It would have been about 1985. I clearly remember that it was Anzac Day, 25 August. This is a solemn public holiday in Australia, our annual commemoration for fallen soldiers. The weather was lousy and everything was closed, and I was in my bedroom doing schoolwork. The radio was on, tuned into EON FM.
Eons ago it seems, but EON was then the cool young person’s rock radio station in my part of the world. It was one of the first commercial radio stations broadcasting on the FM band, and it made much of being in stereo. One station jingle had exaggerated stereo separation.
It’s on the LEFT,
It’s on the RIGHT
It’s got the BEAT
Day and night
It seemed impressive at the time. Anyway, back to this slightly dreary Anzac Day. James Reyne, an Australian rock musician who was big then (and still is) was being interviewed on EON. Actually interview isn’t quite the word – the regular DJ was there, but he had almost lost his voice, and so just let Reyne talk and play music for the best part of two hours. Given time and space to chat he showed himself to be unexpectedly thoughtful and interesting. He had just returned from a trip to America, and he spoke having been to see a Van Halen concert. Van Halen, still fronted by David Lee Roth at this time, were in their pomp, but I could not really see what the excitement was about. Roth was a clown, and the music didn’t really grab me. But Reyne said something which has stuck with me. “They don’t have many songs,” he said, “but they don’t need them”. It was all in the show, the theatre, the stadium spectacular.
Something must explain their popularity. One of their few “songs” came out a bit later, post Roth, with Sam Hagar on vocals: “Why Can’t This Be Love” is good pop rock, but not really what Van Halen were about.
The B-side to that single is more representative. “Get Up” seems to be about nothing in particular, although Hagar mostly screams so it is hard to tell. It is the sound, the noise, the vibe, the aural assault that matters. This kind of thing: It doesn’t do much for me listening to the recorded version, but I kinda see that it would be fun to jump along to in a big sweaty stadium, with lights and lasers and dry ice and the volume at eleven. Better live.
- Artist: Van Halen
- Single Title: Why Can’t His Be Love
- Track: Side B “Get Up”
- Format: 7”, 45 rpm
- Label: Warner, 7-28740
- Manufactured in: Australia
- Year: 1986
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