Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Hump Day Song 1-4-06


A brief note…

Every Wednesday for the past year and a half, I’ve sent my buddy, Steve, a song of the week. It began on a whim, then became something altogether different once the 2004 election approached. Me being all “intellectual”, I tried to find something thematic that tied into the news of the day. As the past year stretched along, I kept sending the songs, which often lead to the two us conversing on everything from politics to our days growing up in Cleveland.

I checked with Steve and he was kind enough to allow me to reproduce our emails on this blog. So, without further ado, here is the first “Hump Day Song” for 2006… (and if I ever figure out how to post the song on the blog, I will do so… at least for a couple of days).—S


-----Original Message-----
From: Scott Malchus
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2006
To: Steve
Subject: New Year hump day

Steve,

After our discussion about the artistic merits of Van Halen's "Jump" and "Right Now", I nearly sent you both songs just to be funny. However, better judgment prevailed and I decided on something worthy of our VH adoration.

Here is an entry from allmusic.com about today's selection:

“Although Van Halen were enjoying an enormous amount of commercial success by 1981, not all was happy in the VH camp. While the public believed that the euphoric, party-hearty antics of their live show spilled into their personal lives, this proved not to be case. Eddie Van Halen was feeling frustrated due to the group's unwillingness to branch out musically as much as he desired, resulting in the group's darkest album, Fair Warning. Unlike Van Halen's other David Lee Roth -era albums, not a single party anthem was included -- in its place was an unmistakable feeling of strife and friction, both lyrically and musically. The album opener, "Mean Street," contains a furious guitar intro by Eddie before leading into one of VH's funkiest grooves.”

In my opinion, “Mean Street” is one of VH’s best songs. Period. It’s exclusion from either of the “Best of” cd’s is a heinous oversight by the record execs and the VH camp. After Fair Warning, I think the writing was on the wall for the band. Diver Down, is a pure party album that barely clocks in at 30 minutes (and it’s half cover songs). And 1984 contained the keyboard driven sound that Ed wanted (and embraced once Roth was out of the picture).

Now, my favorite moment in this kick ass song comes right before the guitar solo when Ed goes all “wah wah” with his axe. Roth calls out, “Dance baby!” and I can only laugh at him lightening the mood, referring to the guitar riff as some kind of disco funk groove. I also think it should be noted that the lyrics to this song are, perhaps, Roth’s most mature (ever). The mood and theme of “Mean Streets” make it a song that would feel right at home next to something more “substantial”, say, Springsteen's “Murder Incorporated”.

Stand up and kick the computer screen over, Steve. It’s time to ROCK!

S

PS- Okay, don’t really kick over the screen. I don’t want you to get fired.

From: Steve
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2006
To: Scott Malchus

This is, by light years, the most intelligent analysis of a VH song I've ever encountered. I always placed this album well down my VH list, precisely because it had some semblance of complexity -- not that I knew what that meant at the time. Plainly not what I was looking for when I reached for VH. I mean, if you want complexity in 1985, you can just reach for Georgia Satellites. In retrospect, of course, you're absolutely right. But if Diver Down is lame (and it is), and 1984 isn't full-throttle Roth, this is a band of decidedly limited achievement. What distinguishes them from Motley Crue, again? Poison?

By the way, I got your email reminder about the marathon. Marianne and I have discussed our need to sit down and write this check on half-a-dozen occasions, and neither of us has executed. I'm traveling on business starting first thing tomorrow, but I'll make sure this gets down within the week. I'm truly sorry.

Steve

From: Scott Malchus
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2006
To: Steve

No apology necessary. I understand what having a family, job and the holidays can do to you. And it’s not like you haven’t given very generously in the past. No sweat. Whatever you can give. Thank you!

As for VH.. I believe what rose them above the mainstream rock bands of the late 70’s (Journey, REO, Styx, etc) and the hair bands of the 80’s was Ed. Back then, he was the greatest living guitarist. Even if you didn’t like their music, you had to respect Ed. Sadly, he’s diminished over the years. I don’t know if we should be spending this much time on VH. I mean, their lead singer ran around in leather chaps with fringes.

From: Steve
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2006
To: Scott Malchus

"I don’t know if we should be spending this much time on VH. I mean, their lead singer ran around in leather chaps with fringes."

PRECISELY the reason to discuss VH. Don't you think he took the Mick Jagger-syle persona to new heights? Perhaps unmatched? And married it to real athleticism with those leaps? I think Diamond Dave gets short shrift -- even if he's a complete idiot meat head.

I think there's an argument that Ed has diminished because his signature was playing fast -- hard to keep that up in your 40s and 50s, unless your name is Oscar Peterson.

From: Scott Malchus
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2006
To: Steve

Well, Ed’s talent has diminished because he likes the bottle. And unlike the aged guitar legends who found ways to make their instruments wail with pain and anguish, Ed continues to try and play fast. As for DLR, he was a real showman, taking the reins from Freddie Mercury. I guess you’re right; this type of discussion is worthy of a band like Van Halen. We should submit our comments to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I believe that VH and several other mainstream rockers deserve entry to the museum.

I would also add Buddy Rich to that short list of musicians able to maintain their stature (and velocity) well into their senior citizenry.

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