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Friday, December 23, 2011

"Runnin' with the Devil"

Van Halen - Runnin' with the Devil (1978)

Perfect example of 80s heavy metal. Except that it's from 1978.

Rising and falling synth, like a train passing you by. Then a repetitive menacing bass, followed by a light tinkling piano, giving way to a clean loud guitar riff, backed by a tom and high hat heavy drum set. Then David Lee Roth swaggers to the microphone. This was the opening track to the debut album of Van Halen. Before they were a video game, before their long term bassist was replaced by the fifteen year old son of the guitarist, before the multiple reunion tours, before III, before Van Hagar, before the love affair with MTV made them bigger than anything; they were four hungry guys playing music in LA that were hard to book, because club owners said they were "too loud".

By today's standards this isn't loud, fast, or heavy enough to be heavy metal, but at the time this was raucous. Eddie Van Halen introduced the world to the finger-tapping style he used to blistering effect in so many later songs. Here it is slower than it will be, but it's so distinct and clean. The backing vocals are perfectly harmonized, which just isn't done in Metal anymore, but sounds great here. The opening sound is actually the band's car horns played backwards.

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