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Being that it's Presidents' Day Weekend, one of the local classic rock stations did a survey of its listeners, asking them to name the iconic song of each president's term from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan. The survey was put out there by Greg Kihn, a local (and somewhat mildly nationally-recognized) guitarist and band-leader, who does the morning show on that radio station. Nixon's term was represented by Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" (appropriate for so many reasons), I forget Ford and Carter's representatives, but Reagan's was voted as....Van Halen's



This got me to thinking...was Van Halen the most representative rock band of the 80s? And what is it about "Panama" that is so cool?


For me, a kid born in the mid-70s, and an MTV kid, Van Halen was one of the coolest bands ever. Their videos set the tone for much of the goofy, silly, extravagant, party-inducing videos that would come later. But that wasn't the only reason you listened to them...Eddie Van Halen is a bona fide rock god. Seriously...listen to "Panama"...or better yet,

with that mind-blowing solo of Eddie's, and Michael Anthony's bass thumping in the mix. And the beginning of "Runnin With The Devil"......or
...yeah, I'm a happy girl.


Sure, some of the other songs with funnier videos were iconic of the 80s, but if you took just the music...yeah, in many ways, Van Halen was truly iconic of the 80s. And even though I love me some Sammy Hagar, the band just wasn't the same without Diamond Dave wailing and growling away...videos and stage presence aside. Yes, there were many, many other acts of the 80s that could represent the decade--and for various reasons--but I can see the appeal of Van Halen being the representatives. I mean, when you think of Reagan and his crew, isn't the polar opposite Van Halen?


What's sad is to see that Eddie is such an epic rock star that he can't stay dry enough to regain his greatness...Michael decided that he didn't want to put up with Eddie's antics...Diamond Dave is washed up...and does anyone care about Alex? Meh, rock n roll greats aren't meant to go on for ever and ever in the same vein. It seems like the lifestyle and the mentality will destroy the weaker individuals, and make the stronger ones go to other avenues and arenas just to survive into middle age and beyond. Thankfully we have their recordings to remind us of how great they really were.


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Van Halen? Oh yes.... I remember them...


Van Halen have a warm glow about them - they were the quintessential party band - but who remembers them? Hendrix gets played at every exuse regardless of any asociation with corrupt politics. The problem with Van Halemn is that they weren't controversial enough to make any lasting impact. Sure they had a wild time and probably now suffer for it - Didn't I hear the original line-up was back together again? - but their glory days are gone and like many other bands they're plugging away on a lower level for those who want 80's memoribilia.


Does that sound cruel? Show business is - witness the recent demise of Whitney Houston or the the relative obscurity of Caldrail - to name a few. I think if one of Van Halen had died in a horrific and bizarre accident then they'd still be a household name. Nothing preserves immortality like death. But then the original line up of Balck Sabbath is back together and let's be honest, it isn't Ozzy's singing we remember him for.

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Heh yeah, I agree that Van Halen isn't the end all-be all of 80s rock. I found it really funny that they were voted by the listeners of the radio station.


I often wonder what would have happened to Hendrix if he had lived even 10 more years. Would he have influenced Bowie even more, thus creating a less-glam Ziggy?


As for VH, most of the original lineup is back, yes. Michael Anthony refuses to play with Eddie until he's sober permanently, which ain't happening. So, Eddie's son Wolfgang is the bassist. A family affair, I guess?

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If Hendrix had survived another 10 years? According to a mate of mine who is something of a dedicated worshipper, Hendrix was increasingly showing interest in fusion style music rather than rock/blues. My own feeling is that while his reputation in the Hendrix Experience is pretty well unassailable, his later stuff would have been much more biased toward what happened in the mid eighties anyway - albums full of instrumental electric guitar symphonies (of which I bought a few myself by players such as Dave Chastain, Tony McAlpine, and so on - I was a confirmed metalhead in those days)

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