Five Live Albums Van Halen Needs to Release
Recently, unconfirmed plans were announced for the first-ever live Van Halen album with David Lee Roth -- but was it the right one? The upcoming project is drawn from a 2013 Tokyo performance that is freely available on YouTube, rather than any of a number of treasures collecting dust in the Van Halen archives. Here are five other potential releases, sketched in part from a 1985 inventory of Van Halen’s holdings at Pacific Title Archives, which would showcase the band during its glory years with Roth ...
Fans have long speculated about whether Van Halen filmed a full concert during their 1981 Oakland stand, or just the three songs released as promo videos for Fair Warning. Based on the Pacific Titles inventory, it appears that only "Unchained," "So This Is Love?" and "Hear About It Later" were in fact filmed. But what’s also in the archives are 16 reels of 24-track audiotape recorded on June 11, 1981 by engineer Wally Heider with his LeMobile Studio. It’s virtually certain that these tapes document that night’s complete performance. In addition, David Lee Roth later told DJ Jim Ladd that the band did have cameras rolling over the course of all three nights to capture performances of those three songs. Whatever film leftovers exist could be released on a Blu-Ray to accompany this audio recording.
The now-demolished Capital Centre was one of the first arenas to have a closed-circuit TV system. Bands like Eagles and AC/DC videotaped this feed when they played the Cap Centre, archiving these tapes for later release. Van Halen captured their 1982 performance, seen below. Another such recording, which finds them performing in front of a sold-out crowd in support of 1984, is also sitting in the archives. A Blu-ray of this footage would document the Van Halen’s live show at the peak of their popularity.
While researching my forthcoming book Van Halen Rising, a former well-placed individual in the Van Halen camp tipped me off to the fact that they had cameras rolling when the group visited and performed live in Osaka, Japan during their first world tour. This footage, which was shot for a potential Van Halen television special, was never utilized. According to the Pacific Titles inventory, the band had this film stored away, as of 1985. A Blu-ray of Van Halen’s invasion of Japan during its 1978 climb to superstardom would be revelatory.
It’s well-established rock lore that Kiss' Gene Simmons "discovered" Van Halen in late 1976. Perhaps less well known is the fact that Van Halen recorded a 10-song demo tape for Simmons at New York’s Electric Lady Studios (heard below), so he could attempt to get the quartet a record deal. While it doesn’t appear Van Halen has a copy of this demo in the band’s archives, it’s likely that Simmons does. In addition, Simmons is in possession of demo recordings done in Los Angeles in 1977 that feature Eddie Van Halen on guitar, Alex Van Halen on drums, and Simmons on bass and vocals. This power trio cranked out versions of two Kiss songs: "Got Love for Sale" and "Christine Sixteen." The three also demoed “Tunnel of Love,” a song released on Simmons’ 1978 solo album. A release of these three tracks, along with the full Van Halen demo, could also foster some powerful cross-pollination across the Kiss and Van Halen fan bases, which would surely help drive anticipation for such a release.
Perhaps no performance in Van Halen history is more legendary than the band’s raucous 1983 Memorial Day show in San Bernardino, California in front of 300,000 or so delirious fans. This show also happens to be one of the best-documented in Van Halen history. Hilarious, albeit staged, footage of the band preparing for the concert, along with audio interviews with a well-lubricated David Lee Roth, are all preserved. Van Halen’s full two-hour set was also filmed, and more recently, alternate camera angles of the show have been unearthed by Historic Films. All of this video material, bolstered with the edited and overdubbed three-song 1983 Showtime broadcast, and a high quality audio recording of the full show, would make for a fantastic box set.