The band got a break in 1976 when Kiss bassist Gene Simmons noticed them at a local club and financed a recording session for the band. On the strength of Simmons’ recommendation, as legend has it, Van Halen was signed to Warner Bros.
Their debut album, Van Halen, was released in 1978 and included the hit singles “Runnin’ With the Devil” and a cover of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” Eddie Van Halen took electric guitar technique to new heights with his patented two-handed tapping and pull-off effects, while Roth’s tongue-in-cheek histrionics proved to be a refreshing alternative in an industry chock full of self-important rock stars.
Within six months of its release, Van Halen was certified platinum. The album not only launched Van Halen’s career, but it came to influence countless American rock bands during the next decade.
During the next few years, Van Halen became one of the hardest working and most profitable bands in the recording industry, releasing a string of multi-platinum albums in quick succession; 1979’s Van Halen II, 1980’s Women and Children First, 1981’s Fair Warning and 1982’s Diver Down.
But it was the album 1984, released on New Year’s Day of that year, that solidified the band’s superstar status. The album contained the mega-hits “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot For Teacher,” with their accompanying raucous videos that received seemingly non-stop airplay on MTV.
All was not well within the band, however. Rising tensions between Roth and the other band members were increasingly evident; on their 1984 world tour the band didn’t even play on the same stage, but rather performed on four separate platforms, symbolic of the escalating rift among its members. Finally, in 1985, after taking time off to record a successful solo album (and delaying work on the follow-up to 1984) Roth parted ways with Van Halen.
Mammoth kicks Mark Stone out of the band. Michael Anthony endures a rigorous audition in a Pasadena, CA, garage and accepts an invitation to join the band, quitting his band, Snake, in the process. The quartet decides to change their name because Mammoth is already in use by another band. They pass on Rat Salad to adopt David Lee Roth’s suggestion: Van Halen. April 4: Van Halen becomes a regular act at Gazarri’s in West Hollywood, CA, a breakthrough that gets them out of the backyard party scene. May 17: Robin “Ruby” Leiren become’s Ed’s first guitar tech after listening to Ed’s various band incarnations at Marshall Junior High School.
May: Van Halen is “discovered” by Gene Simmons at the Starwood in Los Angeles, CA. They record a demo at Village Recorder Studios in Los Angeles. Two guitar solos are later recorded at Electric Ladyland Studios in New York, where Eddie has his first exposure to overdubbing, a technique that he feels is very uncomfortable. While in New York, the band performs using KISS’s equipment for S.I.R.’s Bill Aucion, who passes to sign the band Piper because he sees no commercial potential in the fledgling Van Halen.
May: On a rainy Monday night, Van Halen is “rediscovered” by Ted Templeman and Mo Ostin at the Starwood. Unbeknownst to the band, Templeman has also scouted them out the night before. They later recorded a twenty-five song demo from which they will pick nine songs for their first album, Van Halen.
February 10: Van Halen is released. May 24: Van Halen is certified gold. July 23: Edward Van Halen gives his first interview for a national magazine: Guitar Player. October 10: Van Halen is certified platinum. December 10: Van Halen enters the studio to begin recording Van Halen II.
March 23: Van Halen II is released. April 3: Van Halen II is certified gold. May 8: Van Halen II is certified platinum.
February: David Lee Roth forms the Jungle Studs, a group of 14 adventurers consisting of lawyers, accountants, and doctors (Dave is the only musician). They make annual treks that include kayaking Alaskan rivers and climbing mountains in Nepal. March 26: Women And Children First is released. May: While filming a performance for Italian television at the Piper Club in Rome, Italy, David Lee Roth executes a flying leap from Alex Van Halen’s drum riser and hits a low-hanging lighting rig, fracturing his nose and giving himself a minor concussion. May 29: Women And Children First is certified gold. June 2: Women And Children First is certified platinum. December 31: Edward Van Halen proposes to Valerie Bertinelli with an $8,000 emerald-cut diamond ring.
April 11: Edward Van Halen weds Valerie Bertinelli at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Westwood, CA. April 29: Fair Warning is released. July 7: Fair Warning is certified gold. November 18: Fair Warning is certified platinum.
April 14: Diver Down is released. June 26-27: Van Halen holds rehearsals in Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios in Hollywood, CA, in preparation for the Hide Your Sheep tour. October 15: Edward Van Halen’s left wrist is x-rayed at Hand Surgery Associates in New York, NY. A fracture is found that results in the cancellation of three shows on the Diver Down tour. October 22: Van Halen Day is declared by Mayor Sara Robertson in Worchester, MA, after WAAF Radio sponsors a 25,000-signature petition to get the band to add a third show at The Centrum.
March: The 5150 Studio is built. It begins as a forty-foot-long room with an adjustable ceiling height of up to 18 feet. April 20: Edward Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli sign paperwork to lease Marvin Hamlisch’s Malibu, CA, beach house for the summer of 1983. Summer: Edward Van Halen writes and records “Strung Out” and three instrumentals for The Seduction of Gina, a movie-of-the-week starring Valerie Bertinelli, at Hamlisch’s beach house.
January 9: 1984 is released. February 25: “Jump” begins a five-week peak at #1 on the U.S. Billboard’s Singles chart. March 12: 1984 is certified gold and platinum. March 17: 1984 begins a four-week peak at #2 on Billboard’s Top LP chart. October 22: Van Halen is certified platinum fives times over. Van Halen II is certified triple platinum. Women And Children First is certified double platinum. October 24: 1984 is certified platinum four times over. December 31: David Lee Roth releases his first solo album, Crazy From The Heat.
January 23: 1984 is certified platinum fives times over. April 1: David Lee Roth leaves Van Halen (unofficially on April Fool’s Day). 1996 July 22: Van Halen enters the studio with David Lee Roth to begin recording material for Best Of Volume 1. August 7: Van Halen is certified platinum ten times over. August 8: 1984 is certified platinum nine times over. September 4: Van Halen with David Lee Roth appears on the MTV Video Music Awards and presents the award for Best Male Video to Beck. The reunited quartet receives a standing ovation from the shocked and delighted crowd. At the backstage press conference, emotions flare as Ed and Dave argue about answers to give the reporters. Frustrated with the reporters’ questions, Ed attempts to set the record straight saying that the only thing happening between the band and Dave at the time is the Best Of Volume 1 project. Dave’s reaction reportedly leads the rest of the band to consider never working with Dave again. October 5: Ed, Al, and Mike are presented with an Outstanding Contribution to Music award at the 1996 Foundations Forum at the Palladium in Hollywood, CA. They are also presented platinum awards for surpassing the 10-millon-sales mark for Van Halen. October 22: Best Of Volume 1 is released. October 29: Video Hits Volume 1 (VHS) is released.