10 Things You Didn’t Know About Alex Van Halen
Drummer Alex Van Halen of Van Halen may not get all the attention or accolades of his guitar genius kid brother Eddie, but he's responsible for providing the rhythm on some of the most popular rock anthems of the last thirty years. So, since it's Alex's 59th birthday today (May 8, 2012), maybe it's time to check out our 10 Things You Didn't Know About Alex Van Halen list:
Originally, he was supposed to be the guitar player.
That's right, it was Alex who was taking guitar lessons, while Eddie bashed away at a drum kit he purchased with money from his paper route. Funny enough though, Alex would be the one practicing while his brother worked, to the point where Eddie decided to switch to guitar.
His Dutch father is a very talented jazz musician.
Alex was born in Holland in 1953 and didn't move to the United States until 1962. His father, Jan, was a jazz saxophonist and clarinet player who made sure both his sons were classically trained on the piano. You can hear him play alongside his sons on 'Big Bad Bill (is Sweet William Now)' from 1982's 'Diver Down.'
He's always been a bit of a madman on-stage.
Alex Van Halen is one of rock's more flamboyant drummers, known for lighting cymbals and even drumsticks on fire while performing in concert. His drum kits grew larger and larger as the years went on, to the point where Eddie finally complained that he couldn't see him anymore during concerts.
He used to go pretty crazy backstage as well...
Former Van Halen lead singer Sammy Hagar spends a little bit of time in his excellent new book 'Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock' describing the copious amounts of beer Alex used to drink both in the road and the studio. This led to stunts such as attempting to jump over a broom.. while still holding the top of the handle. Picture that. Right, you're gonna get hurt, and he did.
Which might explain the neck brace he wore on tour
After reportedly rupturing three vertebrae in his neck, Alex spent much of 1995's 'Balance' tour -- dubbed the 'Ambulance Tour' by his brother - wearing a gigantic neck brace. You know, the kind you'd wear if you wanted to claim whiplash if your car got hit by a rich person. None of which explains his sinister fu manchu mustache.
He's now an ordained "man of the cloth."
Just as he's quick to trash the brothers for some of their actions, Hagar also gives up full respect to Alex for realizing he was having trouble with the booze, and quitting pretty much cold turkey back in 1987. In fact, he's now an ordained minister, presiding over Eddie's 2009 marriage to actress and publicist Janie Liszewski.
He's amazingly loyal to his family, having never shown up on record away from his brother.
Eddie's famously played on records by Michael Jackson, Brian May from Queen and a few other of his friends, but the only time Alex ever appeared on a non-Van Halen record was to play keyboards on the 'Twister' soundtrack song 'Respect the Wind.' Which was by who? Alex and Eddie Van Halen.
He's one step away from making Van Halen an all-family band.
Now that his nephew, Wolfgang Van Halen, has taken over the bass for Van Halen from Michael Anthony, leaving the band "3/4 original, 1/4 inevitable" in the words of David Lee Roth, all they really need is for one of Alex's two sons -- Aric or Malcolm -- to get behind the microphone. We'd tell Diamond Dave to watch his back but we're sure he already is sleeping with one eye open.
Everyone pretty much agrees: Yes, there are overdubs on 'Hot for Teacher.'
When '1984' came out, the burning controversy at my junior high gym class for weeks was about exactly how Alex recorded the lightning fast drum solo at the beginning of 'Hot for Teacher.' It simply seems like there's too much going on for one set of hands, and most people agree there are some overdubs involved, most likely involving a second set of tom hits. You know what? Doesn't matter a bit, it's awesome however it was created.
Alex and the rest of Van Halen are way %$#%@ overdue on putting out some new music.
Supposedly, the brothers have spent large portions of their days recording new music together ever since Eddie built his own studio in his backyard way back in 1983. Yet they have not released any new music together since 1998's 'Van Halen III.' Supposedly, we're close to getting information about a new record - their first with original lead singer David Lee Roth in almost 30 years - any day now. So we sit and wait patiently and blast 'Everybody Wants Some.' from the 2008 reunion tour....