07 October 2009

Van Halen’s 1984

I recently got Van Halen’s 1984, which is an interesting album. It’s a transition. It’s the last album before David Lee Roth left the band. It has the band’s first (& only?) #1 hit.

There were four hits off this album: “Jump” (#1), “I’ll Wait” (#13), “Panama” (#13), and “Hot For Teacher” (#56). The first two were quite a change for the band, being synth-driven instead of guitar-driven. In fact, I saw concert footage of “Jump” in which Eddie even replaced the guitar solo with a keyboard solo. Looking at the albums and singles that followed, it seems clear that their synth-driven songs were more lucrative than their guitar-driven songs.

Which is kind of funny, because I remember a friend arguing that people wanted to hear Eddie play guitar and that they were going to make less money if he kept playing keyboards. To which I argued that I’d rather listen to music made by following the muse than that made by following the dollars. (Should that be called “lucric”—from “lucre”—instead of “music”?)

Anyway, this raises a couple of questions in my mind:

Were these songs more lucrative because they were synth-driven? Or is there some other difference between the songs Eddie wrote on keyboards and those he wrote on guitar?

To the extent that the instrumentation was a factor, was it a function of the times? i.e. Are keyboard-driven still songs more lucrative today?


grant rettke said...

I'm not a critic or player of keyboards, but when they work they work. Eddie is an artist in the truest sense. Who knows, maybe keyboards were just for the money, but so what, it is his band isn't it? ;)

grant rettke said...

Do you like the keyboards in Joy Divison songs?

Robert Fisher said...

Oh, I completely agree.

I almost put in something about the fact that, while I can appreciate EVH’s guitar skills, I’m much more impressed by his songwriting.

It’s just interesting to me. Firstly, that Eddie tended to go completely one way or the other. Either it’s 90% guitar or 90% keyboard. (And personally, I enjoy both.) Secondly, that the keyboard songs were more successful in the Billboard charts.

I don’t really know Joy Division.