Van Halen – 1984: #511 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Van Halen - 1984

So why is Van Halen’s 1984 on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

There are very few albums I can think of where a band is obviously having as much fun rocking out as on Van Halen’s 1984. In terms of the whole David Lee Roth versus Sammy Hagar debate, I was always easily a Roth guy. But upon further reflection, it turns out I’m a 1984 guy* as far as Van Halen goes.

* Related: 1984 is the sole Van Halen album that will appear on the best 1,000 albums ever project. Some of their other stuff is good – and some of Diamond Dave’s solo work is fun – but 1984 is the album that most piques my interest to this day.

Watching David Lee Roth perform in “Jump,” he’s doing a very 1980s update on Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler, but with a super energetic and athletic charisma all his own. But really the thing about “Jump” is the arena-filling sound of that striking synthesizer keyboard riff and Eddie Van Halen’s spectacular guitar solo*.

* Side note that Eddie’s guitar in the “Jump” video is one of the coolest-looking ones I’ve ever seen. Bonus: he uses the same one in the “Panama” video!

You could argue that the music video for “Hot for Teacher” is as important as the song. To be sure, both are pretty amazing (even if a little, shall we say, salacious). This was the era when MTV was in its early prime, and this funny, catchy, and sexy song and video* with an absolutely sizzling guitar solo thanks to EVH makes it hold up remarkably well.

* Twisted Sister was all over this “beat” in 1984 as well, with their two best songs – “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” – featuring highly memorable and funny music videos.

“Panama” proves that Van Halen can absolutely rule in straight ahead hair metal-ish hard rock mode, and for my money David Lee Roth is the ideal messenger of this particular brand of gospel.

Pop culture stuff that’s somehow related to Van Halen’s 1984

Full disclosure: I didn’t bother to research whether or not Van Halen naming their album 1984 had anything to do with George Orwell’s classic, chilly dystopian science fiction novel (Nineteen Eighty-Four) or if it was more to do with the fact that the album came out in, you know, the year 1984.

I’m going with my gut instinct that it’s the latter.

Anyway, the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of those books where the ideas within it are stronger than the actual story and writing, if memory serves. It’s well worth your time though as a prescient and somewhat disturbing spin on what can happen when the fascists take over.

Personal stuff that’s somehow related to Van Halen’s 1984

Van Halen has long had a penchant for titling albums with numbers that relate to a year (1984), a code (5150), or that involve fun little puzzles that show how clever and/or naughty the band can be (OU812, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge).

I bring this up because I have an oddly specific memory of being in perhaps the sixth or seventh grade, and I’m sitting next to this kid in class. This kid is both athletic and in the cool kids’ crowd, both of which equate to his being in a vastly superior social caste than my own. And I recall watching him draw 5150 on what might have been his Trapper Keeper or other such popular school paraphernalia of the era.

I didn’t know what 5150 meant, but I was able to puzzle out that the VH logo he drew next to it stood for Van Halen. While I was already well familiar with the band thanks to 1984 singles getting heavy airplay on MTV and the radio, I had a mini-epiphany at that moment that equated to, “Ohhh, the cool kids are into Van Halen, I see.”

Some stats & info about Van Halen – 1984

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, SoCal Bands, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Arena Rock, Album Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating – 5 out of 5 stars
  • When was 1984 released? 1984 (go figure!)
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #511 out of 1,000

Van Halen’s 1984 on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from Van Halen’s 1984 that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

Ah, can’t you see me standing here? I got my back against the record machine. I ain’t the worst that you’ve seen, ah can’t you see what I mean?

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.