When Van Halen came on the scene, they blew people’s minds. It was the type of music that hadn’t been heard before. I remember my parent’s feeling a bit iffy about the band. My dad especially was concerned when I had the MTV on and was watching the long-haired lead singer jumping around in tights. He sat down to watch the music video of “Jump” with me and asked if I wouldn’t be more interested in watching pretty girls in tights. I started laughing and told him, “Dad, I’m watching this because it’s a great song. When I have this on, the volume is turned up; when I watch women doing aerobics, the TV is on mute.” My father was happy with that answer but he made me promise never to dance around the house in my tights. I didn’t have tights so it was an easy promise to make.
The interesting thing about the original Van Halen is that it’s a combination of so many different musical styles. The songs feature elements of blues, jazz, folk, heavy metal and sixties pop. And this is a wonderful asset that makes listening to the Roth-era albums an intriguing experience. When David Lee Roth was replaced by Sammy Hagar, the group continued to make great music but their sound and the songs ceased to be exceptional and unique. Don’t get me wrong, there are many “Van Hagar” tracks that I absolutely love. However, instead of this incredible eclecticism and versatility of musical styles shown by the band previously, they seemed to be content with just blues and AOR – nothing wrong with that but it sure wasn’t what the original ensemble was all about.
Our track of the week is a song by Eddie and the gang called “And The Cradle Will Rock.” It’s featured on their third album Women And Children First. As is the case with most Van Halen tracks, the lyrics aren’t necessarily sophisticated poetry requiring deep academic analysis. However, in the case of this particular tune, they do deserve a special mention as they achieved something very unique when they came out: They became an anthem for a generation of kids who grew up in the eighties. I remember listening to this when I was a teenagers and identifying with the words probably the same way that youngsters had identified with The Who’s “My Generation” twenty years earlier. I was convinced Van Halen knew something my parents didn’t. They had realized that my generation was great and that we didn’t want to be controlled and brainwashed by the society or our school system.
Well, they say it's kind of frightening
How this younger generation swings
You know it's more than just some new sensation
Well, the kid is into losing sleep
And he don't come home for half the week
You know it's more than just an aggravation
Of course, much later, I realized, as did most of my friends, that perhaps the song was more a protest than a celebration, condemning the spirit of the times. Well, it doesn’t matter. Even now, when I listen to it and hear Roth asking “Have you seen Junior’s grades?” right before the second guitar solo, the one that rocks, I get goosebumps. That’s how powerful this music was and continues to be.
Oh, and no, I probably wouldn’t want my kids to study these lyrics. If they didn’t come home for half the week, their ass would be grass.
You can learn more about Van Halen here:
About the curator - Tommi Tikka
Tommi Tikka is a linguist, poet, professional songwriter, recording artist and a music aficionado. He started playing guitar when he was four and writing songs when he was six. Consequently, he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't playing or writing. It's fair to say, music and lyrics are not just something he loves to engage himself in. To him, they are a way of life.
You can check out his current band The Impersonators here:
And the music of his previous group Carmen Gray here: Spotify