Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Woke up and had to hear "Mean Streets" this morning.

By good ol' Van Halen. So I went straight to youtube, and dug this up: a CD version of
the song that some unnamed VH devotee synced up to a 1981 Italian TV performance.

Man, I forgot just how completely, ridiculously, beyond-shameless-to-the-point-of-brilliant over-the-top David Lee Roth was.

This music has enough smart writing to make it prog-rock, if it didn't rock so hard. And the lyrics to this song, like almost of all Roth's lyrics, also show real depth on close inspection. Roth wrote them after touring around the world with Van Halen for a couple of years, and seeing what it was like to live in really poor areas. The lyrics are about what it's like to live in a place where there is no hope except what you're ready to fight and kill for.

From the performance, we can see the visual template this era of Van Halen provided for the hair-metal bands to follow: the sleaziness, the glam, the rivers of long hair, the screaming guitar-solo heroism. These were the only things the wearying streams of lesser bands were able to copy. They missed the substance beneath the style: the musical cleverness of Van Halen's writing and arrangements, Eddie Van Halen's great skills as a rhythm guitarist, and the real philosophy behind the Roth-era Van Halen's bohemian hedonism. Van Halen was not braindead rock antics; it was brainy rock antics filled with originality, joy and life. It was broadcasting the realization that life is perhaps short and anyways always now, so it is incumbent on us the living to have as much joy as possible.

Sans shame, regret, or any thought of being cool to others. More like being so cool yourself, from the inside out, that there's no way anyone else can ever dim it...

Or it was just about all the girls.

But more probably, both.

And so, Van Halen of the Roth variety, from my office job this morning I salute you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a pretty good synch of the song with video. Some of them are not so good. You're right, of course, about the lyrics. It's interesting, and different from their other stuff, but it's not what I listen to while driving if I want to stay in a good mood! :-)