David Lee Roth is the original video vixen. Long blonde hair, seductive, pouty expressions to the camera. Shaking his sweet, sweet ass, crawling around the stage on all fours, rubbing that mike stand against himself like the filthy tramp he is. He made quite an impression on me when I was 11.
But Eddie Van Halen was the man for me. Oh yes, he was a hot piece! Dark hair, an awesome pair of patchwork jeans and a yellow zebra print jacket—oh, and he just happened to play killer red- and white-striped guitar, not only for Van Halen but for Michael Jackson on my favorite album of all time! I was pretty excited for him that 1984 was second on the charts to Thriller.
So I played 1984 quite a bit on my cassette tape back in the day. And since it was the 80s, videos were just as important as the music, and I fucking loved Van Halen’s videos! “Jump” came out when I was in 5th grade and had only been interested in contemporary music for about a year; Michael Jackson was the one who showed me that there was music beyond the 50s and 60s records I had always played on my little mock denim-covered record player.
Of course, nobody was ever going to make videos better than MJ. But Van Halen did make some great ones, as did Duran Duran. And those videos sold me on the 1980s rock and roll lifestyle.
The “Jump” video is pretty simple and very 80s, but I thought it was cool as fuck. David Lee Roth is kind of ridiculous, but you sort of need to be to be a master showman as he is. That motherfucker was tailor-made for 1980s videos! As do many front men, he took a lot of his swagger from Mick Jagger, but he added some stripper moves and metal touches to create his own thing.
David did some costume changes in the video, each outfit more confusing to me than the previous one. A lot of chicks dig rock stars like that, but I was never one of them. I was never into hair bands. I can appreciate the showmanship, of course, but I much preferred dudes like Eddie who let their personalities shine through their music. And I was never into guys who used that much hair spray.
I always thought Eddie looked really cute and kind of clueless in that video, like he had no idea what was happening but still he was having a great time. And yeah, he looked sexy as fuck shirtless in that yellow jacket. Mmm mmm mmm!
The “Panama” video was filmed at a real concert and interspersed with random shit like David riding his motorcycle down an LA street looking like a typical 80s rock star badass; David supposedly getting arrested backstage while wearing nothing but a bath towel and some low-rise white cowboy boots; and a quick ode to early rap fashion with David emerging onto screen by sliding in from a firehouse pole wearing a sparkly robe and a very hairy chest (I am a sucker for hairy chests, so I find him sexy when he’s shirtless!). The boys are flown across the stage on a wire for some reason, I guess just because that was something cool to do in 1984. And yeah, it was super cool to 11-year-old me watching it on MTV in my parents’ living room!
And what was even cooler to 11-year-old me was the filthy lyrics. David has given different stories about what the song is about, but it seems like on the surface it’s about a car which lends itself quite easily to double entendre. I only heard the dirty parts when I was a kid. The video didn’t have any slutty girls in it, and it only had one car. Between Van Halen’s dirty songs, pretty much everything Prince was doing at the time, and my love of Three’s Company and Richard Pryor’s filthy routines, it’s a wonder I wasn’t a preteen skank! And that’s not for lack of trying, trust me.
Between my legs
And…ease the seat back
And then there’s the best video Van Halen ever made. “Hot for Teacher” has always been one of my favorite songs and is definitely in my top 10 favorite videos. There wasn’t anything like it at the time.
Poor Waldo. He’s a nerd with an overbearing mother, and his day starts when David Lee Roth pulls up to his house driving a school bus filled with crazy kids. He is filled with dread for what the day will bring.
What my sister and I loved most about this video is the mini-me Van Halens. I was one of the millions of Madonna wannabes back then, so I was all about emulating my music idols. Seeing a video filled with kids dressed not only like Van Halen but as punk rockers, geeks, and gang members was super cool. This is the kind of video that made me want to be in it.
And I doubt that it could never be made today. As trashy as most videos are in 2014, they don’t usually have women in bikinis parading around and stripper-dancing for a classroom full of elementary school children. I don’t remember if there was any controversy about it back then, but I look at it now and wonder what the parents of the kids in the video thought when they brought their kids to the set! I’m sure the dads were more than all right with it. And I bet those boys had at least a week’s worth of special dreams after that! I also wonder what was going through the heads of the “teachers” as they shook their tits and asses for a bunch of little kids. I’m sure they were just there to get paid and laid by the band, or at least by the film crew. I never heard about any Mary Kay Letourneau situations coming from that video, so I guess it was all good.
I also love the Temptations-style dancing the band attempts. They don’t quite get it, but it’s really funny to watch them try. I still do the hand choreography whenever I hear the song.
I don’t feel tardy
Watching my man Eddie do that extraordinary guitar solo as he walks across the tables in the library was another highlight for me. He’s the first one to make me appreciate that kind of shredding. I didn’t really know too much Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page yet, so Eddie really introduced me to how fucking cool the guitar could be. And he looked super hot doing it!
And the way they do the Animal House-like where-are-they-now segment at the end is pretty awesome. Everything about this fucking video is awesome. I can’t get enough of it!
“Top Jimmy” and “Drop Dead Legs” are songs I dig more 30 years later. Not sure why. They’re my two favorite songs other than the three I’ve already mentioned. They’re more classic Van Halen, and by that I mean there’s no synth like there is on “1984” and “Jump.” Some people hated that they added synthesizers to their sound, but apparently Eddie wanted to do something different. He had felt a bit stifled on previous records, and he really wanted to show them what a Van Halen record should sound like.
When I first played “Jump” for the band, nobody wanted to have anything to do with it. Dave said that I was a guitar hero and I shouldn’t be playing keyboards. My response was if I want to play a tuba or Bavarian cheese whistle, I will do it.
(from Guitar World, February 2014)
And 1984 definitely holds up. It doesn’t sound dated, it doesn’t really sound like it’s of its time, you know? It’s just a great record where every song stands on its own merit. Eddie agrees.
I think that the record did well because it was ahead of its time and it was simply different. It was even different for Van Halen, particularly because it had two keyboard songs on it. Having built [my own recording studio] 5150, it was a very special time in my life, and that shows in the music.
When I listen to this album 30 years later, it makes me feel happy. As much as I love the first music I listened to as a kid—Chuck Berry, Elvis, The Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Who, etc.—I truly am an 80s girl. I embrace that era of music as much for its cheesiness as I do for its role in shaping who I am today. I keep smiling when I watch early MTV videos, remembering how cool everything was to kids back then, how much we thought we ruled the world. Of course, I had more of a sense of the history of popular music than most elementary school kids, so I knew that this music didn’t just come out of nowhere. But it was ours just the same. MTV was ours. Shows like Miami Vice that shared the MTV aesthetic were ours. It was a really exciting time to be a kid. 1984 reminds me of those simpler times, those silly times, those fluorescent times.
And even though Van Halen started in the 70s, the David Lee Roth we think of today could only have happened in the 80s. And for that, we should all be grateful.