Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Van Halen is back! Uh, sorta.

I saw on the TV this morning that Van Halen is attempting another comeback. David Lee Roth is back in the band, with what looked to me like new hair. But even more surprising was the lack of Michael Anthony, the bassist from the very begining of the band. You know, the guy with the beard and the Jack Daniels bass, that always seemed to be having a helluva good time in the videos? Well, he's been replaced by Eddie's sixteen year old son, Wolfgang. Someone remind me when the last time a musical legacy was actually inherited by a superstar's offspring, when a rock god sired another legend. The only example that comes to mind right now is Liza freakin' Minelli. Not that I wish ill on this strange new incarnation of Van Halen. I hope it all works out. But right now I have trouble seeing how Eddie + Dave - Michael + Eddie's Kid equals anything but a trainwreck waiting to happen.


  1. Van Halen bass lines are usually pretty simple, especially the older stuff. (Perfect example: "Hot for Teacher.")

    I have a feeling Anthony kept himself to stuff he could play while drunk.

    So it shouldn't be too hard to Wolfgang to jump right in...

  2. Anonymous12:33 PM

    And ... it's the bassist.

    Not to disparage any musician or his craft, but ...

    It's just the bassist.

    The real risk of this Roth-fronted Van Halen is exactly the same risk as ever: that even in the age of adult diapers and Geritol, they'll still get on each other's nerves and call the whole thing off mid-show :)

  3. Been a long time since I've been in these parts...glad to see the blog still up!

    As a bass player myself, I have to echo mike's sentiments: VH basslines are not to put this nicely...musicianly. My pet monkey could thump root eighth-notes 'til the cows come home.

    Bass is VERY important in many bands' sounds (Led Zep, King Crimson, Jane's Addiction to name but three), but not so much here. It's all about the guitar wankery.

  4. Anonymous1:49 PM

    I didn't mean to suggest that bass isn't ever important ... But in the case of Van Halen, specifically, I picture that scene from This is Spinal Tap where they're asking Viv (?) if he's able pull a Ray Manzarek* and hold down the bassline with his keyboard since Nigel has walked, and Viv's response is something like "Yeah, I got two hands; I can do that."

    - - - -
    * They don't actually say "pull a Ray Manzarek" in the movie, but IMO they may as well have ;)

  5. Oh, I know where you're coming from, S. John, and I had a feeling your comments were VH-specific. I just love my chosen axe, and I gotta say it whenever I can! :)

    I love that scene in Spinal Tap:

    "Can you do Nigel's bassline in 'Big Bottom'?"

    "I've got two hands, yeah."

  6. Anonymous2:31 PM

    Re axe-grinding: Yeah, I'm the same way about game writing (in the RPG business, much like the film biz, the writers are either the bassist or the drummer as far as the publishers are concerned, and depending on which old musician's jokes that come to mind at the time).

    Well, except that one time at Avalon Hill when I felt like a fill-in for the Beau Brummels, but that's a very long story ...

  7. I picked up the bass back when guys like Flea and Les Claypool were huge. (Not to say they've vanished, but you know what I mean). I'd sit around for hours learning "Tommy the Cat" and "Higher Ground."

    Then I'd listen to VH, and... yeah, on "Hot for Teacher," if memory serves he's just playing straight open-E. A lot.

    I think he probably came from an older school tradition of just keeping it in the pocket and rounding out the bottom end of the song.

    Or maybe the Van Halen brothers wanted to make sure no one was going to outshine Eddie.

    "This is a GUITAR BAND, dude! Not a SUPER GROUP! Get your hand off the fretboard and shut up!"

  8. Anonymous12:35 PM

    I'm still on board with the "stuff he could play while drunk" theory. That feels very right to me :)

  9. Anonymous6:50 PM

    Of course, it's safe to assume that young master Wolfgang, being the son of EDDIE VAN HALEN, is probably a total prodigy and thus suddenly Van Halen shows will feature shredding bass solos and the like... that is if they ever really go on this reunion tour. Didn't they announce the same thing, like, a year ago?
    --horrox (who posts "anonymously" 'cause he can't remember his new google/blogger sign in...)

  10. Not that I'm a huge Van Halen nut or anything, but the biggest thing that will be missed by not having Michael Anthony around will not be his bass playing (which is quite simplistic), but his background vocals. If Wolfie's voice is anything like his dad's or his uncle's, then there will be a huge hole in how the songs sound.

    peace... Dave