Van Halen - Van Halen II (1979) - Song by Song

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by GodShifter, Jan 4, 2018.

  1. GodShifter

    GodShifter Are you having a laugh?® Thread Starter

    Location:
    Dallas, TX, USA
    Hey, hey, hey, it's a Van Halen bonanza on the SHMF these days. I thought I'd create a track by track thread for Van Halen II which can run along side the one for Diver Down by @Musicman1998.
    Van Halen Diver Down Song by Song Thread

    Like my other threads on Women and Children First and Fair Warning, we'll do a song a day. Please feel free to comment on the song at hand or anything else you'd like to discuss about the album or the band, but just don't jump ahead to a song I haven't gotten to yet. So that's it.


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    VAN HALEN - II (1979)

    The recording of Van Halen II occurred approximately thirteen months after the release of their enormously successful debut. II was recorded at Studio 1 at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles which was the same studio that was used for the first album. In fact, little changed in terms of the recording process from the first to the second album. The band recorded live and due to the limited budget (even less than they were allotted for Van Halen) many of the songs from II are first takes. The album took about a week to record and another two weeks were taken to mix and master the recordings.

    At the board were, again, producer, Ted Templeman and engineer, Donn Landee, who employed the same techniques as the first: few overdubs, a simple guitar, bass, and drums approach in terms of instruments and, of course, lead and background vocals. Edward Van Halen had toyed with the idea of using some synthesizers for the recording, but that idea was not utilized. As far as Edward’s sound, he preferred to crank out his amps to maximum volume and overdrive the circuits. His sound is very similar to that of the debut, but, perhaps, not having quite the equal bite with the sound of his guitar being pulled back ever so slightly.

    The recording equipment that was employed for II at Sunset Sound was actually fairly outdated for the time as the band recorded on an Putnam 610 console that had been used previously by such artists as Frank Sinatra and The Doors as well as many Disney movies.

    When the album was presented to the studio heads it was deemed a failure, but sales quickly dispelled that inaccurate assessment.

    The album was released on March 23rd of 1979 and went gold the following month and platinum in May of the same year. For many fans, this album is considered a favorite, however, it is often seen as a "lost" album by many as it's overshadowed by the enormous popularity of the debut. For myself, I think it's a great slab of hard rock and has contains some of Eddie's best solos and melodies and, perhaps, two of Van Halen's greatest songs ever (but we'll get to that).

    Now, with that, let's look at the first track.



    YOU’RE NO GOOD
    1979 (Clint Ballard Jr.) (3:18)

    Van Halen II starts out a bit curiously with the introductory track being a cover. Written by Clint Ballard Jr. the song had been covered previously by such artists as Beverly Everett, Swingin’ Blue Jeans, and, of course, Linda Ronstadt who had her first number one single with the song in 1975.

    The idea to do the song came from producer, Ted Templeman, who suggested it to the band. Van Halen had actually played the song before in their club days so they were familiar with the song, but had actually never heard the song on any record (Eddie has said in a somewhat confusing that statement that the song “doesn’t sound like the original, but I’ve never heard the original”). Never the less, in typical Van Halen fashion, they attacked the tune in their own unique way once they recalled their arrangement (reportedly Templeman had to hum a couple of the bars to Eddie so he could remember how it went).

    The song begins with Michael Anthony doing some effects heavy ascending bass lines (from what was supposed to be a bass solo in the middle of the album, but that idea was nixed) which then melds with Eddie’s volume swells (which was also originally meant for another song called “Down In Flames”). The song then moves into its distinctive melody at 0:40 and a Roth snarl. At 0:48 Roth comes with the lead vocal and Eddie and Michael join in on backing vocals at 0:58.

    Eddie is running primarily in the left channel with Michael Anthony in right and Roth and Alex through both. In a sense, “You’re No Good” kind of runs off the same basic, plodding rhythm as “Runnin’ With The Devil” for the first album, but Edward adds a searing solo for this one which was not included in the debut opener. The song is definitely carried by the fine backing vocals with Michael Anthony more out in front with his distinctive higher register.

    Van Halen's “You’re No Good” is certainly a smoldering, moody take on the tune, but, as I mentioned, a bit of a curious choice for an opener. It’s not a high energy number and, more importantly, it’s not even an original tune by the band. While Edward has stated that “You’re No Good” is a “good song” he has stated that it was “someone else’s idea” to do it and, perhaps, it wouldn’t have been his choice to use it in hindsight. It definitely starts the album off on a bit of a low key note, but the album returns with higher tempos and more energy in subsequent songs.

    For myself, I’ve never really liked the cover that much. I think Van Halen pull it off admirably, but it just doesn’t work that well for an opening track. It certainly doesn’t sound like the Linda Ronstadt version in the least, but Edward has stated in interviews that whatever cover the band decided to play it always wound up sounding like him/the band no matter what and that’s the case here as well.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2018
  2. GodShifter

    GodShifter Are you having a laugh?® Thread Starter

    Location:
    Dallas, TX, USA
    [​IMG]

    Here's a picture of Van Halen in studio recording Van Halen II. We know this is from the II sessions as David Lee Roth's foot is bandaged after he broke it doing the promo shots on the insert of the album.

    [​IMG]
    This is the one (he did three attempts to get it right for photographer Neil Zlozower breaking it on the last shot).
     
  3. GodShifter

    GodShifter Are you having a laugh?® Thread Starter

    Location:
    Dallas, TX, USA


    Here's Linda Ronstadt's version for fun.
     
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  4. Musicman1998

    Musicman1998 That Wannabe Music Critic

    Location:
    Georgia
    You're No Good:
    Ah, we kick off with what sounds like a bass played through a flanger effect, it adds a cool effect, and after a period of silence, the brothers join in at about :20, and the three of them together create a tense build up that really keeps you invested, with Dave coming in at :47, and he has a great feel for the song and the "f--- you" attitude to back it up, and Mike does some great backing vocals. I love Eddie's solo at 2:05, so damn cool, and I love the slowed down part afterward at 2:30 where Dave speaks over it, f---in awesome.
    While a bit of an odd choice for an opener and one of my least favorite cuts on here, I love this song a lot, which shows you how kickass this album is.
     
  5. Jimmy B.

    Jimmy B. Forum Resident

    I love Van Halen's take on this song.
    It was nice to hear the blame on the woman for a change for this song. Lowdown and dirty sound.
    That's a good point, how it's an odd opening number, but I prefer it to some of the originals on this album.

    I first had heard not Linda Ronstadt's version actually but Betty Everett's.

     
  6. Musicman1998

    Musicman1998 That Wannabe Music Critic

    Location:
    Georgia
    That's really cool, never heard that until now. To me, this song depends greatly on the performance and the arrangement, which I think is key to it's success and why it's been covered as many times as it has been.
     
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  7. ModernDayWarrior

    ModernDayWarrior Forum Resident

    Location:
    Rahway, NJ, USA
    Here’s an interview with Michael Anthony by Eddie Trunk and I was actually the first caller who got to ask him a question about the bass intro to You’re No Good debunking the myth that it was a piece of a larger bass solo. He said it wasn’t. You can fast forward to the 34th minute to hear me ask the question.

     
  8. Musicman1998

    Musicman1998 That Wannabe Music Critic

    Location:
    Georgia
    Super cool
     
  9. GodShifter

    GodShifter Are you having a laugh?® Thread Starter

    Location:
    Dallas, TX, USA
    Well, so much for that bit of incorrect info on my part. Oh well.

    Thanks for posting that.
     
  10. Purple Jim

    Purple Jim Forum Resident

    Location:
    Little Britain
    What a fantastic opener. One of my favourite Van Halen tracks.
     
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  11. Black Thumb

    Black Thumb Unclassifiable

    Location:
    Reno, NV
    Still think it looks like an ad for Van Halen action figures. :D
     
  12. Black Thumb

    Black Thumb Unclassifiable

    Location:
    Reno, NV
    The guys really knocked me for a loop in spring '79. They're in the Top 40 with a bouncy little ditty and when I finally get the album they kick it off with a Linda Ronstadt cover (hey, I didn't know no better).
     
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  13. 131east23

    131east23 Person of Interest

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I really love this album! This is the tour on which I first saw the band. Also, this is one of the better sounding LP's I own (out of thousands). Does anyone else feel that way about it?
     
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  14. bruce2

    bruce2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Connecticut, USA
    I love this album too! If I had to choose I would take it over the debut. It was also the first or second CD I ever owned. A contender for one of my top 5 favorite albums of all time. Also love the production and sound quality. I have the original Warner Brothers CD with the disc made in Japan.
     
  15. kevinsponge

    kevinsponge Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, OR USA
    I bought this album at Kartcher? mall in Nampa Idaho. The record store had a sign saying, 'The new Van Halen album is here!'

    Side one of the album was on and I distinctly remember hearing 'Outta Love Again' and that cool opening bass line and everything getting funky and intense!

    'You're No Good' was a head scratcher though.
     
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  16. jhw59

    jhw59 Forum Resident

    Assume if I want to DL it, the 24/192 version is the way to go?
     
  17. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    Location:
    The ATX
    Back in the day I hated “You’re No Good”—odd choice for an opener indeed. Nowadays I really dig it. As far as I know I have not heard any other version of the song, but for some reason I associate it with Carly Simon rather than Linda Ronstadt. I assume she must have covered it too (or maybe my brain is malfunctioning :))
     
  18. BryanA-HTX

    BryanA-HTX Crazy Doctor

    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Great album. Always a favorite. But I do have one complaint. I always thought it was one of the biggest crimes in rock 'n' roll history that "Somebody Get Me a Doctor" wasn't the opening track on here. That's how I listen to it, and it is so much more satisfying opening the album with that monster guitar riff and then "1... 2... 3... 4!!" before storming into the reset of the track. I've posted this a few times on here already, I'm sure. But anyway, since we're going by the less-cooler official running order...

    "You're No Good"

    Interesting bassline to open the song and a neat, ambient intro. Pretty cool cover overall. I also like the vocal harmonies on here. I hate to sound like a broken record here but this would've been a great cool-down song had this been track 2 after the red-hot "Somebody Get Me a Doctor".
     
  19. Marty T

    Marty T Stereo Fan

    These are great pics. Of course there is quite a bit of staging to the top shot as there ain't no way they'd have Eddie's Marshall cabinets blasting that close to the drum mics in the studio for recording. As for the bottom pic, there ain't no way DLR can do that anymore (and don't nobody say "he can't sing anymore either" - I think he still sounds great).
     
  20. 131east23

    131east23 Person of Interest

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I think I see a Coors can at DLR's feet but can't identify the other more prominent brand of "beer" near the drumsticks. I am now thinking that the perfect way to listen to this album is with one (or more) of those beers. Can anyone identify all the beer cans on the ground?
     
  21. Jimmy B.

    Jimmy B. Forum Resident

    I wish they'd gone for some fantastic live shots (or single group photo).
     
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  22. bruce2

    bruce2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Connecticut, USA
    Yes, Schlitz Malt Talls. They were well known as Alex's beverage of choice back then.
     
  23. 131east23

    131east23 Person of Interest

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Ah, Burgermeister's... or just Bergie's.
     
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  24. GodShifter

    GodShifter Are you having a laugh?® Thread Starter

    Location:
    Dallas, TX, USA
    I always thought “Light Up the Sky” would have been a great opener. But you’re right, “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” would have worked very well, too.
     
  25. vamborules

    vamborules Forum Resident

    Location:
    CT
    Yeah the VH brothers always drank Schlitz Malt Liquor. There are many photos of them with Schlitz tall boys. That's what the cans by the drums and behind Eddie are, but the two in the foregrund are something different I can't make out.
     

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