Feeling ambitious, I thought I’d start a track by track thread for one of my favorite bands Van Halen and their third album, Women and Children First which was released in 1980 (this was actually the third live show I ever got to attend, in fact, so the album has some great memories for me). The background of this one is pretty much like the first two Van Halen records in that it was produced by Ted Templeman and long time engineer, Donn Landee. The major differences between Women and Children First and the first two records is this record contains more overdubs and less background vocals. It’s also probably a heavier album than the first two but, in typical Van Halen fashion, fairly idiosyncratic in that there are few tracks on it which veer heavily away from Van Halen’s typical guitar/bass/drums hard rock formula. The nonsensical “Tora Tora”, the Hawaiian flavored “Could This Be Magic?”, and the tongue in cheek, fast cruncher “Loss Control” are examples of this. That said, it’s also an album with some incredibly hard hitting rockers with some truly memorable riffs. Starting off the album is the first single “And The Cradle Will Rock” which we will look at first. AND THE CRADLE WILL ROCK (E. Van Halen, A. Van Halen, M. Anthony, D. Roth) (3:31) “And The Cradle Will Rock” is one of the first songs that Van Halen used keyboards on. In the studio, Eddie played them (breaking two keys on the keyboard from bashing it so hard) but Michael would play them live for the song (using a bomb shaped keyboard and eschewing the bass completely). Eddie claims that the band was against him playing keyboards on stage as they didn’t want a guitar hero behind a piano, thus Michael playing them live. The beginning of the song sounds like a guitar but it’s really a phase shifter effected Wurlitzer electric piano played through Eddie’s 100-watt Marshall Plexi amplifier. What is most notable for this track is the overdubbed guitar that comes out of both channels during the verses. While Eddie playing the crunchy, slightly staccato riff on the right channel, he’s adding a lot of atmosphere and counter melody on the left (like at 0:31) plus some lead fills. The wurlitzer is not overly noticeable as it blends in with Eddie’s playing on the right channel (see the video by Derek Sherinian (formerly of Dream Theater, Black Country Communion, etc) show an example of this below). However, at 1:33 the keys come more into focus as they provide backing for Eddie’s short solo (apparently inspired by Allan Holdsworth per Eddie). According to Eddie, the version on the album is a first take as were many of the others. “And The Cradle Will Rock” is a good song, but it’s never been one of my favorites as I think there are far better ones on the album than this. Of course the song is ripe with clever DLR lines such as, “have you seen junior’s grades?” which is a classic (he’d change his up for the 2007 tour and say, “have you seen Wolfie’s grades?" - referring, of course, to Eddie’s son who had joined to play bass for the band). I’ve also always liked the clever lyric “and he’s unemployed; his folks are overjoyed”; good word play by Roth as was/is often the case.