Archives for category: Van Halen

It has been 31 years since I last saw David Lee Roth front Van Halen on the Women and Children First Tour, when Valerie Bertinelli was sitting with the front of house sound guy and we were wondering who she was with, when Van Halen hit the stage at Bridgestone Arena Friday night at about 9 PM.

Kicking it off with a hard core Van Halen fan favorite, “Unchained,” it was definitely an interesting ride that really showed Eddie back on top of his game while David Lee Roth seemed to do a little soft shoe a la Gene Kelly meets Jaco Pastorius.

Wolfgang was wearing the stripes on his bass while Eddie was showing off his latest Ebony neck Stealth Wolfgang. Alex Van Halen sat behind a very classic Van Halen Ludwig kit with the four double deep bass drums in holographic silver. The only thing missing was the fire extinguishers.

It’s kind of a strange ride to see Van Halen come out as the elder statesmen of guitar pyro technic rock when it doesn’t seem that long ago that I saw them burst out as true revolutionaries on their own tour at Utah State University in 1979 the day Van Halen II came out. Back then, my jaw hit the floor as they started into “Light Up The Sky.” David Lee Roth came running off the drum riser at least 10 feet in the air and landed in front of the mic stand just in time to deliver the first line. Even today, that stands as a mark in time like the moon landing or the day the wall came down in Germany.

The things that I found interesting in this set was, that they didn’t shy from playing their Roth era radio hits, “You Really Got Me” and “Pretty Woman.”  The first original song to do moderately well on radio back then was “Dance The Night Away,” but, when Fair Warning failed to produce a hit and didn’t sell as well as Women and Children First, it was back to cover Halen, “Pretty Woman,” that turned things around.

Wynona Judd at The VH Show

Okay, impressions on Wolfgang, I had seen clips from the last tour, and seeing him now I thought, how cool is that? He gets to tour with his Dad who just happens to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time and he is only 18 or so. What he brings to the band, is his knowledge of what the fans want to hear and act as a balancing act between his Dad and Roth, who seem to play very well together in the sandbox nowadays. I think their egos are in some kind of balance now.

Eddie and Wolfgang did fine on backup vocals, but, Michael Anthony’s high as Frank DiMino background vocals were a part of the classic sound. Wolfgang doesn’t seem intent to do what Michael did on the bass. Michael was old school in that his bass propelled Alex’s bass drum and was so much in the same frequencies as the kick drum that it was hard to distinguish Michael, like where did the bass go? But, that was because he wasn’t sloppy. He was totally in sync with Alex.  What Wolfgang did show off was guitaresque Billy Sheehan harmonies on the new stuff, like”Chinatown.”  If I had to try to mind read Wolfgang, it would seem that he is itching to come out on guitar, but, the bass gig with Dad and Uncle Alex is a great place to be.

Alex had a somewhat brief solo, with pseudo big band tracks that reminded me a lot of Neil Peart solos over the last few years.  Alex is extremely underrated. He has what a lot of drummers lack now and that is the bridge between the original jazz drummers that is the core of rock drummers back then which was Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa and Louie Bellson then mixed with what he grew up with, Ginger Baker and Keith Moon and then throw in early 70’s contemporaries that had that swing groove, Brian Downey from Thin Lizzy and Frank Beard from ZZ Top.  Although it was a good solo, Alex’s high point for me was the Balance (Hospital) Tour.  It amazed me when Alex was wearing a collar brace and was literally not suppose to move his neck and I watched his hands snake all over the drums with no neck movement playing like a demented Gene Krupa – Billy Cobham. The Balance Tour is when my respect for Alex was cemented into my brain.

Of the new songs, “Tattoo,” did become somewhat of a sing along and people got it. There were plenty of 40 something Dads with 14 year old sons wearing matching Van Halen Concert T’s.  I had a couple of them with Dad in the row in front of me and when Eddie would take off on a solo, they would point and gawk much like I did in 1979.  Excellence never grows old. Speaking of excellence, last time I saw Eddie live was the Balance tour and I did enjoy it, but, Eddie was steeped in the Steve Lukather wet-dry-wet-, digital delay and processing and a lot of the edge was gone. For me, the highlight of the Balance Tour was the song “Amsterdam.” Now, Eddie is all about his signature stomp boxes, EVH Amps, his own guitars and the dynamics and definition were there. It sounded phenomenal, very tube old school, loved it.  There was only one step better and that was Van Halen II when Eddie toured with the 100 Watt Gazarri’s House Amp Marshall that he recorded the brown sound on.  But, this was fantastic.

Back during Van Hagar, Sammy had a clip when he played guitar alone on “When Eagles Fly,” on this tour we get to see Diamond Dave’s champion cattle and sheep dogs in black and white film as they compete and Dave talks about what the dogs could do before going into “Ice Cream Man.” Dave has always been larger than life on and off the road and this was about the most human I had ever seen Dave. It was very cool.

As far as Dave banter, he didn’t say he forgot the words, because he didn’t, but, he did say some great lines like,”A kid asked me if I had ever seen a screen as big as the one in the backdrop of the band?” to which Dave said “Oh yeah, we had one of those in Indiana out in a field, we called it a Drive In Movie.” One of my favorites was an old school reference when Alex kicked in the drum intro to “Everybody Wants Some,” and Dave started singing, “From the land of sky blue waters…” I think that was Hamm’s Beer.

There were definitely some songs I missed like “Light Up The Sky,” “I’m The One,” “On Fire” and “Top Jimmy,” but, “Hear About It Later” and “Romeos Delight” were great deep track shredders.

Eddie was not slacking at all, his solo which was kind of a “Variations on Eruption” thing, showed him spotlighted in front of the amps and then perching in his surfer kid hair cut on one of the drum riser stair steps. It had more the feel of seeing Eddie practicing on the end of his bed as a kid then a rock star running all over the stage. The camera was right on the neck in total focus showing what his fingers were doing on a giant back screen.

This tour has less set design and was more stripped down like the Balance Tour. It’s hard to express this, but, it felt like an intimate post card to true Van Halen fans in a big arena setting. In fact, it didn’t feel like an arena until the last song, ”Jump,” with confetti dropping out of the ceiling and Dave waving an oversized checkered flag. With Dave, there always needs to be something Texas sized about the show.

The band more than made up for Bridgestone Arena’s very poor acoustics. In this town, T-Pac or The Ryman is the place to really “hear” a band, but, if Van Halen did that, they would have been here all week long. The arena was definitely a near sell out.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Sitting in/Band Practice/Cabimas, Venezuela, 1983

I left for Venezuela for almost two years in April 1982, leaving behind all my sold dream rock guitar gear, The Dean ML, Gibson White Double neck, Marshall MKII 100 Watt stack and the van to carry it all in, a 1972 yellowish Chevy van. I figured if I was meant to get back into music, the right gear would come back into my life.

My Venezuelan Cuatro and Laud

After about a month in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, I went down to the shopping district to buy a Cuatro, kind of a Venezuelan oversized ukulele, A Tenor Uke of sorts, used to play traditional Venezuelan Folk Music. The cassette recorder I had to record my voice and send home began to be my portable studio, developing Caribbean flavored non sensical flavored blues a Van Halen.

I played some stuff for the locals and it left them totally confused. That Cuatro became my free day muse until months later when I found a Spanish Laud, a twelve string short scale in the flea market in Maracaibo for about $100.  I was able to do almost Classical Acoustic Guitar pieces on that thing and by the time I was living in Cabimas, Venezuela, I would enlist the closest person in the house to help make up songs like “Junkyard Dog” and “U.S. Girls”. For a period of 16 months, these were the only stringed instruments I had.

Moviescreen, 1983

When I got back to Salt Lake City at the end of 1983, I got a crash course in the current Metal scene going to a band practice with Parrish Hultquist and his band Moviescreen. Parrish handed me one of his Charvel Star guitars and I nearly blead to death riffing some of the old riffs I wrote two years prior. It felt good just to be playing through a Marshall before the band got practicing. It had been nearly two years since my last encounter with an Electric through a Marshall rage.

Wally in doorway,me in yellow/blue,Snow College 1980

I went to College in Provo, Utah in the winter of 1984 and my old band mate, Wally Gerrard from Karma would stop by my place at Raintree Apartments on the weekends and ended up letting me borrow some kind of no name half stack and a Japanese lawsuit Black Les Paul to practice some guitar. I ended up jamming with a group called the True Detectives with that rig in Provo, a bunch of Orange County, California semi punks playing “Breathless” X style and a few other punk gems. It was a little mismatch to my still metal ways but it was fun.

Mosrite 12 String

The summer of 1984 I was off to work in Southern California with the intention of returning to school but it never happened.  Parrish had loaned me a guitar he had borrowed from Dana Freebairn, a vintage Mosrite Ventures 12 string with a vibrato bridge. I strung it as a six string, bought a Tom Scholz Rockman and spent the summer jamming in the sand at Newport Beach, California for the summer.

Eventually, I pulled some cash together and purchased a Gallien-Krueger twin 12 similar to the stuff that Alex Lifeson was using at the time. I thought the cool thing was that it had a built in Chorus circuit and had kind of that post punk sound, like Warren Cuccurullo licks.  Living in Orange County, I was getting pulled all different ways, I was still listening to Randy Rhoads but got tuned into bands like U2, The Cult, Souxsie and The Banshees, The Fixx, Missing Persons.  It was Orange County and even if Leatherwolf was hanging at the house where I was staying in Costa Mesa, Metal was kind of an inland music; the beach had punk and related music going on.

Kramer DMZ1000

Near the end of summer, Parrish sent out some copies of the Moviescreen Cassette and wanted me to come back up to Utah and play second guitar. I was having a good time in Orange County but I heeded the call and went back up with my Duran Duran style hair, Gallien Krueger and ended up picking up an aluminum neck Kramer DMZ 1000 at a pawn shop in Provo to get more of the heavy rhythm sound he needed. The problem was the Gallien Kruger didn’t sound like a Marshall and at that point in 1984 it was all about the Marshall. We were supposed to open for a band called Exciter at The Salt Palace when Brian Sorenson, the drummer, got hit by a drunk driver and his hand was busted. I ended up taking him to physical therapy several times a week and within two months I had moved back down to Orange County, California.

I had the exact same White Kramer/1985

When I moved back to Orange County at one time I pawned the guitar and amp to pay for a ring for a girl I was serious about.  That relationship ended and made me re-think, don’t ever sell gear for a girl. I went and bought a cheap white Kramer van halen style guitar at Guitar Center when it was still in Santa Ana with the Floyd Rose vibrato on it. It was the budget model but still did the dive bombs.

I started to settle into the Huntington Beach, California scene where it was almost open warfare between the kids from Downey and Anaheim coming down in black leather listening to KNAC and the surf punks listening to KROQ. In fact, I lived above Jack’s Surf Shop at the corner of Main and PCH Highway and one night when it was still old town with bars, small stores and surf shops there was a full scale riot going on.

I watched from my bedroom window as the KNAC Metalheads numbering about 100 and the surf punks who were into surf clothes, The Ramones, The Toy Dolls and looking the part actually got into a full out fight on Main Street at about midnight in about 1985. I would just rock riffs with the White Kramer/ Floyd Rose/ Van Halen type setup through my friends Fender Deluxe with a distortion pedal.  Finally, somebody got thrown through a plate glass window store front and the cops were coming and everybody scrambled. I could crank that guitar any time of day and nobody cared down by the beach.

Halloween 1986,me in smoking jacket, Derrick Lee-Glam Rocker

Derrick and I put together a group and called them The True Detectives after the band that both of us had jammed with at one time or another. We practiced in the apartment above Jack’s Surfboard Shop and in south Orange County.  We were doing covers like “Dancin’ With Myself”’867-5309”and other party favorites around 1986. When my Aunt died and I left for a funeral and didn’t make a gig I never got called for band practice anymore. What can you say?

I wasn’t satisfied with the Kramer and wanted a more serious guitar. I was into jazz guitarist John Schofield after catching a video from the album “So Warm” on an L.A. afternoon rock video show. He was playing an Ibanez AS 200 semi-hollow burst guitar and I went in search of one and found one used and traded the Kramer for the Ibanez. I had studied jazz in college but this was the first time I had tried to start incorporating jazz inspirations into my own playing.

Ibanez AS200-my jazz period and beyond

I was kind of on my own, playing my John Schofield-Pat Metheney inspired chord patterns. My friends in Orange County were still into a kind of post punk thing while L.A. strip bands were getting signed left and right and touring the Midwest. I would keep that Ibanez for nearly 20 years and it would survive the rise and fall of a couple of bands, several amps and an upstairs recording studio that is all now part of the past. In an interesting twist, although I had practiced with Moviescreen and The True Detectives, I never did end up playing live; in fact I had not played in front of an audience since Karma back at Snow College. It was like I spent the rest of the 80’s figuring out what I wanted to do with my music while I was busy dating girls and going on with my life.

Snow College -Me,the Tall one next to Professor, Wally dead center on sax

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

American Bang at The Nick, Birmingham

It’s no wonder that the major labels are in a quandery and end up making bad calls like an investor who rode his stocks all the way to the beginning of 2009 instead of selling in mid 2007. First off, if a label like Maverick or Reprise feels the need to change a bands name they should have pushed the release date way to the front of the line.

American Bang, who cut their teeth in the Nashville scene as Bang Bang Bang back in 2006-2007, were a part of a thread of bands from American Minor (who got “Jive”d) to my band Furthermore doing our Humble Pie-est in Birmingham.  A major could have exploited a scene quickly the way they used to during the L.A. and Seattle things while it was fresh and make it roll out across the airwaves.

American Minor/photo-Josh Victor Rothstein

But no, let’s wait till all things change as they do in a three year period and quietly release product while College Radio is playing Fleet Foxes and Vampire Weekend.  American Bang is a great band with a great album.  A great write up in the local Metromix was a prelude to their CD Release party at Mercy Lounge last Thursday.  Rolling Stone or whatever  is nowhere to be seen.

A quick glance around town at the generics,  Borders and FYE find no copies of a great local band finally getting their day. No doubt, Grimeys will do their best. If you can’t find the CD locally what does that mean nationally? It appears that now that the product is available it’s back to the road.

Major labels need to move a little faster and get back to making rock and roll records. If I had to take a guess, American Bang will get a big welcome in England. England seems to get what we aren’t spoon fed here. The Ramones went there in 1976 and started a revolution. The Stray Cats left New York and did what Robert Gordon couldn’t do by staying here.  The Drive-By Truckers are The Rolling Stones in England. England has been building a caudre of I guess one could call Hard Rock Roots bands for several years that get featured along the original genre heroes such as Thin Lizzy and Uriah Heep in Classic Rock magazines. England has the scene.

The best examples of getting it out while its hot right now are labels like Bloodshot Records that have released a great album the last three years by Justin Townes Earle, along with some real gems in their catalog.

Real Rock and Roll is not Rocket Science. A Neve Console, An Ampex 2 inch 16 Track Reel to Reel and a pile of Neumann and Shure Microphones. Write songs on the road and get it recorded well and quickly with few over dubs, then put it out every 8-12 months. I guess I didn’t mention Pro Tools and for good reason. That is how you build a Rock Bands history. The releases keep the momentum building while a band is on the road.

Van Halen, Texas Jam, 1979

Van Halen, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and just about every band did that when Rock was fresh. Gee, a 3 year development deal with an album every 2-3 years doesn’t seem to work. No kidding. Is anybody listening at Warner Brothers or Sony? I didn’t think so. Go buy American Bang.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN


Don Rich on Tele with The Buckaroos

Eileen Sisk, in her recent biography of Buck Owens disclosed a good amount of information on how much The Buckaroos made working for the King of Bakersfield. It gave a lot of insight into the sacrifices that were made to be a Buckaroo.

Don Rich made $75 per week when he started to play with Buck. In addition to that, he was to turn over any money he made from outside jobs. Don and the other Buckaroos could make extra money by making a commission on concession sales. Don won many awards as a guitarist; in fact he won awards before Buck was recognized by Country Music associations. Don could have played on many sessions but opted to stay by Buck’s side even though the money was not that great. Buck and Don were a team much like  Tom Petty and Mike Campbell, but, only Buck saw the real money. He was really an employer. 

1960's Merle

In 1963, Merle Haggard was persuaded to take a cut in pay and play bass for Buck. Merle was making $150 per week playing Bakersfield Honky Tonks. Buck hired him to play Bass in his band for $75 per week.  Merle only lasted 2-3 weeks depending on who you talk to before quitting Buck’s band. During those three weeks Merle nicknamed the band The Buckaroos. Merle came up with the name for Buck’s band.

Even though the money was not that good, it was hard to turn down a chance to play in Buck’s band who at the time were considered probably the best in Country Music. Many sidemen today only earn about $200-$400 per week for dates at fairs or other steady venues.

It can be worse for an Indie Rock band. I recently went to a show at The Nick in Birmingham where a band I knew had traveled playing several Southern clubs got their share for the night, $34 after splitting the door with three other bands and the club Sound Engineer.

Early Ozzy, Black Sabbath Days

Ozzy, in his recent autobiography, tells how he never really saw money during his days in Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath was selling records and selling out shows yet rarely saw money. He learned from other members of the band that he could contact management and request a car like a Rolls Royce or something and it would be at the front door the next day. The car could then be sold and converted to cash in his pocket to use as he wished. Essentially, he was living as many bands did back then and that was on the management credit card, both literally and figuratively.

Even Elvis, who commanded big money, was at the mercy of his Manager Col. Tom Parker. At times, he would discuss getting out of his contract or not wanting to do certain concert dates or whatever only to be reminded how deeply in debt he was. In the early days, accounting and taxes were known to be above the heads of many artists and the business knowledge had by Management and Label Executives enabled them to use scare tactics to keep their roster in line.

Semisonic  drummer, Jacob Slichter, wrote a great autobiography from the journals that he kept during his fifteen minutes of fame called “So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star”. He not only went through how the music business worked in the 90’s but talked about how much money it took to have a number one record.  It took close to a million dollars when all was said and done in promotion to get the song “Closing Time” to number one. All the money it takes in promoting a band as well as the cost of touring including a bus that costs several thousand dollars each week eat into profits. In the end, most bands don’t see much unless things really hit big.

During the early days of  Van Halen things were kept lean to put money back into their show and work on becoming headliners. Eddie Van Halen was still living at home with his parents when he married Valerie Bertinelli according to her own book, “Losing It: and Gaining my Life Back One Pound at a Time”.  Even though he could have probably bought a house by the third album when he was dating Valerie it made life easier to keep a room at home with the parents.

When I was 16 I had the opportunity to meet Thin Lizzy on the “Johnny the Fox” tour. The song “The Boys are Back in Town” was a hit on the radio and they were out on tour opening for Queen who had a big album with “A Night at The Opera”. By the time they came to Fresno, California, Freddie Mercury was sick and Queen cancelled. Thin Lizzy became the headliner with Sammy Hagar brought in to open the show.

Hey Scott, so how much you make?

I was at sound check at Selland Arena and had the chance to hang and talk to guitarist, Scott Gorham. We talked about guitarists that he knew such as Ritchie Blackmore and how I was surprised he was from L.A. when I had expected an Irish or British accent. I had one big question since I was a guitar player that wanted to be in a twin lead rock band like Thin Lizzy, but, only played the occasional dances or talent shows with my garage band. How much did he make probably for the year? You know, he knew I was sincere and he was honest with me. He estimated about $24,000 per year. Back in 1976, that would be about $50,000 or so in today’s dollars. It was okay, but, I was expecting $100,000 or something.

In reality, the big payoff for some well-known names in the business did not happen until after years of solid work and paying lots of taxes.

Alex Chilton, Big Star days

What does that mean today especially for an indie act where you don’t want to look too big or be a sell out in the music business? It may mean adjusting one’s lifestyle in order to accommodate the need to create. At one time,   Alex Chilton , the cult hero behind The Box Tops and Big Star  was living in a tent on a friend’s property outside Memphis. He did find a home in New Orleans, but, after a lifetime worth of work he made enough to keep a modest lifestyle.

The music business may be whatever you are able to do yourself. The big labels don’t touch anything that doesn’t want to be developed by a Manager for the masses such as Kesha or Katy Perry. It’s entertainment, but, is it talent? Is it originality or is it a play developed for the artist to walk into? Most musician/songwriters don’t want to even go there as they write and record their music.

It remains to be seen how many musicians will be able to consider what they do as a career after free downloading has taken much of their livelihood. It is estimated that Nashville has lost about 60% of its songwriters due to illegal downloading. The Music Industry has lost jobs in the tens of thousands.

In a way, the clock has turned back to where a new “ Sun” records or other regional could end up making a big impression with innovation. A band, a cooperative or an entrepreneur with deep pockets and web know how could end up being the next big player. Ultimately, the music has to be interesting enough to get the listener to go look for it on the web.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN