The first thing I instantly recognize admiring this 1978 classic rock masterpiece is the color of the cassette case. Black may have been the consensus choice to appear on all of the ‘70s rock album covers, but this instance screams creativity. The Gothic color accentuates the various pigments representing the ensemble’s musical and lyrical contributions to the composition. Red streaks are beaming out of Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstrat guitar, with the Dutch-American rocker raising his weapon of choice like King Arthur hoisting Excalibur. Brother Alex Van Halen is viciously pounding his humungous drum set while orange clouds emerge from the brutal beating of his performance. Michael Anthony plays his bass guitar with waves of green swiftly jumping against his back. The charismatic David Lee Roth emits rays of light while in his hero pose with a smooth and assertive grace.
The California group’s legendary logo distinctively serves as their emblem of attitude. The right corner of the “V” is racing leftward and the “H” is snugged parallel to its alphabetical partner, slanting with conviction while the bottom-right line progresses downward. The wings atop the letters and the band’s name placed in the middle unofficially dub them the “Avengers” of hard rock.
As I open the cassette case, I notice a plain and ordinary tape nestled inside. At first glance, the device is white and placed beside the same corner on both sides is the well-known Warner Brothers mark. The set lists, to no surprise, appear on the upper portions of Sides A and B. Its milky appearance may seem dull and unattractive; but, it possesses great power. The tape is the “key” to unlock all of my rebellious emotions stored in this novel, rectangular item. The circular reels are the moments and memories that’ll be cherished for a lifetime when ready to play.
Classic songs such as “Ice Cream Man” and “Atomic Punk” hold the same reverence as verses in a holy scripture. The group’s religious hard rock followers cherish the spiritual blare of each song and memorize the lyrics by heart rather than the Periodic Table for chemistry class. All of the song titles have a special connection to different audiences when beginning to study them. Maybe some have been labeled a “Little Dreamer” by their teachers or a dull-minded principal?
The eerie locomotive train intro to “Running with the Devil” perfectly ties in with the title at this point. A spooky bass solo paying homage to the spirit of Halloween sets the stage for a sudden yet timely executed Eddie guitar riff that manifests into the main sound throughout the entire song (with Alex introducing his younger brother’s riff via a four-second symbol beat). Roth enthusiastically takes on the opening lyrics with a high-pitched yet flawless voice any living creature can hear from a distance. After the first part of the song, the iconic chorus commences.
The quartet’s voices become in sync, convincing the listener it is one person serenading the tune. An occasionally rowdy guitar solo by Eddie and Roth rambling on, the song quickly ends in a heartbeat.
The next track (“Eruption”) begins with a quick, but breathtaking drum launch by Alex. Soon after a cameo by the bass, it transitions to Eddie’s legendary guitar solo everyone seems to know and adore. Unorthodox riffs generate into a syncopated melody fit for an army: A Rock Army!! The mad scientist of the musical ax begins to concoct a different but constant note for the next 15 seconds, addressing the listener of more awesomeness to come. The guitar slowly dies down to catch a quick breather. For approximately five seconds of silence, the guitar is locked and loaded for round two. A riff so magical ignites the solo for another enchanting go-around. It’s the ideal sound for a wizard-themed pinball machine in an arcade to attract a wide-eyed teen armed with a pocket full of quarters dangling in his blue jean pocket in search of a playfield. The guitar begins to fizzle out a bit; and to my disappointment, the thrashing display of sheer genius is over.
During Eddie’s transcending magnum opus, my mind is going through a soothing and peaceful trance. I feel as if he’s playing the song only for me. No need to charge the price of admission, the man is performing a private concert within the confines of my bedroom.
Remember kids, never underestimate the power of rock and roll!!!!