How a Burger and a Joint Helped Van Halen Make ‘Jamie’s Cryin”
“When we first got into the studio at the end of August, the guys had most of the song together, but it wasn’t finished,” producer Ted Templeman later recalled in A Platinum Producer’s Life in Music. “The bridge wasn’t done, so we didn’t have a full melody. [David Lee Roth] didn’t have the lyrics yet; he scatted his vocal when we initially ran through it.”
Roth eventually conjured up the story of a girl whose heart was broken by a one-night stand, a role reversal since he was usually on the other end of this sort of thing. Still, “Jamie’s Cryin’” wasn’t complete until Eddie Van Halen added its distinctive guitar line.
“We heard Edward fooling around with his guitar between takes,” Roth said in Van Halen Rising, “and we yelled, ‘Hey man, that's just what we need on the album.’” Templeman agreed, believing Van Halen’s riff sounded like crying.
Listen to Van Halen's 'Jamie's Cryin''
With the song now ready to record, Roth made a surprising decision. “Jamie’s Cryin’” required a sweeter vocal approach than the band’s more aggressive tracks, so Roth opted to lay off booze and smoking for a couple of days before recording his part.
The plan backfired. After a few initial passes at “Jamie’s Cryin,’” Templeman paused the session and asked why Roth’s voice sounded different. He explained what he’d done, and was abruptly told by the producer to get the edge back to his voice.
Roth returned to his old habits for help. “I went out and sat in the little basketball court area outside [of] the studio,” Roth said in Crazy From the Heat. “I ate half a cheeseburger and drained a soda pop and smoked half a joint. Walked in, knocked out ‘Jamie’s Cryin’ in 40 minutes.”
Despite never achieving chart success, “Jamie’s Cryin’” became one of the most popular songs on Van Halen. It was later included on the band’s 2004 compilation The Best of Both Worlds and ranked among their most performed songs in concert.
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