Editors Note: We have re-published this Van Halen Songs list in tribute to the passing of Eddie Van Halen. Goodbye Eddie, you will be missed dearly.
# 10 “Chinatown”
We open our Top 10 Van Halen songs with a great new Van Halen song released on the last studio Van Halen album as of this writing. Van Halen’s song “Chinatown,” will knock you down and send you spinning back to days of heavy metal domination and annihilation. Jump out of your Hot Tub Time Machine and enjoy the stay because this is one of the best recordings Eddie, Alex, Dave, and Wolfgang have ever produced. There are so many great tracks on A Different Kind of Truth, but “Chinatown,” is the highlight of an incredible non stop action packed recording of new Van Halen songs.
(From the album A Different Kind of Truth)
# 9 – “Panama”
There have been thousands of songs written about cars in the history of rock and roll. Van Halen’s mega hit “Panama” was supposedly written about David Lee Roth’s automobile. To stress the point even further, it was reported that Alex Van Halen had pulled his Lamborghini to the rear of the recording studio doors and recorded the sound of the engine for the record. There can be no arguments over the band’s superior level of musicianship, however, Van Halen was also the ultimate party band. “Panama,” was a shining and swinging example of the Van Halen party experience and one of the best Van Halen songs at the end of the initial David Lee Roth era.
(From the album 1984)
# 8 – “Finish What Ya Started”
Taking a break from their signature sound, Van Halen’s single, “Finish What Ya Started,” displayed elements of the blues, soul, and a little bit of country. Eddie’s dynamic guitar groove was augmented by a fuzz box sound brilliantly utilized within the rhythmic nature of the song. A second guitar track was performed by Sammy Hagar on the recording which in itself was a rare occurrence “Finish What Ya Started,” was a welcome change to the traditional Van Halen sound, and an interesting addition to the band’s stellar catalog of Van Halen songs.
(From the album OU812)
# 7 – “Beautiful Girls”
Van Halen’s track “Beautiful Girls,” closed out their second album which was released in 1978. Eddie and the band were known for their full throttle, bombs away metal performances, but at times, Van Halen could lay down funky pop grooves with the best of them. “Beautiful Girls,” showcased David Lee Roth’s charismatic ways united within a solid memorable hook dedicated to the gender that so inspired the majority of the band’s material.
(From the album Van Halen II)
# 6 – “Runnin’ with the Devil”
In 1978, Michael Anthony’s iconic bass line to “Runnin’ with the Devil,” introduced the world to Van Halen. Standing as the first track on their debut album, the song has become a Van Halen classic and been performed in almost every live performance that featured David Lee Roth as the lead singer. “I live my life, like theres’ no tomorrow,” would be the first lyrical phrase that David Lee Roth sang on record. In many ways, it also represented the ideology of the band, at least in the eye of the public. Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing sounded nothing like the legendary classic rock guitarists such as Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Brian May and David Gilmour.
Eddie Van Halen blew everyone’s minds wide open when they first heard him play. He still does.
(From the album Van Halen )
# 5 – “Poundcake”
Van Halen’s song “Poundcake,” was the opening track on their 1991 album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. The album was Van Halen’s third record with singer Sammy Hagar. While Van Halen had multiple hits with Sammy, the songs tended to be power ballads or soaring pop metal songs all underlined with melodic pop ideas. There is nothing pop metal about the “Poundcake.” Eddies power drill opening was a brilliant original idea that set the tone for one of Van Halen’s heaviest songs with Sammy. It was probably also their best work together.
(From the Album “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.”)
# 4 – “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love”
Velvet Revolver performed the Van Halen song “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love,” when they introduced Van Halen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. There can be no greater tribute to the strength of a particular song when that piece is utilized as a ceremonial introduction performance. Some would argue that “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love,” serves as the definite Van Halen masterpiece. There would be little opposing argument here.
(From the album Van Halen)
# 3 – Mean Street
“Mean Street,” opens the very underrated Fair Warning, album with a blistering, fast and very dark Eddie Van Halen guitar lick. The lick evolved into a very funky urban groove that is doubled by Michael Anthony’s articulate bass line. David Lee Roth delivered a powerful vocal that matched the intensity of the gloomy subject matter. The album is much darker than Van Halen’s previous efforts, yet the material was defined by harmonic voicings previously unheard of on the former Van Halen albums. The material on Fair Warning showed tremendous growth in the band’s writing and “Mean Street,” was a definite representation of that growth.
(From the album Fair Warning)
# 2 – Everybody Wants Some
As we get close to the Number 1 selection on the Top 10 Essential Van Halen songs list , we had a tough time choosing over the top two. A rocking, flesh burning, tribal drum beat, introduces the listener to one of the most classic Van Halen songs ever written. The band knew they had written a classic because “Everybody Wants Some,” has been one of their most performed songs of their career.
The song was also featured in the John Cusack movie “Better off Dead,” in the clay animation dream scene. The song’s title will also be used as the film title for the follow up to the classic coming of age in the 1970s film, Dazed and Confused. With the song’s powerful slam dunk chorus, insane guitar runs, and cool as James Dean ad-libbed vocal breaks, Everybody Wants Some is a true rock anthem classic.
(From the album Women and Children First )
#1 – “Hot for Teacher”
Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher,” was released in 1984. It was the fourth single released from the album “1984”. Fittingly so, Van Halen saved their best for last as “Hot For Teacher,” would prove to be the original band’s final single before David Lee Roth left the group. The song created controversy because of the subject matter and the accompanying video which portrayed the band as their younger selves in questionable situations. The song was defended by legendary artist Frank Zappa on CNN’s ‘Crossfire.’ During the mid-eighties, there were senate hearings in the United States as certain parties were attempting to censor various forms of music. Frank Zappa was a key advocate opposing censorship.
Politics aside, Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher,” defined the best of Van Halen. Alex Van Halen’s monstrous double bass drumming on the track set an intensity level equal to the volcanic outbursts of the historic eruption of Krakatoa. Eddie’s screaming guitar riffs throughout the verse and chorus shattered teeth and bones. Soaring even higher was an amazingly well tuned, articulate, blood boiling guitar solo that stands as one of Eddie’s best. Not to be out-performed by an avalanche of virtuosic playing, Michael Anthony’s thunderous bass performance locked in the lower end frequencies matching Eddie and Alex note for note. “Hot for Teacher,” was metal pop music perfection and in all respects, Van Halen’s crowning moment.