The Cheese Fry has again embraced his inner 20-year-old with the acquisition of Guitar Hero 5. But better than that is the bonus included with that purchase: an advance copy of the upcoming Guitar Hero Van Halen.
Van Halen contributed important songs to our middle-school and high-school soundtrack. And because we were getting into music (1984 was one of the first three cassette tapes we bought at the Bachman Lake branch of the dearly departed Sound Warehouse chain - the other two: The Police's Synchronicity and Huey Lewis and the News' Sports) right as the band transitioned from David Lee Roth to Sammy Hagar, the Cheese Fry is unafraid to embrace the "Van Hagar" era.
Anticipating Guitar Hero Van Halen made us reminisce through the Van Halen catalog and do what we do best: make a list.
The best Van Halen songs are as follows:
1. "Hot for Teacher" (from 1984) - The intro's machine gun-drums and scorching guitar arpeggio would probably be enough for the top seed, but then you add in the lyric's taboo subject matter and overall raw vibe of good times gone very very good. When you're a seventh grader seeing the video on MTV for the first time, there's no doubt that this is most bad-ass song ever made.
2. "Panama" (1984) - The lyrics make no sense, but this is rock (would you call Van Halen heavy metal? we think not, but let's call it a photo-finish) at its most bare bones: crashing drums, grinding guitars, guttural vocals packed with double entendres. The prototypical Roth-era Van Halen song.
3. "Finish What Ya Started" (OU812) - A funky, twangy, jangling song in some kind of exotic time signature and with lots of sharp, clean vocal harmonies. It defies easy description. Which makes it very, very memorable.
4. "Dance the Night Away" (Van Halen II) - The kind of upbeat pop you'd expect from the Hagar years, but here it is on the band's second album. Probably the band's most catchy chorus, again with those backing chorus melodies. Take a chance, you're old enough to dance... the night away.
5. "Why Can't This Be Love" (5150) - Significant because it was the first single off the band's 5150 album, its first with Hagar replacing Roth. Because the song didn't suck, fans could more or less relax, or last least begin in earnest the debate as to which incarnation was better - the hard-rocking Roth band or more pop-radio friendly Hagar band. (Lest anyone forget, though, the band is called Van Halen. It was always Eddie's band and nothing happened without his okay.) And now music history class is over.
6. "Love Walks In" (5150) - Another synthesizer-meets-electric guitar top-40 groove that David Lee Roth would have hated. A freshman year favorite of ours, thanks perhaps to how its sentimental, optimistic vibe so perfectly meshed with the young Cheese Fry's homornal longings and ineffectual social skills. Love comes walking in and all of that stuff.
7. "Runnin' with the Devil" (Van Halen) - The first song off their first album, definitively setting the stage what with all the Roth howls and slow-and-steady grinding Eddie guitar riffs. When you're 12, it's the epitome of edgy rebellion to listen to a song with the word "devil" in it.
8. "Summer Nights" (5150) - We didn't think we liked the 5150 album all that much, but here's a third song. Go figure. More fuzzy guitars, more sing-song melodies, this one a blue-collar celebration of doing nothing in the summertime.
9. "Cabo Wabo" (OU812) - A sun-soaked ode to Mexican fun, this is the perfect embodiment of Hagar's laid-back, what-me-worry outlook. If Jimmy Buffet wrote songs for Van Halen, this is what it would sound like.
10. "Beautiful Girls" (Van Halen II) - Here I am, ain't no man of the world. All I need is a beautiful girl. Amen.
You'll note "Jump" appears nowhere on this list. That's because it's overplayed and, frankly, completely overrated.