The Night Van Halen Posed as Punks
Punk was ascendant on the Sunset Strip in the late '70s, creating a schism between fans of rock's aggressive new style and its old guard — and even though they were just starting out, the guys in Van Halen found themselves squarely on the latter side of the line.
As author Greg Renoff reaffirmed while researching his upcoming book, Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal, some saw hard rock as passé after the advent of bands like the Sex Pistols, and viewed younger members of the old school, such as Van Halen, as following in the footsteps of "once-powerful dinosaurs destined for extinction."
In a post titled "The Atomic Punks!," Renoff looks back on that antipathy, summed up in a quote from Weirdos drummer Nickey "Beat" Alexander. "The punk and New Wave groups didn’t think much of bands like Van Halen. Van Halen were like old f---ing dinosaurs," he said. "The punks didn’t want nothing to do with them. They were like, ‘Van Halen? We might as well be hanging out with Aerosmith or someone like that.’"
Never ones to shy away from conflict, the members of Van Halen had no love for the punks, either; as Eddie Van Halen is quoted as saying elsewhere, "We’re not punk, we don’t dress weird. We play good music ... I’m not saying that the all the things I come up with are genius-brand riffs, but neither is punk. Punk’s like what I used to do in the garage."
Not content to simply talk the talk, the guys in the band decided to get decked out in their best "punk" gear one night and head over to the Whisky a Go-Go, where they took the stage as a "Scottish punk band" dubbed the Enemas. "They were just mocking the whole punk rock scene and nobody knew who they were," laughed one audience member recalling how the band was chased offstage. "But I knew who they were."
To get the whole story behind the night Van Halen posed as punks — and to find out how they ended up posing incognito for the above photo, which ended up on the back cover of the Slash fanzine — read Renoff's entire story.
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