Let’s ease the seat back, doodle “VH” on our binders and continue counting down Every Van Halen Song Ever, from Number 100 to Number 51.
100) “DIRTY WATER DOG,” VAN HALEN III, CHERONE
This Cherone-era tune has a little pep and some snakey guitar effects that are just enough to make this reasonably enjoyable. It’s a tad neo-jazzy in that Berklee College of Music way that doesn’t do anyone any favors, but it’s catchy and Eddie’s showoff moments are slick. This is the highest ranking Cherone tune, and even at #100 I feel like I’m being kind.
99) “CAN’T STOP LOVIN’ YOU,” BALANCE, HAGAR
Pretty much Van Halen’s final hit, this is a sunny pop tune that isn’t terrible. But compare it to “Beautiful Girls” and it’s night and day.
98) “JUDGEMENT DAY,” FOR UNLAWFUL CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, HAGAR
This one opens like a leftover from Rush’s Presto, then slips into a pretty standard Hagar-era rocker. The backing vocals, albeit very spare, are kinda sweet.
97) “GOOD ENOUGH,” 5150, HAGAR
“Hello, baaaaaaby!” is how Sammy Hagar introduced himself on 5150’s opening track. And it was a little annoying. But like the title says, “Good Enough.” Whether intentionally or not, it sums up the next phase of Van Halen. It will never be as good without David Lee Roth, but Eddie, Alex, Michael Anthony and the production team are still geniuses. And Sammy Hagar can frequently surprise you. In fact, sometimes it’s more than just “good enough.”
96) “ONE FOOT OUT THE DOOR,” FAIR WARNING, ROTH
There are guitar effects on here that are nerdy enough for Devo, but if you told a Van Halen fan that back then he’d probably stomp on your glasses. A weird track, and under two minutes.
95) “BIG BAD BILL (IS SWEET WILLIAM NOW),” DIVER DOWN, ROTH
This is good the first time, but does get a bit annoying after repeated listening. This jokey hot-jazz tune features Alex and Eddie’s father Jan Van Halen on clarinet, and I’ll be damned if I haven’t been a little bit annoyed by that wrong note he blows at the end for 30 years.
94) “MAN ON A MISSION,” FOR UNLAWFUL CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, HAGAR
Pretty straightforward riff-heavy tune with lots of Sammy screams. Good solo in there, though.
93) “TATTOO,” A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH, ROTH
And the band is back together! The lead-off single from the reformed Van Halen with David Lee Roth on vocals and Wolfgang Van Halen on bass is pretty damn good. Catchy chorus and nice harmonies. It doesn’t try too hard to impress, just comes together with a good spirit. Nice one to bop your head to!
92) “BULLETHEAD,” A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH, ROTH
Short and antic. Bang your head furiously, cause it’ll soon be over. Extra points for saying the name of the album, too.
91) “SHE’S THE WOMAN,” A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH, ROTH
People who beat their chest saying “I wish Dave would come back and make classic Van Halen music” need to listen to this one and shut up. This one sounds like a leftover from Van Halen II. Of course, the vocals aren’t quite the same and something about the production isn’t quite the same as the glory days, but on paper, anyway, it’s straight from the old playbook.
90) “IN ‘N’ OUT,” FOR UNLAWFUL CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, HAGAR
Eddie shredding and Sammy shrieking, this ballsy number is noisy hard rock with just enough production sheen to keep the sound pure. People who don’t dig Van Hagar should probably steer clear of this one, but there’s a lot to bang your head to (and Alex goes nuts on the ride cymbal).
89) “BIG RIVER,” A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH, ROTH
A rugged beat reminiscent of “D.O.A.” or “Runnin’ With the Devil,” this is one of the more “classic” tunes on the latest album. Solo is out of this world. Solid.
88) “ME WISE MAGIC,” BEST OF — VOLUME I, ROTH
The more interesting of the two “reunion” tracks with David Lee Roth for the 1996 greatest hits collaboration. The vocal vamp is almost Zappa-esque before exploding into big harmonies and furious scales. This is a genuinely bright tune, almost Rick Nielsen-y at times, which is a compliment to be sure.
87) “OUTTA SPACE,” A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH, ROTH
To me, this reunion VH tune is a solid bookend to “Atomic Punk,” right down to the playfully gloomy lyrics. An aggressive, high-energy track.
86) “LOVE WALKS IN,” 5150, HAGAR
For whatever reason I love “Dreams” but this one kinda makes me roll my eyes a bit. I guess I only have room in me for one power ballad per album. This is probably the softest singing Sammy does — if I was smart I’d support this more considering the shrieking on Balance.
85) “WHEN IT’S LOVE,” OU812, HAGAR
An enormous hit of a power ballad. Unbearably sappy, but there’s a fine, bluesy solo in there to rescue it.
84) “SUNDAY AFTERNOON IN THE PARK,” FAIR WARNING, ROTH
This is not one of VH’s better short instrumentals. But if it took experimenting with this to get to the similarly sinister “Intruder” or the otherworldly synth-heavy “1984” I guess I’ll take it.
83) “RIGHT NOW,” FOR UNLAWFUL CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, HAGAR
Hard to separate this from the sports anthem. I keep getting visions of Powerade in my head. (And don’t tell me that wasn’t the intention — the opening piano bit is straight out of Alan Parsons Project’s Sirius.) Anyway psyche-up music has its place, but that’s not what I think of when I think of Van Halen, sorry.
82) “THE FULL BUG,” DIVER DOWN, ROTH
A hard drinkin’ number with a lot of bravado in the verse which quickly brightens in the chorus. Lots of good Dave “woah!” in this one.
81) “316,” FOR UNLAWFUL CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, HAGAR
A nice and sweet little acoustic instrumental that’s more Pat Metheny than classic Eddie. Not much, but hardly something you’ll run to skip past if it comes up on iTunes.
80) “SUCKER IN A 3 PIECE,” OU812, HAGAR
This is OU812’s gift for the gearheads — a wank of effects and lots of room for Eddie to spaz out up and down the scales. Some of Sammy’s shouting is annoying, but that’s life.
79) “SUMMER NIGHTS,” 5150, HAGAR
“Summer nights and my radio/that’s all we need, baby, don’t’cha know.” Ugh. Dave could pull those lyrics off, maybe. Sammy, not so much. But who cares? The intro is slick, the riff is hot and Alex’s high-hat is all over this. Good tune.
78) “TORA! TORA!” WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST, ROTH
Maybe the weirdest of Van Halen’s micro-tracks. The first 30 seconds sound like a guitar patched through a car engine, the second 30 seconds are Black Sabbath-y doom chords as the band demonically wails. But there’s a camp quality that somehow makes it amusing. I dunno, this delighted me as a kid.
77) “THE SEVENTH SEAL,” BALANCE, HAGAR
Sheets of guitar on top and the murmurs of chanting monks on the bottom. In between a fairly standard, hard-driving tune from the Sammy era. This one has a nice sheen, and compared to the rest of Balance it is terrific.
76) “YOU AND YOUR BLUES,” A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH, ROTH
The chorus has a Cheap Trick-quality that, perhaps not surprisingly, fits DLR Van Halen quite well. The harmonies are truly terrific. There’s a dark growl to the bridge, too. This is a great song!
75) “BOTTOMS UP!” VAN HALEN II, ROTH
A very straightforward early VH tune. Simple melody, backing harmonies, a little space for Eddie to do his thing and a sexual innuendo for a title. Something about this one is a little sluggish, though, and it never really connected with me.
74) “AS IS,” A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH, ROTH
The intro is plodding doom rock but just when you are about to give up, the floodgates open and everything jumps to lightspeed. Furious riff, insane drumming and DLR real chill up top. Backing vocals explosive and fun then comes the classic Eddie trills. This a serious jam.
73) “WOMEN IN LOVE…,” VAN HALEN II, ROTH
A good, if maybe a tad sleepy number. I think they were going for an anthem and came up a tiny bit short. The gorgeous, echoey guitar intro, the best part of the song, is a harbinger of things to come on Diver Down.
72) “HOUSE OF PAIN,” 1984, ROTH
A scratchy, bluesy shuffle beat and Eddie showing off like he was on top of the world. And he was. 1984 was the album that shot Van Halen so far into the stratosphere they couldn’t sustain the elevation. This was the last tune by the classic lineup for over a decade before those weird one-offs until, finally, A Different Kind of Truth.
71) “PUSH COMES TO SHOVE,” FAIR WARNING, ROTH
Three years after the Stones dallied with disco on “Miss You,” VH gave it a spin with this oddball number. They pull it off well, but I’m glad this was a one-and-done.
70) “FEEL YOUR LOVE TONIGHT,” VAN HALEN, ROTH
Coming right out of their “dark” song “Atomic Punk,” this one is pure sun ‘n’ fun. A great singalong tune made a little more electric with Eddie and Alex’s fills. Beach Boys harmonies glide effortlessly into a multi-tracked solo backed by tambourine shakes. And a nice message! The boys can’t wait to feel our love tonight!
69) “WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD TIMES GONE!” DIVER DOWN, ROTH
I never understood why this title ends in an exclamation mark and not a question mark. What’s even weirder is that VH added that. The original version by the Kinks does not have any punctuation at all. Anyway, a great tune with some nice minor chords, but the lesser of VH’s Kinks kovers.
68) “FOOLS,” WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST, ROTH
The longest track of the pre-Hagar era, this one has a lot of space, but is mostly about its fierce, marching beat as Eddie’s guitar launches and dives around the chorus. Alex gets a nice workout here. This one is for true fans only.
67) “YOU’RE NO GOOD,” VAN HALEN II, ROTH
A slow, blues-y opener for VH’s second album. It is, compared to the masterpiece of the debut, a bit of a let-down. Van Halen II isn’t exactly a sophomore slump, but this opening tune telegraphs “manage your expectations.”
66) “RUNAROUND,” FOR UNLAWFUL CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, HAGAR
A rock radio hit and with good cause. Sammy is hollering and shrieking all over the place and Eddie’s tossing guitar glitter as he does it. Singalong chorus brings it home. If it’s okay to love Van Hagar, then this is one to groove to.
65) “ICE CREAM MAN,” VAN HALEN, ROTH
Back in the late 1970s the big thing was a song that started slow then went fast. This one, a cover, is a fun favorite, but does get a tad annoying on repeat listens. An early look at the man who would become Diamond Dave. Eddie’s bluesy solo saves it, though.
64) “SPANISH FLY,” VAN HALEN II, ROTH
To prove “Eruption” was no fluke, VH’s second album also has an Eddie instrumental. This one is acoustic (whoa!) and has some trace elements of flamenco style. It starts off with some tapping, then flows into zooming, twirling, lightning paced scales. At only 62 seconds long, it ends just as it gets going, but for a late ‘70s hard rock record is still something of a gutsy inclusion.
63) “SPANKED,” FOR UNLAWFUL CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, HAGAR
This is something of an overlooked funky gem. The weird processing on the guitar and bass are borderline science fiction, which works really well against the “oohs” in the background. This would almost work in a training montage for a Jean-Claude Van Damme film, and that is hardly a negative.
62) “PLEASURE DOME,” FOR UNLAWFUL CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, HAGAR
At almost seven minutes this is quite long by VH standards, and has more in common with Queensryche than “Beautiful Girls.” The song has multiple sections (and maybe more harmonics pound-for-pound than any other VH song) and doesn’t quite gel on first listen. Which means somewhere out there is a parallel universe in which Van Halen was a prog-metal band beloved only by gearheads.
61) “TOP OF THE WORLD,” FOR UNLAWFUL CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, HAGAR
No, you aren’t hearing things. The beginning of “Top of the World” continues the melody from “Jump.” To my ears there’s a little “Dance The Night Away,” too. But it’s Sammy, not Dave, and this is a good example of Sammy and the band finding their groove together. It’s a pop tune with just enough edge, and no wonder it was on radio nonstop back in 1991. A nice antidote to that alternacrap, amirite?!!?
60) “SO THIS IS LOVE?” FAIR WARNING, ROTH
A showcase for Dave, you can get a whiff of some of that “bowzdy-bowzdy-bop!” stuff from his solo output. This is a slick little finger-snapper.
59) “IN A SIMPLE RHYME,” WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST, ROTH
This is Van Halen looking the legacy of Led Zeppelin in the eye and saying “we’re gonna do it differently.” It’s a big song with many changes, but more melody-driven than reliant on a riff.
58) “COULD THIS BE MAGIC?” WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST, ROTH
Every DLR album gets its goofy song, and this is the one for Women and Children First. An acoustic country/blues tune that’s maybe a little offensive (should David Lee Roth really be saying “womens on your mind?”) but holy crap is this catchy! You can hear them giggling during the background vocals — and for one second you can actually pick out a real VH rarity — a female voice (country artist Nicolette Larson). Extra points for saying the name of the album.
57) “A.F.U. (NATURALLY WIRED),” OU812, HAGAR
Strange time signatures and a complex riff reminiscent of Fair Warning downshifts into a barnburner rock tune. Sammy’s scream is in good form here.
56) “LITTLE GUITARS (INTRO),” DIVER DOWN, ROTH
Remember “Spanish Fly” from Van Halen II? This destroys that.
55) “BLACK AND BLUE,” OU812, HAGAR
Whatever that guitar echo effect from the opening is called, it resonates with a summer of good times. This is great, laid back dirty sleaze rock, and a great marriage for Sammy’s voice.
54) “DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY,” VAN HALEN II, ROTH
By Van Halen’s second album they realized that their audience had girlfriends, and they better record a song or two that wouldn’t scare them away. This is practically a Beach Boys tune, with hints of a reggae influence. Really catchy stuff. Not much Eddie shredding, but very agreeable.
53) “ULTRA BASS,” VAN HALEN LIVE: RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW, HAGAR
Without question, Michael Anthony is the least respected man in rock. I don’t mean by fans, I mean by his own band. As Van Halen switched between David and Sammy and back again there was plenty of hand-wringing. But when it came time to reform and Wolfgang Van Halen was old enough to tour, Michael Anthony was dumped like a sack of hot garbage in the name of nepotism. Poor guy. In the live show, they gave him have a little room to putz around on stage. “Ultra Bass” falls somewhere between listenable and “Jazz Odyssey” but with the effects pedals it sounds like V’Ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. We love you, Mike, so you are getting good placement on this list.
52) “LOSS OF CONTROL,” WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST, ROTH
Van Halen as hyperactive kids on a playdate.
51) “SOMEBODY GET ME A DOCTOR,” VAN HALEN II, ROTH
The third track on the second album was the first tune truly in sync with their debut masterpiece. A driving edge with Eddie shredding, zooming in and out on the effects knobs and popping out with harmonics. The song itself is mostly a clothesline to let Eddie show off, and it works well at that.