Five Most Underrated Van Halen Songs with David Lee Roth

With David Lee Roth on vocals, the original Van Halen produced six phenomenal albums from 1978-1984. Among the tracks from those records (especially Fair Warning) are many, many underrated songs that wouldn’t be considered “hits”, yet they are still amazing and sound fantastic today. So with no further adieu, here are the five most underrated Van Halen songs from their time with David Lee Roth:

D.O.A. (from Van Halen II)

The fifth track from 1979’s Van Halen II record, “D.O.A.” was on the demo Van Halen pitched to Warner Bros., but never made it onto the first album. The song has a kind of punk feel to the riff but with Eddie Van Halen’s rhythm ability, he gives it a fantastic groove with Michael Anthony and Alex Van Halen in the pocket on bass and drums. Anthony brings his usual amazing harmony to the chorus.

Light Up the Sky (from Van Halen II)

Another track from Van Halen’s sophomore effort, “Light Up the Sky” is just an amazing song that was finished in the studio after Eddie came up with the main riff right after the band had recorded their debut album. And what a riff it is. It’s a testament to Eddie’s chops as a rhythm guitarist, not just his soloing ability. When they played their new songs for producer Ted Templeman to see what would make it onto the album, he really loved “Light Up the Sky”. It’s only a three-minute track, but there’s plenty going on with harmonies and a funky drum breakdown. “Light ’em Up!”.

Dirty Movies (from Fair Warning)

A bawdy tale of prom queen turned porn star, “Dirty Movies” is a gem off 1981’s Fair Warning. The intro is wicked and sets the tone for the rest of the song as Alex Van Halen lays down a cool drum beat, Eddie chirps in some harmonics, some noodling, then it all kicks in with some virtuoso slide playing. Interestingly on his hand-written lyrics, Lee Roth changes the lyric from “go see Genie now” (perhaps alluding to the gal’s name) to “go see baby now”. The chorus is a perfect Van Halen effort, and Roth’s chants of “take it off, take it all off” are perfect. Eddie’s slide soloing during the last chorus is a particular highlight of this amazingly underrated track. It’s a song that wasn’t played live until 2015.

Sinner’s Swing (from Fair Warning)

Once you hear that opening guitar riff on “Sinner’s Swing”, you know you’re in for a ride. It’s a hard rock anthem with some serious guitar crunch and a spectacular chorus. According to Eddie Van Halen, it was “spontaneous, first take”. You can hear the solo was a first take as Eddie gets a tad sloppy near the end, but that makes it all the more better. The working title was “Get Out and Push” and it was a live staple on the Fair Warning tour in 1981.

Girl Gone Bad (from 1984)

Don’t count out the second last song from 1984. That amazing riff came to Eddie Van Halen one night in a hotel room he and then-wife Valerie Bertinelli were in. Eddie woke up with the idea in the middle of the night and had to put it on tape. So he ended up recording it in the closet so as not to wake his wife up. The guitar on “Girl Gone Bad” is drivingly frantic – classic Van Halen. If it’s a been a while since you listened to it, do yourself a favour and crank it up again.

Check out more of Cam Maxwell’s Rock ‘N Roll Insight.

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