This picture of Alex doing his “Toad" inspired drum solo was taken around 1972 somewhere in the San Gabriel Valley. It looks to me like the band - called Mammoth at this point - was playing at the back of a high school, probably in Pasadena or Altadena.
There’s a few things worthy of note. First, Alex is wearing a Pendleton shirt. Along with a pair of jeans, this was the band’s general stage attire: street clothes. They lacked stage costumes. That would come later after Roth joined.
Second, there’s a wha-wah pedal there in the foreground. This was Eddie’s sole guitar effect at this point, a product of his love for Clapton, no doubt.
Finally, if you look in the background, you’ll see a Wurlitzer keyboard on top of an organ. The band’s sets were heavy with Deep Purple and Santana songs when they had a keyboardist. The keyboard player, incidentally, is in the photo.
Mammoth was a four piece at this point, with the keyboard player, bassist Mark Stone and the Van Halen brothers comprising the lineup.
The addition of Roth would transform nearly all these aspects of this band, as Van Halen Rising will demonstrate.
You can check out more pictures like this in Elizabeth Wiley’s excellent Van Halen photo book, which is available on Amazon.
Young Van Halens
Photograph was taken in the living room of the Van Halen home at 1881 Las Lunas in Pasadena circa 1972. Eddie’s got his Gold Top Les Paul serial # 539381 purchased on 15 August 1969 at Music For Everyone in Sierre Madre, Ca. Looks like he’s already modified the guitar by removing the pickup covers.
This phenomenal film, shot at the Whisky in Hollywood in late 1977, provides a perfect way to open Van Halen Rising for business. Note that while those interviewed are part of the Punk/New Wave movement that most record industry observers thought would be the future of popular music, the first thirty seconds of the film shows that hard rock was far from dead. A billboard looms over the Strip for perhaps the greatest album of Aerosmith’s heroin-and-cocaine-years, Draw the Line. And the name of an local band from Pasadena that had been signed to Warner Bros. Records in the previous months, Van Halen, has its name up on lights in the Whisky marquee.
At the 54 second mark, scenester and KROQ DJ Rodney Bingenheimer introduces the Germs, one of the more notorious and arguably less talented of the LA punk bands and goes on to sing the praises of the city’s burgeoning Punk and New Wave scene.
Nonetheless, Bingenheimer championed all kinds of LA music, including an unknown hard rock band named Van Halen. In fact, in 1976 he played a key role in helping the band work its way up the ladder from one of the lesser clubs on the Strip, Gazzarri’s, to a higher profile gig at the infamous Starwood.
At the 1:50 mark, a less than enthused Joan Jett of the Runways appears. I have to wonder if she was cut out of the film because her lack of interest in talking on camera made the footage impossible to use.
Watch it all. It’s a fantastic piece of celluloid which documents the ways in which the LA Punk and New Wave movement rubbed up against the “industry," or bands signed to major labels, like Aerosmith and Van Halen, in the late 1970s.