Top 10 Van Halen Songs

Van Halen Songs

Photo: By Anirudh Koul from Montreal, Canada [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Choosing the top ten essential Van Halen songs is no easy task because of the abundance of such great material that the band has written and performed since 1978. So in the end, the songs chosen below are simply a wide representation of what made Van Halen so great. At the core of Van Halen’s brilliance was simply the bond between Eddie and Alex. The band recorded great Van Halen songs with both Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth, but it was the material in which Eddie and Alex lit it up in union together that made Van Halen one of the foremost rock bands to ever grace the stage. When we think of the great rock and roll bands that came out of the 1970’s classic rock era like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Queen, Thin Lizzy,and The Doors, Van Halen stands as one of the last real deal classic rock bands to come out of that extraordinary era of rock and roll.

# 10 “Chinatown”

We open our Top 10 Van Halen songs with a tremendous 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 destruction. 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 and Live)

# 9 – Panama

Thousands of songs have been written about cars in rock and roll history. 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. 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 song’s rhythmic nature. Sammy Hagar performed a second guitar track 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 exciting addition to the band’s stellar catalog of Van Halen songs.

(From the album OU812)

# 7 – Unchained

From the first few seconds of Eddie Van Halen’s legendary opening guitar riff, you know you are listening to one of the greatest rock and roll songs of the 1980s. This classic Van Halen track was released on the Fair Warning album. It’s an album that stands as our favorite Van Halen album of all time. We think many Van Halen fans would agree with us on that one. Everyone is spot on in this killer track. David Lee Roth delivers one of his greatest lines when he shouts, “Woo-whee! You’ll get some leg tonight for sure!” The banter between him and the engineer is also just priceless. One break coming up…..

(From the album Fair Warning)

# 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 has been performed in almost every live performance that featured David Lee Roth as the lead singer. “I live my life like there’s 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.” Eddie’s power drill opening was a brilliantly 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 more remarkable 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” is 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 funky urban groove that Michael Anthony’s articulate bass line doubled. 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. As we said before, this is our pick for the best Van Halen album.

(From the album Fair Warning)

# 2 – Everybody Wants Some

As we get close to the Number 1 selection on the Top 10 Van Halen songs list, we had a tough time choosing over the top two. A rocking, flesh-burning, tribal drumbeat, 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 the 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 members as their younger selves in questionable situations. Legendary artist Frank Zappa defended the song 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.

Updated November 8, 2023.

Top 10 Van Halen Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

Classicrockhistory.com claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business, or organization is allowed to re-publish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission. All photos used are either public domain Creative Commons photos or licensed officially from Shutterstock under license with ClassicRockHistory.com. All photo credits have been placed at the end of the article. Album Cover Photos are affiliate links and the property of Amazon and are stored on the Amazon server. Any theft of our content will be met with swift legal action against the infringing websites.

DMCA.com Protection Status

DON’T MISS A BEAT

Be the first to know when a new article is published

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

3 Comments

  1. Avatar Tom Neokleous September 4, 2015
    • Avatar Brian Kachejian September 4, 2015
  2. Avatar nitram May 4, 2022

Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Foreigner Love Songs
Top 10 Foreigner Love Songs
Deep Purple Songs
Top 10 Deep Purple Songs
Three Dog Night Deep Tracks
Top 10 Three Dog Night Deep Tracks
Eric Clapton Guitar Solos
11 Incredible Eric Clapton Guitar Solos
Doors Albums
The Doors Albums Ranked
Rod Stewart Albums
Top 10 Rod Stewart Albums
Rock Supergroups that released only one studio album
15 Rock Supergroups That Released Only One Studio Album
Kiss Albums
Top 10 Kiss Albums
Aaron Leigh of Y&T
2024 M3 Rock Festival Day 2 Concert Review
2024 M3 Rock Festival Day 1 Concert Review
2024 M3 Rock Festival Day 1 Concert Review
Peter Frampton
Frampton, Foreigner, Ozzy, & Dave Matthews Band Voted Into Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame
Best Of Bruce Springsteen
2024 Best Of Bruce Springsteen CD Comes With No Rare Tracks
An Interview With Geezer Butler Of Black Sabbath
An Interview With Geezer Butler Of Black Sabbath
Nathan Salsburg Interview
Singer/Songwriter Nathan Salsburg on His New Record, ‘All Gist’
An Interview With Kirk Fletcher Talking Guitars And Amps
An Interview With Kirk Fletcher Talking Guitars And Amps
Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy
Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview
Deep Purple Albums
Complete List Of Deep Purple Albums And Discography
Sleater Kinney Albums
Complete List Of Sleater-Kinney Albums And Discography
Tina Turner Albums
Complete List Of Tina Turner Albums And Discography
Grand Funk Albums
Complete List Of Grand Funk Railroad Albums And Discography
9 Bands That Never Replaced Departed Members
Music CDs Comeback
Why Music CDs Have No Chance Of Making A Comeback
Classic Rock Bands Still Together But Overdue For A New Album
Classic Rock Bands Still Together But Overdue For A New Album
When Glam Bands Went Grunge In The 1990s
When Glam Bands Went Grunge In The 1990s
Taylor Swift Albums And Discography
Complete List Of Taylor Swift Albums And Discography
Carly Simon Hotcakes Album Review
Carly Simon’s HOTCAKES Album Still Sizzles After 50 Years
11 Tracks Of Whack Album Review
Walter Becker – 11 Tracks of Whack Album Review
Sammy Hagar Album Review
Why Sammy Hagar’s 1977 ‘Sammy Hagar’ LP Was One Of His Best