A&E: Why Van Halen’s self-titled record changed music forever


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Count Van Halen among the best of all times.

Released on February 10, 1978, Van Halen’s debut album rewrote the rules of guitar and music recording forever.  Today it is regarded as one of the greatest debut albums of all time along with Led Zeppelin’s and The Doors’ self-titled records and more modern albums such as Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d City and Kanye West’s The College Dropout.

Even though the band would later release records that would rival their first such as 1984, which was released in the same year with the hit song “Jump”, and 1986’s 5150, Van Halen I is still regarded as the group’s magnum opus.

Arguably the record’s most famous trait is the guitar playing.  Eddie Van Halen’s 1 minute and 42 second guitar solo “Eruption” seemed like a shot heard around the world within the guitar community, and instantly set a bar when it came to technique along with sound.  Guitar World magazine called the piece “wildly innovative” and complimented Van Halen’s playing as a “masterful application of technique.”

Eddie’s playing is in the forefront throughout the album and is especially evident on songs such as “Ice Cream Man” and “I’m The One”.

Almost every track on the record is still viewed as having some of the greatest guitar playing of all time.  In fact, Guitar World ranked Van Halen I as the seventh greatest guitar album of all time.

Another reason that Van Halen I stood out from other albums released in the 70’s is the recording technique.  During this time, bands such as Boston, Pink Floyd, and Electric Light Orchestra attempted to create albums with a “perfect” sound by recording vocals, guitar, bass, and drums all separately and later edit these takes together in order to make an extremely rehearsed sound.

Van Halen strayed from this technique and recorded all parts together in order to create a “live” sound.  Ted Templeman, the producer of the record, wanted to capture the band’s raw energy of a live performance and used this recording strategy.

After release, the album spent 169 weeks on the charts and reached #19 in the US along with the sale of well over 10 million records and a diamond certification.

The band’s world tour of the album was just as successful as sales.  Playing 124 shows in the US, 2 shows in Canada, 39 shows in Europe, and 9 shows in Japan cemented Van Halen as one of the world’s greatest bands.

Almost 50 years later, this record still holds its’ ground within the music community today.  From its guitar playing to its new and innovative recording process, Van Halen I truly shows how timeless an album can be.