Weekend Songs: Van Halen, ‘Jump’
Classic rock is about heavy hooks, power chords, and tight harmonies, but it’s also about letting loose and enjoying the good times — and there’s no better time than Friday evening, when we pick up our paycheck, punch out of work, and enjoy a couple days of much-needed rest and relaxation.
This Friday, we're paying tribute to one of the greatest all-around feelgood Top 40 rock anthems of all time -- and one of the best-known cuts from what might be the ultimate Friday rock record, all from a band that's delivered more than its share of weekend-ready classics. The song in question? Van Halen's 'Jump,' the leadoff single from the group's smash '1984' album and a song that signaled a noticeable sonic shift from their earlier records while beginning a period of widespread commercial dominance that would extend for another decade.
It's no secret that the song's synth-heavy sound was a sore subject for some of the band members, most notably singer David Lee Roth, who reportedly worried that Van Halen's fans would view it as a sellout move; in fact, his displeasure with 'Jump' was supposedly a contributing factor to his departure from the group in 1985. Of course, as it turned out, 'Jump's' pop sheen only expanded the band's audience, bringing them their first (and, to date, only) No. 1 hit on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.
In retrospect, it's hard to hear what all the fuss was about, but that's partly because the way 'Jump' effortlessly fused the band's pop and rock elements was so influential. With its driving backbeat and insistent bass powering the arrangement while Eddie Van Halen's distinctive synth lines (reportedly inspired by a Hall & Oates hit) crashed good-naturedly into some of his most superlative lead guitar work, it proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that a rock band could incorporate the current sounds of the day without bending over backwards to accommodate Top 40 trends -- and while AOR would arguably become far too pop-friendly during the power ballad-laden late '80s, 'Jump' hinted at a far more exciting future for the genre's biggest acts.
But more importantly for the purposes of this column, it also reflected the best of what mainstream rock had to offer at the time: Fist-pumping arrangements with barbed hooks, performances that were aggressive without being overly dangerous, and lyrics that celebrated the good times while acknowledging the bad (plus a killer guitar solo or two). No matter how you feel about Roth as a frontman, the pose he struck with 'Jump' was just about perfect -- at once sneeringly hedonistic, vulnerable, and world-weary. And who hasn't felt that way once in awhile, especially when punching out of work on a Friday evening? You've got to roll with the punches to get to what's real. Fortunately, we've made it easy for you by embedding the video below, so you can just hit 'play,' turn up the volume, and let the weekend start now.
Watch Van Halen Perform 'Jump'