April 20, 2012

L.A. Music: Van Halen & My Time Machine

This is another installment of my Friday series on L.A. Music, featuring artists and bands that originated in Southern California or are closely linked to Los Angeles.   
It's a gorgeous Friday here in So Cal.  Birds are chirping, there's a light breeze, and temps  are expected to climb into the 90s.  I've already busted out my flip-flops and started working on the tan line I get on the tops of my feet that won't fade until November.   The sunshine and heat put me in the mood for one of my favorite classic rock bands, Van Halen. Emphasis on Halen, not Hagar.

Sometimes I fantasize about going back in time and seeing some of my favorite bands back in their heyday. It's a a game: if I could choose one act, one trip back in time, who would I choose?   Not the Beatles or Stones.  Too cliché.  Maybe Springsteen in the mid-'70s, at one of his marathon 4-hour shows when he was testifying about the power of rock n' roll.    Maybe the Eagles, when they were still playing backup for Linda Ronstandt at the Troubador.  (Except the Eagles aren't known for being a stellar live act.)   Blondie in 1979?  The Band, backing up Dylan?  (I wanted to talk about the passing of dear Levon Helms, but damn, there's just no L.A. connection at all.)

Near the top of my list is going back in time to see Van Halen when they were still playing backyard parties  and small clubs in Pasadena, or maybe in their first year of touring in support of their first album.  Young and younger:

Every once is while, I get the urge to buy tickets for their upcoming reunion show this summer.  I've seen Van Hagar in concert, back in the early '90s, but I've never seen a show with David Lee Roth in his rightful place as lead singer.  I think my husband has, though.  He's a few years older than me, and I love his story about hearing Van Halen for the first time, coming through his static-y FM radio when he was in junior high and living out in the desert near Palm Springs, how he bought their CD cassette album 8-track and turned on his friends.

I was going to play you "Beautiful Girls," a song I don't hear very often these days, and that seems perfect for a hot spring day.   "I've got a drink in my hand/got my toes in the sand/All I need/is a beautiful GIRRRL," crows DLR.    (I once read an article describing David Lee Roth's personality as basically "Bugs Bunny with genitals," and I think that's dead-on perfect.)

But then I went to YouTube, and watched the band singing a live version of "Beautiful Girls," from earlier this year.   And, watching the band, sans Michael Anthony, hearing Roth's voice a couple gruff octaves lower now, seeing his frontman stunts reduced to a snazzy little shuffle, I felt kind of depressed. 
So, let's climb into my time machine and go back to 1981 and see Diamond Dave do his big air splits off the drum riser.  Let's hear him hit those ear-splitting notes when he does his Dave-wail thing.  This one's for my hubby: his fave Van Halen song.  He's down & out with a head cold on this gorgeous Friday, and mostly listens to annoying dub step these days, but maybe hearing "Unchained" will cheer him a bit and put him in a weekend mood.   

"Unchained, nothin' stays the same."   Word.

Enjoy! And have a rockin' Friday.

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