When you list the greatest debut album of all-time, Van Halen 1 has to be included in the conversation. The California hard rock band is one of only five rock bands to ever have two albums sell over 10 million copies each. Who else is on on that list? The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Def Leppard, and Led Zeppelin each went 10x Platinum twice. The Van Halen story is really a multi-act play with different scenes. Today we’re highlighting Act 1: The David Lee Roth Era. How would you rank the first Van Halen albums?
If you list them by albums strictly by sales worldwide:
1. Van Halen 17 million
2. 1984 17 million
3. Van Halen II 8 million
4. Women And Children First 6 million
5. Diver Down 5 million
6. Fair Warning 3 million
Here’s my ranking in reverse order:
6. DIVER DOWN (1982) Five cover songs? Who doesn’t love “Oh Pretty Woman” and “Where Have All The Good Times Go” but there is a little lack of originality here. Four of the tracks clock under 2 minutes each including “Happy Trails” at 1:03 and “Little Guitars Intro” at 0:42. There’s just not enough meat on the bone compared to the other albums.
5. FAIR WARNING (1981) It’s definitely the darkest album of the six Roth albums and by far the least popular by most fan’s estimation. The biggest single “Unchained” never charted but it’s all sex, attitude, and a concert favorite. “Push Comes To Shove” is a Roth showcase of his charisma. “Mean Streets” is aggressive and in your face.
4. VAN HALEN II (1979) The top four albums are a HUGE upgrade from #5 and #6 on the list. You’ve got a little bit of everything we love about Van Halen on their second album. Ultimate party track “Dance The Night Away”, a killer Eddie Van Halen solo “Spanish Fly”, a sexual romp “Beautiful Girls”, and a cover of fellow Californian Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good”. But a few of the tracks like “Outta Love Again” simply don’t live up to the perfection of their other albums on the list.
3. 1984 (1984) I know! Many of you would probably rank this one at worst #2 and it is an unbelievable record that showed some career growth. “Jump” and “Panama” pushed Van Halen into the MTV stratosphere. Add in “Hot For Teacher” and “I’ll Wait” and you have four legitimate singles here. It’s only about 32 minutes long and bookend of the keyboard introduction and the conclusion of “Girl Gone Bad” and “House Of Pain” just take a couple points off the album’s final grade.
2. WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST (1980) The band took things up a notch with their third album. “And The Cradle Will Rock” is probably their greatest opening track on any Van Halen album. The sexual innuendos and stockings line in “Everybody Wants Some” is classic. But what pushes the album to the next level is the trio of songs at the end. “Take Your Whiskey Home”, “Could This Be Magic”, and “In A Simple Rhyme” incorporated acoustic guitar, memorable Eddie riffs, and a magical chemistry that isn’t there on their other Roth albums. It’s a phenomenal album start to finish.
1. VAN HALEN (1977) This isn’t only the best Van Halen album of the David Lee Roth Era, it’s one of the Top 10 albums of any genre ever. “Ain’t Talking About Love” (my favorite VH cut ever), “You Really Got Me”, and “Running With The Devil” are three of the most played Classic Rock songs of all-time for a good reason. Eddie’s greatest solo on record, “Eruption”. You’re a fan of Roth’s cheesiness, “Ice Cream Man” is utter perfection. “Jamie’s Crying” ignited the hip hop era with Tone Loc’s sample on “Wild Thing”. “Feel Your Love Tonight”, “Atomic Punk”, and “Little Dreamer” stand up to any album cuts on any other Van Halen release. It’s a 10 out of 10 any way you slice it.