"I live my life like there's no tomorrow" are the first words you hear, not counting a "Yeah, yeah...aww yeaaahhhhh!"
And you're off, running with the devil.
Look at like this: one of the best selling albums of all time. Maybe the best cock-rock album of all time. The blueprint for catsuits and high-kicks. An album that's completely ridiculous, and in 2009, hilariously uncool.
This is Van Halen.
Van Halen's music is a rare, random beast of a thing. Not because of its constituent parts--as talented as Eddie Van Halen is at what we musician-despising music-loving types call "guitar riffs", they're still just solos on the electric guitar, which means that you can find a metric ton of them by listening to just about any guitar player who likes Eddie Van Halen (despite not being able to pull off about a tenth of what he could do, "finger-tapping" or no), and as overwhelmingly magnetic and asshole-y as David Lee Roth is, he's merely the living embodiment of what every other wanna-be frontman has fantasized about becoming. Their lyrics aren't particularly earth-shattering either, designed to provide little more than a forum for David Lee Roth to allude or directly address things he likes to do--have sex, go places quickly, be awesome, scream "Yeah". Their music has no tolerance for subtletly, and rightly so--subtlety isn't what people drink beer too, and thank god for it. It's that complete lack of subtlety, married to an inspiring complete lack of pretension, that makes Van Halen's debut album such a firestorm. It also helps that Van Halen's debut album consists of some of the purest rock music ever created.
Van Halen, as if you can't tell, had pretty much honed their signature sound on the California bar scene before they released the album that would rocket then to stardom. It's not hard to hear that background--every track, even the slow-starting "Ice Cream Man", sounds like it was designed to attract the maximum amount of attention possible to the random passer-by. Try it out, if you'd like--there isn't a track here that doesn't begin with a sort of "hey, fucking come inside, there's girls and beer and shit" opening. Whereas other rock bands toyed with notions of greatness by way of things like "theme" or "intent", Van Halen's objectives were crystallized from the opening track: they wanted to rock the fuck out, they wanted the guys to worship them as they did it, and they wanted to shove their tongues into the mouths of the ladies after--in some cases, during--the show. It wasn't a model they invented, but in 1978, it wasn't a model that anyone else was doing half as well. The mix was a simple, solid one: heavy guitar riffs, Eddie's signature finger-tapping solos, reliably aggressive drums and bass playing, and, for the win, a frontman who embodied the idealogical fantasy of any boy who had ever leaped around their bedroom in hopes of a future where a hand besides his own brought him to orgasm. What made the band so successful at what they did was the blatancy of the enterprise, the obviousness that their goal was to strip bare the flesh surrounding a pumping, adolescent vein: this was the core of rock itself, that's what they offered. It was being up late, being loud, being obnoxious, lighters and punching. Disco might be fun, but what could disco offer the men and women who couldn't dance? What did punk have to say to the kids who liked their parents? A lot, as it turned out. Van Halen issued forth a rock untethered to Led Zeppelin's fantasy iconography, a simplicity of identification escaping the more artistic inclusion of Queen's "sing along with us" behavior, and, nearing the dawn of the visual component of music's video age, they offered forth a singer far less repellent than the Ramones had to offer.
It's not that fun to look at the Van Halen of the post-Roth era--a band that has spiraled into a nostalgia-fueled oblivion of success and increased body mass, a bloated enterprise of greatest hits compilations to match the bloated bodies of its still-trying protagonists. Their ability to find financial success in tired parody is one that stands as a sort of model of what so many other bands shouldn't do when the muse leaves them, unless financial security is their only concern. But if you can look past the garish stupidity of their continued existence, if you can ignore that the core of their charms is one resting completely in the camp of an adolescent mentality, if you can block out every memory of the despicably stupid bands that followed in the wake, you'll end up with the music alone. Thirty-six minutes of it, and the message it screams is a valid one.
"I have a dick", it says. "I would be interested in you touching it."