebrate my day with Edward. Which made me wonder what’s going on with the band. For those of you familiar with their discography, you’ll know that, after Dave’s departure, they recorded 4 CDs with Sammy Hagar and one with Gary Cherone. Take a look at their website. See the background image? It scrolls through I, II, Women and Children First, Fair Warning, Diver Down,  and 1984, then cycles back to I.  WHERE are 5150, OU812, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, Balance, and III?! Do those albums no longer exist in Dave’s, Alex’s, and Eddie’s minds? Did they not make those albums? But where are they?

You know, I’m all for giving the band their due. They were a great, great party band. They were exciting, Eddie was and is an insane guitarist, Alex is … well, he’s a drummer, but he’s not that great. Wolfgang is … what. 19? And ignore the fact that “Diamond Dave” is so far past his prime that he’s become a caricature of himself when he tries to perform. I don’t know … it just seems childish and petty to ignore the music they made with Sammy and Gary under the Van Halen name. If I go out to Amazon, those CDs are still available because they were made. I just don’t get the immaturity factor. “Ohhhh … we had a rift with Sammy, and no one liked III, so let’s pretend those don’t exist.”

FACT: they’ve had more rifts with David Lee Roth than they EVER did with Sammy. Not to mention that Gary Cherone left the band on amicable terms. There’s no drama there. So … what the hell.

I don’t know. If, for whatever reason, I just happened to be listening to the radio, and a Van Halen song came on, I don’t think I’d necessarily kick it off. I don’t have any on my phone or ipod, so I don’t think any will becoming through my playlist any time soon … but I just don’t see myself reverting back to a point where I swoon over them like I once did. Their time has come and gone.

Trip Down Memory Lane–Van Halen Style

In the late 80s and early 90s, I was heavily in to Van Halen. They have a concert video called “Live without a Net” that I had on VHS. The way my brother put it, “It was the bible of concert videos.” I couldn’t agree more. I’m pretty sure I ran that tape extremely thin. Thankfully, my dad had a stereo VCR. I ran audio out cables to the back of his little boom box and made an audio tape of the concert. I wore THAT tape thin too. I had 5150, OU812, “The Red Album” … wasn’t as much into the David Lee Roth stuff with the exception of their first album from 1978. GREAT music … “Runnin’ with the “Devil,” cover of “You Really Got Me,” and of course, “Eruption”–Eddie’s seminal solo for the ages.

That was about 18-20 years ago.

Flash forward to today. My tastes have shifted somewhat. I still like rock, but with a much more refined ear. Odd time signatures impress me. Key changes are a must. Van Halen … not a lot of that going on. However, earlier in the week, as I was playing with mininova.org, I stumbled upon a DVD copy of the old concert video with which I had spent so much of my time as a kid, visually and audibly. For kicks, I downloaded it.

Wow.

That “wow” has various and sundry layers to it. The most prominent is the sheer “shudder effect” I had when hearing Sammy scream “HELLOOOO, New Haleeeeeeeeeen” and Eddie’s wailing guitar starts up as they get ready to launch into “There’s Only One Way To Rock.” The goosebumps, the chills, the thrill … I was 17 again, sitting on the edge of my bed air drumming with Alex (cuz let’s face it … there’s no way I’m going to even attempt to air guitar with Edward).

The next layer of “wow” was the amazing 80s clothing styles. Sweet merciful crap. Michael Anthony comes out in this yellow blazer looking coat thing with matching yellow pants. Huh?! Why?! I mean … YELLOW pants. MAYBE it was cuz he knew they were video taping, and he was deathly afraid of peeing himself, so he figured, “Hey … yellow pants, pee is yellow … sometimes. Maybe it’ll just blend in.” I don’t know. All I know is that Sammy was dressed in something that would make Joseph’s amazing technicolor dreamcoat cringe. THAT’s saying something. Of course, 3 songs in, he and Michael ditched their top layer. Wisely so, given Sammy’s desperate attempts to show the crowd how David Lee Roth-like he can be, jumping around and high-kicking and what-not. I guess I didn’t know much about the history of the band growing up. I knew DLR split after releasing 1984, but I didn’t know his stage style–his constant martial arts displays, etc. Knowing what I know now and going back and watching this concert, it’s … interesting.

Another “wow” layer. Maybe it’s just me, but there just seemed to be a really thick, heavy “cheese” element to a lot of Sammy’s extraneous dialog. What the hell is “vosephus” anyway? Defining what “5150” is supposed to mean … I dunno. Even some of the songs themselves seemed to have not aged well. That was truly a disappointing revelation. Here were my childhood icons, putting on an amazing show, and there is now a rather different feeling to watching it this time. Everything was just so over the top.

But what from the 80s WASN’T over the top, right?

In essence, it was just a fun trip down nostalgia lane, watching parts of this video again. The great part to this old classic is the dynamic tracking–allowing me to skip over the songs I didn’t want to necessarily finish and get to the good stuff, like “Get Up,” “Best of Both Worlds,” “Panama,” “Rock and Roll” (Zep cover, and WOW!) … there are other good songs, but stuff like “Summer Nights” I just skipped over. Even “5150” didn’t hold up well, but that’s due mainly to the point that I *never* cared for that version. I HATE it when a band plays a song in concert and tunes the whole song a step or 2. Like no one’s going to notice. Rush does that with 2112 all the time. Metallica FINALLY got around to playing “Dyer’s Eve,” only to tune it down a whole step. It’s not like James Hetfield can’t hit those same notes … he hits higher notes on “That Was Just Your Life” off of Death Magnetic. My point is this: if you’re going to play a song in concert, PLEASE play it in the original key.

Anyway, overall, the concert held up well. If they’re not the best party band in the history of music, they definitely have a solid place in the top 10, if not top 5. They’re just … FUN!

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