I have a number of unpopular opinions that I don't readily share with the people in my life. Not because these opinions are offensive, per se, but because they generally lead to a discussion of why I'm wrong and I should die in a fire and how my unpopular opinion is hurting everyone's feelings. At one point, a disagreement about the unpopular opinion I am about to share nearly derailed my marriage.
Here it is.
I prefer the Sammy Hagar version of Van Halen to the David Lee Roth version. It's a personal preference, and I blame MTV.
DLR Van Halen was one of the rockingest bands of the late 70s/early 80s. They played hard and partied harder, and put out some really fucking good albums.
Then MTV happened, and music suddenly became VERY visual. And that is what derailed Van Halen. I mean, have you seeeeeen any of the videos from the 1984 album? Spandex and colors galore. Not exactly hard rockin' you guys. When it became about the videos and not the music so much, you end up with songs that make NO GODDAMN SENSE, like "Panama." Seriously, WTF is that even about?
Perhaps it is the sleaze factor. Van Halen did that very well, and one could argue that it was a big part of their appeal. But... MTV. I'm 9 years old in 1984, I don't need you looking at me like that, Diamond Dave.
1984 was the last album from the "classic" Van Halen lineup. After that, Eddie Van Halen got a little full of himself and fired DLR. Kind of a dick move on Eddie's part, but from what I've heard, that was just one in a very long series of dick moves.
Enter Sammy Hagar. It's 1986, and I am 11 years old. I have a sweet babysitting job, making $2.50/hour and I am rolling in cash. I got a super awesome boom box for my birthday that year to replace my record player and Ma took me to Gold Circle (I think it was still Gold Circle then) to the music department to pick out some tapes.
The Gold Circle didn't have any Smiths or The Cure, which was a disappointment, but Ma wasn't about to drive me 15 miles to the mall so I could go scour the racks at Camelot Music (where I would later hone and perfect my shoplifting skills). But I wanted music to play in my sweet boom box, so I chose Van Halen's 5150.
I still have that tape, even though I have nothing to play it on.
I listened to that thing over and over and over and over and over and over for a good solid year. I know all the words to all the songs and will happily sing them in the car for you if we ever go anywhere together.
It's a solid offering from a band that everyone thought was done. You can change drummers and you can switch out your bassist and sometimes keep your band together, but how many bands get a different lead singer and have the kind of success Van Halen had? There aren't many, I know that for sure.
Eddie toned down the synthesizers on 5150 (thank god, because... oh, the 80s were terrible in so many ways), cleaned up the sound, and wrote better songs. The videos got boring as fuck, and I feel like that helped boost the music. If they're not giving you much to look at, then you'll have to listen.
[I was going to post a 5150-era video here, but apparently good ones are hard to find and there are ZERO on the "official" Van Halen YouTube Channel. Please reference "Eddie Van Halen is kind of a dick" for more information.]
When I told What's-His-Name that I prefer the Sammy Hagar iteration over the DLR years, that sparked an argument that lasted for a good three days. We even split our CD collection in case we broke up. Eventually, we agreed to disagree, and it rarely comes up these days.
Please agree with me in the comments, okay? If you disagree, that's fine, but know that you're wrong.