The Story of Van Halen’s Unreleased Track ‘I Want Some Action’
The two Van Halen alumni and current Sammy Hagar and the Circle bandmates recently launched the “Van Hagar / Other Half” page on Facebook and Instagram, where they will upload rare, vintage footage from the Van Hagar years. Earlier today, they shared a minute-long snippet of “I Want Some Action,” a demo from the 5150 sessions that has been floating around the internet for several years.
"I Want Some Action" was one of countless musical ideas that late guitarist Eddie Van Halen presented to the band in those days. “Ed was always coming up with song ideas, whether it was just a guitar riff or a whole piece of music,” Anthony wrote on Facebook. “The three of us would jam on every idea, whether it turned into a song or turned out to be nothing more than just jamming together. If Sammy wasn’t in town, Ed would always send him a copy of what was being played to check out, or if he was at his place in Malibu, he would join in and the four of us would just play and see what would happen.
“We have loads of tape with ideas like this sitting in boxes at 5150 studios!!” “Anthony continued. “’I Want Some Action’ is one of those jams that never made it to an album but has a very cool guitar riff, and listening to it now, we should’ve taken this one all the way!”
Die-hard Van Halen fans are likely already familiar with “I Want Some Action.” VanHalenVault uploaded the full demo to YouTube in 2016, around the 30th anniversary of 5150. It’s a high-octane rocker comparable to 5150 opener “Good Enough,” full of lightning-fast tapped bends and a simple, propulsive drum beat. Hagar’s vocals are mostly ad-libbed, and Anthony’s background vocals are absent, as he hadn’t recorded them yet.
Listen to Van Halen's 'I Want Some Action' Demo
Eddie Van Halen later reworked parts of “I Want Some Action” into “Stompin’ 8H,” the bluesy instrumental jam he played on Saturday Night Live in 1987. The refrain from “Stompin’ 8H” has the same melody as the chorus to “I Want Some Action,” but with a faster, more swinging feel and augmented with blustery horns.
The main riff to “I Want Some Action” also appeared on Toto guitarist Steve Lukather's Eddie Van Halen collaboration "Twist the Knife," which he included on his 1989 solo debut, Lukather. And if that weren't enough, Van Halen repurposed the beefy riff for the Van Halen III track “Dirty Water Dog” — although with its clean guitar arrangement and Gary Cherone's laid-back vocals, it's nearly unrecognizable from the demo Van Hagar cut more than a decade earlier.
Listen to Van Halen's 'Dirty Water Dog'
Even though Van Halen never officially released “I Want Some Action,” Eddie Van Halen evidently felt strongly about the song, given its various permutations over the years. Apparently, Hagar feels the same. The singer wrote on Facebook, “Hearing this makes me want to finish my part on this song (melody and lyrics) and put it into the live show - what do you think?”