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Van Halen
Van Halen's rise to one of the most popular hard rock groups has relied on liberal doses of sex and furious rock 'n' roll. From their first gigs that hosted wet T Shirt competitions, the group thrived on controversy. But their success rests firmly on the synthesis of David Lee Roth's vocal power and athleticism and the brilliant lead guitar of Eddie Van Halen.

Sons of Dutch jazz bandleader, the brothers Alex and Edward were born in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. The Van Halens moved to Pasadena, California, in 1967. As their father supported the family by playing clarinet in wedding bands, Eddie and Alex were pushed into classical piano training. But rock and roll thrilled both boys. Eddie learned how to play drums and Alex took up the guitar. As they grew older, Alex began taking flamenco guitar lessons. As legend goes, to pay for his drum set, Eddie worked delivering newspapers.
While Eddie was working, his brother Alex would practice on the drum kit. Soon the brothers decided to swap instruments. Since Alex had a lot of time on the drums, he got better than Edward, so Edward was left playing Alex's guitar. This seemed to work out rather nicely, so this is how it stayed. Eddie's main influence was Eric Clapton and Alex's were Ginger Baker (also of Cream) and John Bonham (of Led Zeppelin).
In school, Eddie and Alex formed several different bands, with names like The Trojan Rubber Company, The Broken Combs, and The Space Brothers.

The original lineup included Eddie on guitar and lead vocals, Alex on drums and Mark Stone on bass. In 1973, David Lee Roth, a local entrepreneur and lead singer of a rival LA band, rented out his PA to the Van Halens. Eddie and Alex grew tired of paying the PA Tax to Diamond Dave. Ed, hating to sing lead vocals, convinced Dave to join the band, which was later named Mammoth. In 1974, Michael Anthony (from a band called Snake from Chicago) took over bass after Anthony passed the band's audition. After that, Eddie Van Halen and Michael Anthony took turns singing. Over the years, Mike earned the moniker Cannon Mouth for singing louder than the lead vocalists.
At the time, Roth, who had been raised in a wealthy Californian family, was singing in Redball Jet.

But another band had laid claim to the name Mammoth. The four boys tossed around new names, (one being Rat Salade), until they decided upon Van Halen in 1974 taking a cue from the two founder brothers. For three years, Van Halen played both at clubs and hotel bars.

While playing at a LA club The Starwood in 1977, a complete stranger to them, but better known as Kiss Bassist, Gene Simmons, spotted them and decided to produce a demo from his side. The result was an early version of House Of Pain and Runnin' With The Devil, complete with car horns, which served as a transition between the two songs.
Ed was a little uncomfortable playing on someone else's equipment and not being used to the idea of multi-track recording. All major studios rejected the demo.

A year after the demo, the man who would truly 'define the actual sound', Warner Brothers producer Ted Templeman spotted them at the same club where Gene first saw them. He convinced partner and president, Mo Ostin to sign the band in an overnight decision. Roth, Anthony and the brothers, in varying degrees, assumed responsibility for every aspect of the band's presentation, from song choices to album cover, to concert souvenirs, right until stage set up to press photos.

You can read the rest of our feature on Van Halen in the August 2005 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.

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