Musings On Music History: The Day Van Halen Hit The Top, The Day We Were The World, and The Day The Music Died

01.28: Tying back in to Mr. Van Halen’s b-day two days prior, this day in 1984 saw Van Halen’s 1984 hit the album charts for an impressive run of rock popularity, churning out hits such as “Jump,” “Panama,” and “Hot For Teacher,” which itself spawned one of the best videos to ever impress impressionable young men everywhere (it doesn’t hurt that the song absolutely shreds). Quite a week for the then-recently-turned-27-Eddie and the rest of the guys. 1984 turned out to be one of their most popular albums, both critically and commercially, yet also turned out to be the last recorded with Diamond David Lee Roth. Every album after this one held the Van Halen moniker, but we consider them to be either easy listening palatable (the Van Hagar years) or just complete crap (check out the Gary Cherone years, if you don’t believe us). Though they’ve redeemed themselves recently with the reunion tours and a better-than-it-should-be new album, nothing can ever be as good as the good ‘ol days, but that’s how it should be. There’s no going back, guys, but there will always be the fond memories and fuzzy feelings. And the “Hot For Teacher” video. [more]

01.28: Before and after the American Music Awards on this day in 1985, a group of Super Friends gathered at the Hall of Justice to discuss what they needed to do to combat the evil Legion of Doom, and its evil influence upon third world countries. Ha! Fooled you! There’s no such thing as the American Music Awards. Alright, enough messing around. On this day in 1985, a heretofore unheard of supergroup got together for one night and one night only to record one of the schmaltziest songs ever to accomplish the contradictory task of melting our brains (not in a good way) and helping out starving children in Africa, specifically Ethiopia. “We Are The World” eventually hit #1 and raised, along with the adjoining Hands Across America (remember that? No? Ask your parents) event, over $100 million for people in need in Africa and in our own country. We remember very awkwardly slow-dancing to “We Are The World” at a dance in junior high, remember seeing it ad nauseum on MTV, and wish that its chorus weren’t burned into our brains until the day we die, but we are glad for the good it did and for the people it helped. One question to ask yourself, though, as you watch the video, is what the hell is Dan Aykroyd doing there? Yeah, we can’t figure it out, either. Come on, there’s Tina Tuner, Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Perry, and such a plethora of mid-’80s superstars that we do a triple double take when Aykroyd shows up (sandwiched in-between Lindsey Buckingham and Harry Belafonte). Yes, Ghostbusters was insanely popular at the time, but, by that logic, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson shoulda been there, too, singing for the kids. Come on, at least get Ray Parker, Jr. in there. Well, we guess Aykroyd was one of the Blues Brothers, but, really, all he did was provide a little baritone to John Belushi’s spastic stylings. We know that’s way off topic, but it’s one of those things that bounces through our head, so we just needed to release it. Thanks for listening and you should watch the “We Are The World” video right now (Aykroyd is at 4:18). You won’t regret it. Unless you don’t like having that chorus ring through your skull for the next week.

02.01: This day in 2004 is a day that will go down in infamy, as the day our fragile puritanical psyche was forever scarred, as the day our collective innocence was brutally taken from us, as the day Justin Timberlake helped Janet Jackson thrust her breast upon an unsuspecting world during the Super Bowl halftime show. Oh, our eyes! They’re burning! Not boobies! How will we explain this to our children? We won’t, of course. We’ll keep them innocent and unready for the world. We’ll just make sure to punish those who let this happen, those who broadcast this, those who might possibly think about broadcasting things we deem unfit for public consumption, whether it is or not, whether the public agrees with us or not, because no one should think about boobies when they’re watching football and no one should be subjected to Janet Jackson’s (Miss Jackson’s, if your nasty) breast. We mean, just look at it. Who would want to see that thing? It’s a symbol of the moral corruption of American culture, of the lengths to which we’ve let television and sports fall and fail, and of everything that is wrong with our society. Or it’s just a breast! That’s it. Nothing else. Yeah, we can’t continue with the charade anymore, people. Sorry to make you think we’d gone all holier-than-thou on you, but we just had to prove a point. How did this “event” cause such an uproar in America? What’s the big deal? We still don’t get it. How do we celebrate, with football (which we love, BTW), humanity’s inherent violence, but repress our inherent sexual nature, without which you would not be here reading this amazing post? This does not make sense to us or ever will. We wish there was a show that was on 24-7 just showing images of Janet Jackson’s boob and amazing football plays. It’d be like ESPN with boobs. Wow, don’t steal that. It was our idea first. Thank you, Janet and Justin, for revealing the absurdity and hypocrisy of American culture. That rocked and, after Prince’s stupendous and awesomely awesome halftime show, will never be topped. Thanks for the memories, Miss Jackson.

02.01: C.C. DeVille announced to anyone who would listen, on this day in 2000, that he was leaving Poison due to lack of support for his other project, Samantha 7, which, as we all know, eventually went on to sell millions and millions and millions of albums, overshadowing everything Poison had accomplished, showing Bret Michaels who the smart one was in that band. Seriously, we didn’t even know that Poison and/or C.C. still toured/recorded/lived at the turn of the millennium. We thought grunge and its plaid-clad ilk stomped L.A. hair metal back into the trash heap from whence it emerged in the early ’80s. Guess not. We all know, or maybe not, that Bret has found a new life on the hair metal “oldies” circuit, along with this bandmates in Poison, and as the host of one of the best shows in the world, Rock Of Love, in which he searches for the truest love of his life by filtering through the entirety of America’s stripper population, but we bet C.C. wished he’d stuck around a little longer. Maybe he could’ve helped Bret in his search. Or maybe he could’ve helped Bret explain to us, the masses who endured their audio assault in the ’80s, the definition, exactly, of an “unskinny bop.”

02.02: After serving three months for assault and celebrating his release from Riker’s Island, with a small group of friends, Sid Vicious, former bassist of the seminal and recently-dissolved Sex Pistols, died from a heroin overdose on this day in 1979. Horribly and sadly ironic, Sid was also celebrating being clean and sober for three months, as he’d cleaned up while in prison. His mom, of all people, had some heroin delivered to the apartment and Sid, being Sid and being an addict, partook in the offerings. Now that’s how you celebrate sobriety! So, Sid shot up, had some fun, got more heroin (which was supposedly later found to be 99% pure), shot up some more, violently convulsed due to the overdose, was revived by his girlfriend, went to bed like nothing had happened, and quietly died in his sleep. The coroner explained that if someone who has overdosed sleeps shortly thereafter, their heart rate slows to a crawl due to the double-whammy of the heart’s natural nighttime slowing and the heroin’s doping effect on the heart. A very sad, ignominious end to a life embraced so fully.

02.03: A good chunk of the first wave of rock and roll royalty died on this day in 1959, when a plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper crashed during a snowstorm in a field in Iowa, on the way to the next gig of their “Winter Dance Party” tour. Fraught with problems from the beginning (poor planning of the tour route, the breakdown of the heater on the bus, bitter winter weather), the tour, nevertheless, brought rock and roll to the Midwest masses, eager to break up the monotony, like many kids in those days eager for a little rebellion, of the “nuclear family” American life. On the way to their gig in Clear Lake, Iowa, Buddy Holly had had enough. Enough of the cold bus, enough of the unwashed clothes, enough of the long rides on the desolate roads. He let it be known that he was going to hire a plane to take him to the next gig, in style, in a hurry, so that he could get a hotel room and have some semblance of normalcy, if only for a night. After the gig, Holly did just that, contracting a young, inexperienced pilot to take them to Moorhead, Minnesota, so that he could get a warm hotel room and a decent shower. Originally, only Holly’s backing band were to travel with him, but that changed. The Big Bopper, suffering from a cold, asked to have the second seat from Waylon Jennings (one of Holly’s band mates), who gave it up to the ailing big man, while Valens flipped a coin with Tommy Alsup (Holly’s other band mate) to see who would get the third seat. Unfortunately for Valens and fortunately for Alsup, relatively speaking, of course, Valens won the toss. It is thought that the pilot, inexperienced with flying at night and disoriented with the heavy snowfall, misread the instruments and took the plane into a steep dive, slamming into the ground at 170 mph. All died instantly, before their time, again, as so many have done, leaving us with only their recordings and the memories. To imagine what these guys could’ve accomplished through the ’60s, especially Valens, who was only 17, is to make a futile attempt at re-imagining history. We are just grateful for “Come On Let’s Go,” “Chantilly Lace,” and “That’ll Be The Day.” Classics, all of them, and forever ingrained in our mind.