on 1 October 2007
"Well, helloooooooooooooooo, baby!" Thus begins one of the most successful 1980s albums ever, and what an album it is. So began my own personal journey into Van Halen's studio catalogue. My first Van Halen album was Best of Vol 1, and my first studio album that followed was this puppy, 5150. So let's get down to the album itself.
When Van Halen released 5150 in 1986, its fan base waited with baited breath due to the band having a new singer, Sammy Hagar. While the Hagar/Roth debate has been [going back and forth from that day to this] raging ever since, the public made it quite clear that overall, a significant portion of Van Halen's fans were big fans of the direction the band was going in, making 5150 the band's first number one album in its career.
When Van Halen jettisoned lead singer David Lee Roth in 1985 (or he left to pursue a solo career, depending on whose story you're listening too), they were left in quite a predicament. Not only did Roth leave, he took most of the band's management and their only producer up to that point, Ted Templeton, with him, to do his own albm, "Eat `Em and Smile". On that album, Roth would strip away the keyboards Eddie so adamantly added to the band's sound and returned to his earlier sound. So would Van Halen call it quits? They were all set for life, and had a very successful run of six multiplatnum albums. Or would they look for a new singer?
Well, we all know the answer to that. They began auditioning for new singers, and at one time entertained the idea of having different temp singers front the band for an album to see who the public liked (think Rock Star:INXS twenty years before they did a TV show about it). Naturally, this idea didn't pan out, as [Eddie discovered Sammy Hagar at a mechanic shop as he was getting his lamborgini serviced, and they hit it off.] Eddie discovered Sammy Hagar, lead singer to Monstrose from the 1970s and several successful solo discs on his own. Sammy says the first time he ever met Eddie (at nine in the morning) Eddie was smashed out of his mind on alcohol. The band got together with Sammy, and soon wrote several new songs.
Naturally, the new singer brought a totally new sound to Van Halen. Where the Van Roth band focused more on the rock and roll element and party hearty image, Van Hagar's focused were more on ballads and love songs, with a healthy measure of rock in there as well. Still, 5150 has a much different feel to it than the previous six Roth LPs as far as the front man's personality, personae, and image were concerned. It is quite clear from the get go that Eddie wanted to move the band into new directions, and he largely did that with Hagar.
The ironic thing, in all this, naturally, is, out of the four Van Hagar albums and the six Van Roth albums, 1984, their last record with Roth, and 5150, their first record with Hagar, are the mostly closely related between the two different eras [of all their albums]. While obviously Hagar is no Roth (but by the same token Roth's no Hagar either), the actual songwriting on 5150 has its foundations and roots in 1984. After the fiasco of DIVER DOWN, Eddie wanted control over the band's musical future and ultimately founded his own studio 5150, which this record's name is drawn from. It is in 1984 Eddie began to implement, and vary successfully at that, keyboards into the band's sound, and broaden out the band's overall musical approach more into a pop-metal sound than a pop-rock and roll sound. 1984 set up a whole new playing field for the band, with a much more mainstream, pop-metal sheen than the first four Van Halen albums and even DIVER DOWN, which is little more than a deliberate attempt to cash in.
5150 is a natural extension of the band's new sound that was largely established largely in 1984. Several of Van Hagar's best songs are right here on the first disc.
"Why Can't This Be Love" and "Dreams" were huge hits, and deservedly so. Both are among Van Hagar's best material, and "Dreams" is not only one of the band's best power ballads, but also one of the best ballads of the 1980s. "Best of Both Worlds" is one of Van Halen's most highly regarded songs. Great rock and roll, even given the fact they say you don't need to get born again to go to heaven (rather troubling line for the religiously inclined).
"Summer Nights" is one of those songs no person growing up in a small town and hanging out in parking lots at night can't help but look at fondly. That song always brings back a lot of memories for me, and I can relate to it very well.
"Get Up" is a great "get off your ass and make your life work" song. "Good Enough," the opening song to the disc with its very memorably opening line (probably VH's most memorable intro), is a adrenaline pumping, hard-rock celebration of sexual attraction at its most physical and basest of all levels. In other words - pure lust all the way baby.
"5150", Van Halen's second title cut to one of their albums, is actually one of the more minor songs on the record as far as popularity goes. Still, a good song. "Inside" is easily the strangest song on the album, and indeed one of the strangest in their entire catalogue. One of my favs, though I can see why people wouldn't like it.
That leaves us with one song left. "Love Walks In". A lyrical tour-de-force, this is easily the best song Van Halen ever wrote, at least lyrically. Sammy Hagar states it's about when aliens came down and visited him (no, I'm not making this up - he talked about it on Howard Stern and in a Guitar World interview). While the song definitely makes a lot of sense from the standpoint of a person remembering an alien encounter (and this is before Whitely Strieber's "Communion" came out), the beauty of this song is it doesn't have to be about aliens, but can have any number of meaning. For me, this is probably my favorite Van Halen song.
While both EAT `EM AND SMILE and 5150 are great competing albums, I have to give the edge to 5150. It's the tightest, single best album of the four that the band made with Hagar.
on 5 March 2015
but I should of bought this album when I was in my teens. I distinctly remember holding it in my hands when I was 16 and thinking ..nah! at that time I was more into Rush than anything else and a bit of Def Leppard, ZZ Top, AC/DC, Motley Crue, Ratt and Quiet Riot. Id heard Van Halen I and II at that time and had a 7 inch vinyl of Jump from "1984", but in my progressive, Sheffield, Texan, Australian, L.A, spandexed heart I couldn't feel the VH vibe. Now that Im 45 I completely feel the vibe. my mum thinks my recently found love for VH is symptomatic of a mid-life crisis. shes wrong, its symptomatic of a mid-life REVELATION! What a great band. 10/10.
on 31 January 2012
I must admit upfront, I was never a huge original Van Halen fan. I appreciated the guitar wizardry as a technical achievement, but DLR is a limited singer at best and the nudge nudge wink grew a little old with me. Yes, absolutely an Adonis and archetypal front man in Dave, but for all it was lauded, quite rightly taken in context, there is only so far you can go down that road. 1984, was probably the high water mark even if trouble hadn't been brewing between the band.
For proof of that theory, DLR lasted about two albums of, let's face it Van Halen, sans the Van Halen brothers, before the public got bored with the joke and his career died.
So enter Sammy Hagar, and of him I was and am a fan. Great singer and a charismatic front man... less showbiz, more content on all fronts. So, 5150 mirrors that change. The best album by VH, with or without Sammy. Great songs and musicianship allowed to run free with a bona fide singer and musician. Eddie and co never sounded more musical and free.
Sure not the jokey VH that so many love, but we have those albums, so no reason to hate this one on principle.
Try it, absorb it for what it is, an evolved band with a different sound -much like Rush every 4 or 5 albums... Trust me, freed from prejudice, you won't find a better album from any of these guys...
on 30 November 2000
This, the first of Van Halen's albums with Sammy Hagar, was the continuation of Edward Van Halen taking more control of the band's music.
5150 is a showpeice for the kind of guitar prowess for which Van Halen are justly famed. Unlike a lot of 'can you play the guitar as fast as me?' metal bands at the time, Van Halen's songs cling to the memory, never allowing Eddie's mastery of the instrument to get in the way of songwriting.
To the end of the David Lee Roth era, the band had started to use keyboards to bring a more pop edged feel to the music and this is continued with songs like 'Why can't this be love' and 'Dreams'.
Sammy Hagar fits well into the lineup and while not having the same level of showmanship as his predicessor, more than manages to hold his own. Hagar provides a voice fitting with the sheer energy of Van Halen but also allowing for softer melodies and he gets a chance to show this with 'Love Walks In'. His lyrics match neither the attitude of Roth or the insightfulness of Hagar's successor, Gary Cherone, but nevertheless are appropriate to the songs and are occasionally witty, especially if you are familiar with the circumstances in which he joined the band.
While not being Van Halen's best album it is one of their best with Sammy Hagar and a worthwhile addition to any rock fan's collection.
on 20 March 2008
This album is by any accounts a godd album with great summer driving anthems and ballards - which is one of the mains things you should be buying a van halen album for. However it is hard not to start comparing it to VH's earlier albums which were groundbreaking classics which will always come up high in lists of greatest albums. 5150 sounds like a different band and so as long as you are not expecting another VH1 or 1984 you will be very satisfied with this album. For some reason I still feel it neccessary to just state that SammyH can't come close to DLR (although I doubt that critics and fans will ever resolve that one!) and for that reason alone if you haven't got any other VH album then don't start with this - buy VH1 or 1984 for god's sake and you won't look back - if you have got them (both of them!) then buy this next!!
5150 contains 3 massive hits - dreams, why can't.. and love walks in, which are probably worth getting the album for alone, some of the other more rock/metal based cuts fall slightly below par (inside, good enough, get up)- and this is not just the fault of the singer, they just aren't memorable enough and so are consigned to background party music really.
Howver the pounding shout along 5150, the aforementioned hits, best of both worlds and summer nights are all potential classics.
on 6 February 2012
I'm a long term VH fan and don't care for the two camps people have pitched up for the band (VH III didn't happen!). To be clear about things.
Having had a Van Halen binge the last week, I find myself coming back to 5150 time and again. I think it is the best album they ever made. Comparing the vocals of Hagar and Roth is totally moot, but the comparison to make between the two of them is their contribution to the song writing.
Hagar lit a fire under the song writing. When it is clear with objective listening Roth barely even bothered striking a match for much of his time with the band. 5150 screams into the room, massive thundering drums, steam train bass, Eddie going bonkers and huge screaming vocals. The album and the songs sound so much more exciting that anything Roth could ever really deliver. And I love Roth VH.
As a front man he was untouchable, but it was very one dimensional and meant the songs relied heavily on EVH to bring the flare to them and dazzle the listener. Which turned them into a one trick pony eventually. 1984 was as much as Roth was ever going to manage. Hagar, 5150 specifically, turned them into a band and song writers again and they made a massive leap forward with this album.
A high water mark from which they thankfully took a long time to recede.