Rhino’s Got You Covered: All Van Halen Edition

Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Van Halen

It’s Wednesday, so it must be time to take another dip into the Rhino catalog and trot out a new quartet of cover songs that you may or may not have heard before...except that this week we suspect you’ve heard the majority of the tunes we’re adding to our playlist, if only because most of them are taken from some of the most famous heavy metal albums of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

That’s right, we’re honoring the life and cover songs of the late Eddie Van Halen by offering up the cover tunes recorded by the band during the David Lee Roth years.

Before that, though, we’ve got a trio of Van Halen covers from the same era, so...let’s get started, shall we?

•    Jennifer Hope, “Runnin’ with the Devil” (2019): You may not know Ms. Hope, and you may not have heard her reinvention of this tune from Van Halen’s self-titled debut, but you do know the man who sponsored her 2013 album VELVET FIRE. We’ll give you a hint: he played guitar on the original version of this song.

•    The Moog Cookbook, “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love” (1997): They call themselves Meco Eno and Uli Nomi, and they dress like spacemen, but once you remove the helmets, you find Roger Manning, Jr. and Brian Kehew, respectively. Their schtick is simple – they perform cover versions of popular songs on Moog synthesizers – and it’s also very funny...if you have a sense of humor about hearing your favorite songs performed that way. Look, it made us laugh...

•    Big Daddy, “Jump” (1985): This Los Angeles band has more or less been doing their thing since 1975 with one lineup or another, and the thing they do is cover current hits in the style of classic hits. So if you’ve ever wanted to hear this Van Halen classic through the prism of “Summertime Blues,” now’s your big chance.

•    Van Halen, “You Really Got Me” (1978): The first of Van Halen’s Kinks kovers, this song had been a staple of the band’s live set, hence its inclusion on their debut album. In an interview with the Van Halen News Desk website, Dave Davies mused on the band’s cover.

“When I heard the guys’ version of it, I felt, you know, ‘This sounds really flashy.’ But it depicted the era, didn’t it?  In that it was in the era when stadium rock was big, and guitars were flasher, and tight trousers, and swanky. There’s a chasm between the two versions: one’s about a comfortable American urban life, and one is about a raunchy, desperate kind of survival instinct. (But) I’m not saying it wasn’t a good record. It always makes you feel good when people are inspired by your work.”

•    Van Halen, “Ice Cream Man” (1978): The best story about this cover is tied to how much it helped out the man who wrote it. Blues guitarist John Brim penned the tune in 1953, but even though he recorded it then, it ended up sitting on a shelf at Chess Records until finally getting a release in 1969. Thank goodness it got out when it did: because the right rockers heard it, the end result of its inclusion on VAN HALEN was that Brim ended up being able to open a nightclub in Chicago.

•    Van Halen, “You’re No Good” (1979): You could’ve heard any number of versions of this song before the boys in Van Halen laid down their version on VAN HALEN II, since it was taken into the charts by Dee Dee Warwick, Betty Everett, the Swinging Blue Jeans, and – most famously – Linda Ronstadt, who turned it into a #1 hit. Still, her version didn’t rock as hard as Van Halen’s version.

•    Van Halen, “Where Have All the Good Times Gone” (1982): In case you’re curious, Dave Davies liked this Kinks kover more than “You Really Got Me.” In a December 1982 interview with Guitar Player, Eddie said of his work on the tune, “The solo was more sounds than lines. I ran the edge of my pick up and down the strings for some of those effects. I think I used my Echoplex in that song."

•    Van Halen, “(Oh) Pretty Woman” (1982): The best part about this Roy Orbison cover is the fact that it was the band’s first video, and it was also banned from MTV, possibly – but not definitely – because of the midgets. But VH-1 Classic later played it with some regularity, so whatever MTV had a problem with at the time, it apparently wasn’t that bad. Probably.

•    Van Halen, “Dancing in the Street” (1982): In that same Guitar Player interview, Eddie also explained how the recording of this Martha and the Vandellas tune effectively led the band to record DIVER DOWN faster than planned. "When we came off the Fair Warning tour last year [1981], we were going to take a break and spend a lot of time writing this and that, [but] Dave came up with the idea of, 'Hey, why don't we start off the new year with just putting out a single?'” said Eddie. “He wanted to do 'Dancing in the Streets.' He gave me the original Martha Reeves & the Vandellas tape, and I listened to it and said, 'I can't get a handle on anything out of this song.' I couldn't figure out a riff, and you know the way I like to play: I always like to do a riff, as opposed to just hitting barre chords and strumming.

“So I said, 'Look, if you want to do a cover tune, why don't we do 'Pretty Woman'? It took one day. We went to Sunset Sound in L.A., recorded it, and it came out right after the first of the year. It started climbing the charts, so all of a sudden Warner Bros. is going, 'You got a hit single on your hands. We gotta have that record.' We said, 'Wait a minute, we just did that to keep us out there, so that people know we're still alive.' But they just kept pressuring, so we jumped right back in without any rest or time to recuperate from the tour, and started recording.”

•    Van Halen, “Happy Trails” (1982): It’s the classic closing tune from The Roy Rogers Show, and it’s the perfect way to close out this piece, along with another thank-you to Eddie Van Halen for all of the awesomeness he brought to these covers, not to mention all of Van Halen’s originals.