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Van Halen's 1984 Turns 30 Today -- How Does It Hold Up?

Van Halen's 1984 Turns 30 Today -- How Does It Hold Up?

Today marks the 30th anniversary of Van Halen's 1984. Let's put that in perspective: Twice as much time has passed between today and the release of 1984 than between 1984's release and the moon landing (the 20th century's other crowning achievement). It was Van Halen's most commercially successful album and one of the biggest rock albums of all time, but does it hold up?

See also: Live: Van Halen Attracts The Naked, Sweaty Eyeballs To Cafe Wha?

Does Diamond Dave's swagger translate in the age of Twitter, YouTube, Jelly, Path, Uber, Seamlessweb, HopStop, Yahoo News Digest, Smarm, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Tinder, and Facebook? Does Eddie Van Halen's guitar still blast ear drums the way it did in the age of Reagan and crack cocaine?

Those are the questions, these are the answers -- track by YEAH! WHEEEEE ZEE BOP track:

1. "1984":

This synth intro ushers in the future but takes a quick detour through our hearts. It makes you feel like you are flying in space. Not the soundless and empty void of actual space, but a better, more incredible cosmic arena dreamt up by Ted Templeman, 1984's producer. The track is a little over a minute but seems to encapsulate the entire universe -- and then some. What is that "some"? If any anthologized poets want to hop into the comments section and take a crack at that question, be my guest. Good luck.

Does it hold up? You bet your ass it does. It's essentially all of Yeezus, minus the croissants.

2. "Jump"

As the album's most famous song, "Jump" is sometimes accused of being corny or gimmicky. I say "accused" because all charges were dropped: This song rules and is still a total treat. The synth from the intro track is back, but it brought a couple friends (guitars and drums and other musical instruments. Those are the friends). Instead of arguing the merits of "Jump," I'm going to throw in a link to a YouTube video that teaches you how to play it on the keyboard because learning "Jump" on the synth is a far more valuable use of your time than whining.

It's a better use of your time than almost anything.

Does it hold up? Here's an experiment: Next time you're at a bar, put "Jump" on the jukebox. If the place doesn't immediately turn into a sweaty cauldron of dance and cheer, then it means you aren't at a bar, you're at a funeral. (Which is a good thing, because this jam can wake the dead.)

Yes, it holds up.

3. "Panama"

In the video for "Panama" above, Michael Anthony's bass is painted to look like a bottle of Jack Daniel's. This is like the 350th coolest thing about this song. That's how cool "Panama" is.

Quick aside: You know how sometimes on your iPod one song is louder than the others? For years, "Panama" was that song for me. When this happened for non-"Panama" songs, I'd grab my iPod and turn it down as quick as possible. For "Panama," I would turn it up.

I would turn it up.

I would turn it up.

I. WOULD. TURN. IT. UP.

R.I.P. Steve Jobs.

Does it hold up? Embarrassing question. Yes, it holds up. It might be holding this entire goddamned country up.

4. "Drop Dead Legs"

I don't think people in 1984 knew how lucky they were to have the opportunity to listen to David Lee Roth sing about a nice pair of legs. Then again, did the clergy who watched as Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel realize how fortunate they were?

We're in the meat of 1984 now, and I hope you're not a vegan. This is USDA Prime and if you can't handle it then I suggest you put your weak-ass ears in a toilet and never stop flushing.

Does it hold up? Yes.

5. "Hot for Teacher"

I know that in today's America the P.C. Police would get their panties all in a bunch over a song about wanting to have rockin' consensual sex with your teacher. Good news is, "Hot For Teacher" didn't come out in today's America. Even better: It's timeless. It will always be. It's hope and love and beauty and all the other true things in the world.

Also, the scene in the video where Eddie and Little Eddie crank the guitar solo on the study hall desk is better than anything the French New Wave produced.

Does it Hold Up? Re-read the part about it being timeless. Actually, screw that, we got more 1984 to listen to.

Next page... Whooooo, zeeeee bop zeeee boop!

 

6. "I'll Wait"

"Are you for real, it's so hard to tell," sings David Lee Roth, "From just a magazine." This song is about falling in love with a picture of a woman in a magazine.

Or is it?

Yep, that's what it's about. The synth is really good in it, too.

Does it Hold Up? Print is dying so the message is kind of lost. Still, hard to argue with that Eddie solo towards the end. Might be the best solo on the album.

It holds up.

7. "Good Girl Gone Bad"

The story behind "Good Girl Gone Bad" is that Eddie Van Halen wrote and recorded a rough version of it in a hotel room while Valerie Bertinelli was sleeping. How deep of a sleeper is Valerie Bertinelli? She's pretty lucky; a lot of people would give anything to be able sleep that well.

Does it Hold Up? It holds up as well as Valerie Bertinelli -- it holds up very well. Speaking of which, get well soon Valerie!

8. "House of Pain"

"House of Pain" has this sweet hard rock groove and the whole song punches the clock and gets the job done. It's actually a throwback to early, mid-seventies Van Halen -- it was one of their first demos. The past begets the future, the future begets the past. In other words: They did it. They really did it. 1984 is the word's first functioning perpetual motion machine. Let's harness this sumbitch and drag race the sun.

Does it hold up? Yes. The whole damn album holds up.

Van Halen I gives it a run for its money, though. I mean, listen to it. Man alive, that's some good stuff.

UPDATE: Readers have pointed out the omission of "Top Jimmy." I take full responsibility for this grievous and unforgivable error. That song moves and leaving it out of this evaluation does a disservice to the entire online community. My apologies.

(It holds up, by the way).

[ngreene@villagevoice.com | @nickgreene]

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