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Van Halen: History of the Hard Rock Band

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Formed in 1972 in Pasadena, California, Van Halen quickly found success in the underground scene thanks to the skills and personalities of their members. While they did sell many records, they also were kept in the spotlight by their wild live gigs, alcohol and substance problems and issues with their lead singers. Despite a brief hiatus at the turn of the century, Van Halen continue to make music and released a brand new album in 2012, 14 years since their last record. In this video, we take a look at the history of Van Halen.

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Hard rock group Van Halen was founded in Pasadena, California in 1972 by the Dutch Van Halen brothers. Guitarist Eddie and drummer Alex recruited vocalist David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony to play with them at local clubs, and in 1974 they officially became Van Halen.


Their growing local popularity encouraged Gene Simmons of KISS to help them record a demo and by 1977 they caught the attention of Warner Brothers Records. The next year, Van Halen released their self-titled debut. That hard rock and heavy metal effort became a commercial success thanks to Eddie Van Halen’s guitar skills and Roth’s outgoing personality.

Second Album

The group’s sophomore LP Van Halen II dropped in 1979. That commercially successful effort yielded their first top twenty hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

Touring and Contract Riders

They supported that record with their first of many global headlining tours. For their concerts, Van Halen established the contract rider to ensure the technical requirements of their concerts were met by local promoters. The band infamously listed a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown ones removed on their riders, as a way of ensuring their conditions had been met.

Tensions and Music

Following comparable success on the 1980 album Women and Children First, Van Halen experienced a dip in sales with the next year’s Fair Warning record. Group members also began to disagree on the band’s musical direction and were dealing with Eddie Van Halen’s drug and alcohol issues. However, things improved in 1982: the album Diver Down got the band back into the Billboard Hot 100 top 20 with a Roy Orbison cover.


However, Van Halen really hit it big with 1984. That album went to number two, and contained more prominent use of keyboards. It generated the Grammy-nominated track “Jump,” which also topped the Billboard chart.

David Lee Roth Replaced by Sammy Hagar

Unfortunately, tensions were at an all-time high. Members began concentrating on outside projects and Roth was eventually replaced by Sammy Hagar. His first album with Van Halen was 5150. Though it received mixed reviews, the 1986 record topped the Billboard 200 and proved Van Halen could be successful without Roth.

Number One Albums

Van Halen topped the charts with their next three albums: OU812 produced the top five single “When It’s Love,” For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge won a Grammy and Balance quickly went double-platinum. Nevertheless, conflict arose following Van Halen’s contribution to the “Twister” movie soundtrack, and this led to Hagar’s departure in 1996.

Gary Cherone

The remaining members then reunited with Roth to record two new songs for Best Of Volume 1. However, he was soon replaced by Gary Cherone, whose first and only album with the group was Van Halen III. The more experimental CD reached the top five on Billboard, despite mixed reviews and sluggish sales. Cherone left the band in 1999.


Van Halen was quiet for the next few years. Some members attended to health issues, while others pursued solo projects and interests outside music. Things took a surprising turn when Roth and Hagar toured together in 2002.

Greatest Hits

Finally, in 2004, a greatest hits compilation entitled The Best of Both Worlds came out. It featured new songs with Hagar and reached the top five on the Billboard 200. Despite a massively successful tour, problems emerged once more. Hagar left again and toured with Anthony sporadically.


Van Halen’s remaining members eventually reunited with Roth and embarked on the Fall 2007 tour. Eddie Van Halen’s son Wolfgang replaced Anthony on bass during the sold-out dates, which lasted until mid-2008.

“A Different Kind of Truth”

To celebrate the band’s fortieth anniversary, Van Halen released A Different Kind of Truth in 2012. The album featured Eddie, Alex and Wolfgang Van Halen, fronted by David Lee Roth, and was their first record of entirely new work since 1998’s Van Halen III. It was supported by a world tour that began that same year.


Van Halen has sold over seventy-five million albums around the world. Thanks to their musical skills, unmatched live presence and mix of hard rock and heavy metal, Van Halen has eternally influenced the landscape of rock and roll.

Where have all the good times gone? Looks like they’re back again.

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