By the end of the '70s, hard rock seemed destined to go the way of the dodo. Then Van Halen came along and shifted the world on its axis.

The band's 1978 self-titled debut was a tour de force of jaw-dropping virtuosity, off-the-wall showmanship and brilliant pop sensibilities. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen revolutionized the medium with his two-handed tapping technique, and he and singer David Lee Roth immediately cemented their place as one of rock's most iconic — and volatile — duos.

Over the next six years, Van Halen released five more albums with Roth at the helm before things went south in spectacular fashion. Those first six LPs run the gamut from white-knuckle heavy metal to delectable pop-rock to early-20th-century jazz standards — sometimes within the same song.

Roth reunited sporadically with Van Halen over the years, yielding a pair of singles in the '90s and the late-period triumph A Different Kind of Truth in 2012. Their best work is nothing short of rock 'n' roll gospel, and even their worst always has at least one redeeming feature, typically Eddie's sizzling guitar work. See it all below in our list of All 75 David Lee Roth-Era Van Halen Songs Ranked Worst to Best.

75. "1984"
From: 1984 (1984)

Inoffensive as far as instrumentals go, the title track of 1984 commits the cardinal sin of forcing listeners to wait 67 seconds before the real music starts. (Bryan Rolli)

74. "Tora! Tora!"
From: Women and Children First (1980)

Imagine a pterodactyl screeching over a Black Sabbath song and you'll have a decent approximation of this sub-minute instrumental. Believe it or not, that's a compliment. (Rolli)

73. “Intruder”
From: Diver Down (1982)

The video for Van Halen’s “Oh (Pretty Woman)” cover ran longer than the song, so Eddie Van Halen whipped up this droning instrumental to lengthen the tune. It’s a mere means to an end, and it shows. (Rolli)

72. “Little Guitars (Intro)”
From: Diver Down (1982)

Eddie Van Halen pulled off a bastardized version of flamenco guitar pioneer Carlos Montoya by tremolo picking on the high strings while hammering on the low strings with his middle finger. "I think the best thing that I do is cheat," he boasted to Guitar World. Fakery rarely sounded so good. (Rolli)

71. "Honeybabysweetiedoll"
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

A Different Kind of Truth was Van Halen's first album to feature Roth on vocals since 1984. Most of its songs don't scale the dazzling heights of their original six albums, but Roth and Eddie Van Halen's chemistry still shines through on tracks like the admirably unhinged "Honeybabysweetiedoll." (Matthew Wilkening)

70. "The Trouble with Never"
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

This is one of the tracks the original lineup reportedly demoed during an aborted 2000 reunion attempt. Completed a decade later with Wolfgang Van Halen taking over for bassist Michael Anthony, the track finds Eddie Van Halen pushing his wah pedal to the limit in enjoyable ways. (Wilkening)

 

69. "Bullethead"
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

Half of A Different Kind of Truth consists of newly recorded versions of previously unreleased songs from Van Halen's early days. Some were reworked considerably, but the band left the barreling riff and stuttered chorus of "Bullethead" intact. (Wilkening)

68. "China Town"
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

Although some fans remained upset about Michael Anthony's dismissal, playing alongside his son Wolfgang brought Eddie Van Halen back into action. The young bass player proves he's up for the job by going toe-to-toe with his dad on the tapped intro to "China Town," which sends the song roaring down the tracks like a train without brakes. (Wilkening)

67. "As Is"
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

Some songs on Van Halen's final album can be dismissed as comfort food. But "As Is" proves they could also still push boundaries in exciting new ways. This may be the best showcase for Alex Van Halen's drumming since "Hot for Teacher," as he leads his brother, nephew and Roth through one of A Different Kind of Truth's most inventive tracks. (Wilkening)

66. "Tattoo"
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

The pressure of being the lead single from the first Roth-fronted Van Halen album in 28 years may have been a bit too much. "Tattoo" doesn't include enough guitar pyrotechnics to please fans. But let's face it: Nothing was going to bring Van Halen the same commercial success they enjoyed in the '80s. A catchy song but maybe not the best choice to announce their comeback. (Wilkening)

65. "Beats Workin'"
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

The closing song on the final album Eddie Van Halen recorded before his 2020 death turned out to be a perfect if unexpected farewell, as the guitar legend spends the last two minutes jamming with his brother and son over a bass grove inspired by the Beatles' "Ticket to Ride." (Wilkening)

 

64. "Blood and Fire"
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

Roth's sentimental streak kicks in on Truth's poppiest rock song as he recounts the obstacles the band overcame in their early days and celebrates their reunion. "Told you I was coming back," he declares during a rarer quiet moment just before Eddie tears into a solo. "Say you missed me." (Wilkening)

63. "Me Wise Magic"
From: Best Of - Volume 1 (1996)

Sammy Hagar thought “Me Wise Magic” was “some badass music,” which is high praise considering it was one of two songs Van Halen recorded without him during their short-lived ‘90s reunion with David Lee Roth. The music is badass indeed; too bad the song meanders for several minutes too long and lacks the pop hooks that made Roth’s first tenure with the band so magical. (Matt Wardlaw)

62. "Happy Trails"
From: Diver Down (1982)

Van Halen puts their terrific vocal harmonies to good use on this charmingly irreverent Dale Evans cover, a fitting send-off to a slapdash album cooked up at light speed. As Roth boasted to Sounds in 1982: "Joke 'em if they can't take a fuck, Sylvie! You wouldn't believe the number of TV commercials and radio jingles this band can sing in four-part harmony." (Rolli)

61. "Stay Frosty"
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

“Ice Cream Man” has long been a fan favorite, and Van Halen threw listeners a bone with its spiritual successor, “Stay Frosty” — a link that Roth himself acknowledged. It’s another acoustic romp full of Roth’s chilled-out scat-singing and another fiery solo from Eddie. (Wardlaw)

60. "You and Your Blues"
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

One of the freshly written songs on A Different Kind of Truth that didn’t originate from ‘70s demos, “You and Your Blues” blends both of Van Halen’s classic periods. “It was the more melodic side of pop you saw in the [Sammy] Hagar era, but with Dave there,” Wolfgang Van Halen told UCR. (Wardlaw)

 

59. "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)"
From: Diver Down (1982)

Roth just couldn't quit those old-timey jazz and pop standards, and he corralled the band into covering this 1924 Milton Ager / Jack Yellen tune after hearing it on a radio station in Louisville, Kentucky. Family patriarch Jan Van Halen puts the finishing touches on this breezy romp with his clarinet playing. (Rolli)

58. "Sunday Afternoon in the Park"
From: Fair Warning (1981)

With Alex Van Halen providing a solid backbeat, brother Eddie generates spooky, atmospheric sounds using his Electro-Harmonix micro-synthesizer. This hazy instrumental cues up the furious Fair Warning closer “One Foot Out the Door,” but it would have worked equally well in a Steven Spielberg movie. (Wardlaw)

57. "Spanish Fly"
From: Van Halen II (1979)

How the hell was Eddie Van Halen supposed to follow up the paradigm-shifting "Eruption"? By ditching his Frankenstrat and Marshall Super Lead altogether and proving he could just as easily turn a nylon-string guitar into a weapon of mass destruction. (Rolli)

56. "Big River"
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

Twenty years after his solo career flamed out, David Lee Roth brought his A-game to the A Different Kind of Truth sessions with lyrics that go beyond crushes on high school teachers to more thought-provoking, if not exactly clear, subject matter. (Wilkening)

55. "Dancing in the Street"
From: Diver Down (1982)

Van Halen’s treatment of Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” sounds like an effortless, feel-good summer song. But that’s deceptive: Eddie would later gripe that this cover, with its pulsating Minimoog synthesizer riff, required as much time and effort as writing an original song. For his toil, Van Halen was rewarded with a good (but not great) No. 38 peak on the Billboard Hot 100. (Wardlaw)

 

54. "She's the Woman"
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

Ten years after A Different Kind of Truth, Wolfgang Van Halen told UCR he fought for "She's the Woman" to be the first single released from the album. It's impossible to argue with his assessment. "Tattoo" arrived first instead, but it's Roth's yelp 12 seconds into the song that announces Van Halen's comeback. It only gets better from there. (Wilkening)

53. "Can't Get This Stuff No More"
From: Best Of - Volume 1 (1996)

The second of two songs that Van Halen recorded during their short mid-'90s reunion with Roth, “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” has a complicated history. It grew out of “The Backdoor Shuffle,” a bluesy Balance-era track co-written with Sammy Hagar — for which the exiled singer eventually received a sizable check. (Wardlaw)

52. "In a Simple Rhyme"
From: Women and Children First (1980)

“In a Simple Rhyme” dates to the early ‘70s, before Michael Anthony joined the band. Even then, most of the elements that would make up Van Halen’s most anthemic songs — explosive riffs, soaring vocals, adventurous drumming — were already in place. Anthony’s nimble bass work and unparalleled vocal harmonies are the icing on the cake. (Wardlaw)

51. "Could This Be Magic?"
From: Women and Children First (1980)

Eddie Van Halen didn't know how to play slide guitar before producer Ted Templeman handed him a bottleneck and told him to give it a whirl, but you'd never know from his masterful performance on "Could This Be Magic?" With Roth supplying acoustic rhythm guitar, the band cut the song in one take — proof that when they were firing on all cylinders, they could conjure magic out of thin air. (Rolli)

50. "Outta Space"
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

Van Halen takes a stand as an eco-warrior on Truth's most incendiary song, as Roth converts the '70s leftover "Let's Get Rockin'" into something more high-minded. It's been said that Eddie Van Halen rarely paid attention to what Roth was singing, but in this case, his jaw-dropping riffs and solos add extra urgency to his bandmate's environmental warnings. (Wilkening)

 

49. "(Oh) Pretty Woman"
From: Diver Down (1982)

Van Halen cut a heavy but faithful version of Roy Orbison's "(Oh) Pretty Woman,” looking for a brief escape from their unforgiving schedule of touring and recording. Things went awry as the song became a big hit and the label pressed for a new album. Running thin on original material, the delightfully weird “Intruder,” along with additional covers and instrumentals, helped complete the record. (Wardlaw)

48. "Where Have All the Good Times Gone!"
From: Diver Down (1982)

Four years after exploding with their version of "You Really Got Me," Van Halen opened their fifth album with another Kinks cover. This one's a bit more of a melancholy slow burner, but good luck keeping it from sinking its hooks into you. (Wilkening)

47. "Women in Love ... "
From: Van Halen II (1979)

The penultimate track on Van Halen II is notable for Roth’s uncharacteristically subtle vocal performance — fitting, considering it’s a bittersweet song about a man who loses his girlfriend to another woman. (Wardlaw)

46. "The Full Bug"
From: Diver Down (1982)

Apart from a brief harmonica solo, the last of the four original full-band songs on Van Halen's hastily assembled Diver Down doesn't break much new ground. But there's still plenty of juice here. (Wilkening)

45. "You're No Good"
From: Van Halen II (1979)

Van Halen routinely covered “You’re No Good” — first recorded by Dee Dee Warwick and made famous by Linda Ronstadt — during their club days, but Eddie Van Hallen forgot it and worked up a new version on the fly while recording Van Halen II. The result is a moody, grinding take on a classic that opens their second LP in a captivating fashion. (Wardlaw)

 

44. "One Foot Out the Door"
From: Fair Warning (1981)

This furious Fair Warning track about nearly getting caught in bed with another man's wife is the first time Roth's serial womanizing sounds like it has consequences. The punkish tempo, sinister vocals and mind-boggling guitar solo all reinforce the urgency of the subject matter and provide a fittingly bleak conclusion to Van Halen's darkest album. (Rolli)

43. "Cathedral"
From: Diver Down (1982)

Using a boatload of echo and chorus, Eddie Van Halen emulated the sound of a church organ on his 1961 Fender Stratocaster, hammering notes with his left hand while twisting the volume knob with his right. It's a far cry from the breakneck shredding of "Eruption" and "Spanish Fly," but no less compelling. (Rolli)

42. "Outta Love Again"
From: Van Halen II (1979)

On Van Halen II, the group sought to make the drums and bass more prominent in the mix. They achieve their mission on “Outta Love Again,” which closes out the album’s first side with tightly coiled guitar riffs and one of Alex Van Halen’s most intense and dynamic drum performances on record. (Wardlaw)

41. "Hang 'Em High"
From: Diver Down (1982)

Van Halen originally recorded "Hang 'Em High" with different lyrics under the title "Last Night" for consideration on their debut album, which may explain why it's the heaviest and most focused rocker on Diver Down. Both brothers shine on this one — Eddie with his nimble riffs and off-the-wall fills, and Alex with his relentless, metal-edged swing. (Rolli)

40. "House of Pain"
From: 1984 (1984)

Originating from a series of demos Van Halen made in the ‘70s with Kiss co-leader Gene Simmons, “House of Pain” underwent several permutations before appearing in its final form at the end of 1984. Abounding with indelible riffs, furious drumming and Roth’s vivacious howl (sans his guttural “paaaain” from the demo), it’s a stellar send-off to Van Halen’s classic lineup. (Wardlaw)

 

39. "Take Your Whiskey Home"
From: Women and Children First (1980)

"Take Your Whiskey Home" is a tastefully subdued throwback to the '70s blues-rock that Van Halen largely rendered passe with their smash-and-burn debut. Eddie covers a ton of ground with a simple, swaggering acoustic guitar riff, and Roth tones down the theatrics as he inhabits the role of a drunken vagabond who's willing to ditch every good thing in his life for another drop. (Rolli)

38. "So This is Love?"
From: Fair Warning (1981)

Even though Eddie Van Halen deemed Fair Warning the band’s “dark period,” the group's free-spirited energy still came through on certain tracks. “So This Is Love?” is one of them, with Michael Anthony’s bouncing bass line adding extra spring to David Lee Roth’s upbeat vocals before Eddie takes it home with a sizzling solo. (Wardlaw)

37. "Secrets"
From: Diver Down (1982)

Anybody who thinks David Lee Roth couldn't have matured alongside his Van Halen bandmates needs to sit down and listen to this beautiful piece. (Wilkening)

36. "Girl Gone Bad"
From: 1984 (1984)

Van Halen front-loaded 1984 with pop-friendly hits, but they crammed its second side with some of their heaviest and most eclectic deep cuts. Chief among them is "Girl Gone Bad," which features a furious, Led Zeppelin-esque gallop and a smorgasbord of guitar tricks, from delicate harmonics to some of Eddie's most ferocious shredding. (Rolli)

35. "Sinner's Swing!"
From: Fair Warning (1981)

You'd think a song called "Sinner's Swing!" would be a winking good time. Instead, it's the fastest, heaviest track on Fair Warning, an unrelenting thrill ride of gonzo guitar riffs, off-kilter grooves and spitfire vocals. To further emphasize the heaviness, it's the only Van Halen song to feature an f-bomb — and boy, did they use it wisely. (Rolli)

 

34. "Little Dreamer"
From: Van Halen (1978)

Although Van Halen developed a reputation as a good-time party band, “Little Dreamer” shows off their darker, more evocative side and offers a glimpse of their future experimentation. The retro feel of the track is no accident: The band wears its old-school influences proudly here, from Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix to Motown. (Wardlaw)

33. "Fools"
From: Women and Children First (1980)

Almost always forgotten in the excellent first side of Van Halen's third album, "Fools" is more of a song suite that kicks off with two distinct introductory segments before unleashing a devastatingly heavy main riff. (Wilkening)

32. "Loss of Control"
From: Women and Children First (1980)

There’s a great theater of the mind element to the “pilot” communications at the beginning of “Loss of Control,” which immediately place the listener amid Van Halen’s musical chaos. It’s a genius move that adds a “hold on to your seat” feeling to this fast thrasher, which refuses to let up for two and a half intense minutes. (Wardlaw)

31. "Dirty Movies"
From: Fair Warning (1981)

Give Van Halen credit where it’s due, because “Dirty Movies” sounds positively filthy. As Eddie’s opening fretboard mayhem gives way to a sleazy groove, the song transports listeners to a dimly lit, X-rated theater, with Roth’s spoken-word breaks — “Hey, you remember when that girl was prom queen?” — driving home the sordid energy. (Wardlaw)

30. "Push Comes to Shove"
From: Fair Warning (1981)

Eddie Van Halen described "Push Comes to Shove" as "Roth's idea of trying to cash in on the reggae thing," but Anthony's perpetually moving bass line turns it into a dark funk exercise. Eddie nods to jazz-fusion titans Allan Holdsworth and Al Di Meola with a spectacular solo, and Roth puts on his best after-house lounge lizard shtick, sounding like the loneliest man in the world when he croons, "Seems like 40 days and 40 nights since someone used my first name, including you." (Rolli)

 

29. "Beautiful Girls"
From: Van Halen II (1979)

Van Halen music is whiskey in a paper cup,” David Lee Roth once said — and it flows freely on “Beautiful Girls.” ” From the swaggering opening guitar riff to the final kiss, this laidback, fun-in-the-sun anthem beckons listeners to blast it from a boombox while kicking back on the beach. (Wardlaw)

28. "Light Up the Sky"
From: Van Halen II (1979)

Some underrated but great tracks were left off Van Halen's set lists for years. In the case of "Light Up the Sky," it was more than three decades. Wolfgang Van Halen helped rescue this gem as the opening song on the band's final tour in 2015. (Wilkening)

27. "Bottoms Up!"
From: Van Halen II (1979)

“Bottoms Up” was a proven ace ever since Van Halen started playing it as an encore during the back half of their 1978 tour in support of their debut album. Eddie Van Halen later revealed the solo was a struggle for him because he wasn’t a fan of playing inside the beat — not that listeners could ever tell from his barnstorming performance. (Wardlaw)

26. "You Really Got Me"
From: Van Halen (1978)

Following Eddie Van Halen’s stunning “Eruption” solo, “You Really Got Me” risked being overshadowed. Instead, it comes in hard and heavy with its buzz-saw riff and cooks for its entirety, making their update of the Kinks original an essential track in their catalog. (Wardlaw)

25. "Little Guitars"
From: Diver Down (1982)

The covers-heavy Diver Down is often considered the worst of the original six Roth-fronted Van Halen albums. But the sultry, Latin-influenced "Little Guitars" is the best of the four new songs. Inspired by a flamenco guitarist he saw on TV, Eddie Van Halen came up with one of his most inventive riffs. His unaccompanied song-ending solo is pure bliss. (Wilkening)

 

24. "Hear About It Later"
From: Fair Warning (1981)

"Hear About It Later" sounded like nothing in Van Halen's catalog up to that point, a progressive pop-metal masterpiece that trades Eddie's usual high-speed histrionics for clean, slow-burning arpeggios that crescendo into shimmering, wide-open chords. The coup de grace arrives just past the midpoint when a thunderous drum-and-bass breakdown tees up a gorgeous, esoteric guitar solo. (Rolli)

23. "Top Jimmy"
From: 1984 (1984)

Roth wrote the lyrics to "Top Jimmy" about his friend James Koneck, who worked at the Top Taco stand outside of A&M Records in Hollywood and performed with the band Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs. Koneck must have made some damn good tacos to inspire this flattering portrait of a "cool cat" with "the sound that everybody digs," set to a relentlessly peppy backbeat and Eddie's constantly shapeshifting guitar figures. (Rolli)

22. "I'll Wait"
From: 1984 (1984)

When Roth hit a wall while working on "I'll Wait," Ted Templeman recruited Michael McDonald (with whom he worked frequently with the Doobie Brothers) to assist with the lyrics. Together, they cooked up a voyeuristic tale about a man who's in unrequited love with a magazine model, a perfect accompaniment to Eddie's chilly, slightly unnerving synthesizer arrangements. (Rolli)

21. "D.O.A."
From: Van Halen II (1979)

Many artists will cite “D.O.A.” as a dark-horse favorite in Van Halen’s catalog, and it’s easy to understand why. Eddie’s dark, gnarled guitar work sounds as strung-out as the on-the-lam tale that follows. Being on the run never felt this good. (Wardlaw)

20. "Jamie's Cryin'"
From: Van Halen (1978)

On an album dominated by up-tempo hard rock songs, Van Halen showcases their more sensitive side and musical range with the bittersweet ballad "Jamie's Cryin'." (Wilkening)

 

19. "Feel Your Love Tonight"
From: Van Halen (1978)

Van Halen wrote their share of songs about teenage lust, and “Feel Your Love Tonight” helped to set the template. While some groups would dance around the subject, the band cuts to the chase here, with the desire to feel the love spelled out quite clearly against an equally randy musical backdrop. It might seem vulgar if it weren’t so damn catchy. (Wardlaw)

18. "Ice Cream Man"
From: Van Halen (1978)

"Ice Cream Man" starts with Roth accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, offering a straightforward take on little-known blues guitarist John Brim's song. His bandmates soon join in with amps cranked, giving Eddie Van Halen another chance to show off his genre-changing guitar skills. (Wilkening)

 

17. "Jump"
From: 1984 (1984)

Headbangers may balk, but "Jump" became Van Halen's only No. 1 single for a reason: It's pure pop-metal perfection. After years of keyboard dalliances, Eddie Van Halen proved he could build an entire song around his non-primary instrument, and Roth spun a get-up-and-go anthem out of much darker source material: watching news footage of a man threatening to leap from a building and figuring somebody in the crowd was inevitably thinking, "Go ahead and jump." (Rolli)

16. "Romeo Delight"
From: Women and Children First (1980)

After rush-recording their first two albums using songs from their club days, Van Halen finally got a chance to write new material and experiment with Women and Children First. The scorching "Romeo Delight" is one of the best examples of how well they took advantage of this opportunity and quickly earned a spot as the band's show-opening number. (Wilkening)

 

15. "On Fire"
From: Van Halen (1978)

Following the mellow "Little Dreamer" and the kitschy "Ice Cream Man," Van Halen closed out their game-changing debut with "On Fire," a blistering punk-metal onslaught that reminded listeners they were capable of bulldozing buildings. Roth unleashes a seemingly endless stream of falsetto shrieks as Eddie lays down one mind-bending lead lick after another, teetering on the brink of collapse but never loosening his ironclad grip. (Rolli)

14. "Atomic Punk"
From: Van Halen (1978)

Eddie Van Halen was more than a guitar virtuoso; he was a sorcerer and a technician, capable of emulating a myriad of other objects with his instrument. With the help of an MXR Phase 90 pedal, he lands somewhere between a chainsaw and a helicopter blade on the intro to "Atomic Punk," a bare-knuckle bruiser that sounds like the product of subterranean mutants from a distant future. (Rolli)

 

13. "Dance the Night Away"
From: Van Halen II (1979)

Most of the hastily recorded Van Halen II finds the suddenly famous band sticking close to the formula of their first album. But the unabashedly pop-leaning "Dance the Night Away" offered a prophetic glance at an even brighter future. The road to "Jump" stars here. (Wilkening)

12. "And the Cradle Will Rock ... "
From: Women and Children First (1980)

The opening track on Women and Children First marked Eddie's first on-record foray into keyboards, as he achieved the grimy intro by running a Wurlitzer electric piano through an MXR Flanger and 100-watt Marshall amp. At the ripe old age of 26, Roth expressed his anxieties over the younger generation — but when he asks, "Have you seen Junior's grades?" in that exaggerated baritone, it sounds less like an endorsement and more like an unspoken invitation to raise hell. (Rolli)

 

11. "Drop Dead Legs"
From: 1984 (1984)

The strutting "Drop Dead Legs" was never destined for chart success like other songs on the hit 1984, but it's one of Van Halen's best deep cuts. Its confident, deliberate pace serves as the perfect backdrop for Eddie Van Halen's increasingly soulful soloing. (Wilkening)

10. "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love"
From: Van Halen (1978)

Countless words have been devoted to Eddie Van Halen's signature "Brown Sound"; perhaps nowhere was it browner than on the mesmerizing, phase-driven intro to "Ain't Talkin' Bout Love." Originally intended as a parody of the late-'70s punk scene, this two-chord anthem rightfully secured its place among Van Halen's most popular songs with its fist-pumping chants, blistering solos and one of rock's all-time greatest backhanded compliments: "You know you’re semi-good lookin'." (Rolli)

 

9. "Somebody Get Me a Doctor"
From: Van Halen II (1979)

Van Halen had a knack for crafting incredible intros - witness the gravity-shifting introduction they used to boldly announce the arrival of “Somebody Get Me a Doctor.” First debuted live in 1976, the song is a classic, illustrating how easily they could channel their backyard party roots even after they became rock 'n' roll kings. (Wardlaw)

 

8. "Runnin' with the Devil"
From: Van Halen (1978)

From the opening moments of the innovative intro - which Eddie Van Halen said “sounded like a jet landing” - it was clear Van Halen was no ordinary band. “Runnin’ With the Devil” quickly establishes all the Van Halen hallmarks: Eddie’s inimitable guitar work, Michael Anthony’s throbbing bass, Alex’s deep-in-the-pocket grooves and David Lee Roth’s banshee shrieks. And it sets the tone for an album that revolutionized rock music. (Wardlaw)

 

7. "I'm the One"
From: Van Halen (1978)

Van Halen gave rock music a swift kick in the pants with their mind-bending virtuosity and showmanship, but they stayed on top of the world for decades because they had range. Case in point: "I'm the One," a bebop-on-steroids spectacle that cuts to a barbershop quartet vocal break and explodes back into a breathless riff extravaganza on a dime. (Rolli)

 

6. "Hot for Teacher"
From: 1984 (1984)

Any doubts about Alex Van Halen's place in the pantheon of all-time rock drummers ought to evaporate after hearing his gobsmacking double-bass work in the intro to "Hot for Teacher." The rest of this boogie-metal anthem shows the band at its raunchy, raucous best, proof that you can simultaneously achieve new levels of poppiness and heaviness. (Rolli)

 

5. "Panama"
From: 1984 (1984)

If the keyboard pop-rock of 1984's album-opening "Jump" briefly made fans worry the band had gone soft, the massive opening riff, thumping rhythms and overall horniness of "Panama" set their minds at ease. (Wilkening)

 

4. "Mean Street"
From: Fair Warning (1981)

Fair Warning's dark eccentricity is immediately evident from the bizarro tapping licks that begin the opening track "Mean Street." From there, Alex and Anthony take listeners on an aggressively funky trip through the land of the living dead, while Roth takes stock of the desperate and downtrodden in one of the most menacing performances of his career. (Rolli)

 

3. "Eruption"
From: Van Halen (1978)

It took Eddie Van Halen less than two minutes to change the face of rock music forever, becoming the electric guitar's most messianic figure since Jimi Hendrix and setting a bar that no six-stringer in his wake would ever touch. Come for the tapping, but stay for freakish pentatonic licks, the hyperspeed tremolo picking and stomach-churning dive-bombs. The kicker is that Eddie, ever the perfectionist, claimed he was haunted by a "mistake" he made on the one-take solo. Thankfully, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. (Rolli)

 

2. "Everybody Wants Some!!"
From: Women and Children First (1980)

"Everybody Wants Some!!" is proof that Van Halen was always more than just three guys backing their generation's best guitar player. From Alex Van Halen's extended tribal introduction to Michael Anthony's soaring chorus vocals to David Lee Roth's wiseass one-liners, the band members complement and magnify each other. (Wilkening)

 

1. "Unchained"
From: Fair Warning (1981)

"Unchained" is a microcosm of everything that makes Van Halen one of rock's elites: Eddie's titanic, constantly moving riffs; Alex and Anthony's throbbing drum-and-bass grooves; Anthony's pitch-perfect backing vocals and Roth's defiant, king-of-the-world shrieks. The lightning-fast, rhythmically nimble solo is given; Roth's good-natured ribbing of Templeman in the breakdown is classic hamminess. "I love that song," Eddie confessed. "It's rare that I can listen back to my own playing and get goose-bumps." No shit, dude. You made an all-timer here. (Rolli)

Sammy Hagar Solo and Band Albums Ranked Worst to Best

Whether on his own or with Van Halen, Montrose, Chickenfoot or HSAS, he rarely takes his foot off the pedal. 

Gallery Credit: Matthew Wilkening

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