Band Name: Van Halen
Album Name: 5150
Genre: Hard Rock
Release Date: March 24, 1986
Band Members: Sammy Hagar, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony
I recently had this album pop up on my list of albums. I did remember a few songs, but I hadn't really listened this album and taken in the words and melodies. So I figured this would be a great time to listen and to write about it.
I guess one of the reasons why I like this album is because there is quite a history behind it. This was the first Van Halen album without the very popular David Lee Roth (Diamond Dave). The band had just come off their most commercially successful album at the time with 1984. The album had such memorable hits as Jump, Top Jimmy and my personal favourite, I'll Wait.
Now in the midst of their popularity, on April 1st, 1985 it was announced that David Lee Roth was going to no longer be in Van Halen. The main reason is that at the time, Diamond Dave wanted to make a movie and was writing a script for Crazy from the Heat. He really felt that this would be his chance to bigger and better things. In fact, apparently he had asked Eddie Van Halen to write the score for the film, however, Eddie refused. Fans also thought this was a joke since the news came out on April Fools Day.
I cannot say how it was behind closed doors, however, in front of the camera, Eddie Van Halen did not mince words about his ex band member. One of his more notable quotes is the following:
"We lost a frontman, but we gained a singer" - Eddie Van Halen
Also at the time, since Dave was no longer going to be in the band, Van Halen needed to find a front man. Michael Anthony and Eddie Van Halen were toying with the idea that they could have guest singers on the album. However, fate would see it differently. Van Halen was referred to a singer from the band Montrose. Montrose had some moderate success having their best album hit 65 on the Billboard Hot 100, for Paper Money.
In addition to the above, the Warner Bros. wanted Van Halen to stop using Van Halen for their band name. Both Eddie and Alex Van Halen refused to comply with this request.
Things did not go as planned for David Lee Roth, as his movie Crazy from the Heat was cancelled and was never realized. However, David Lee Roth would go on to have a successful solo career but it would take years to bridge the gap between himself and the band.
After all of this, Sammy Hagar and Van Halen started writing 5150.
1. Good Enough
2. Why Can't This Be Love
3. Get Up
5. Summer Nights
6. Best of Both Worlds
7. Love Walks In
This album was not an easy album to pull off. You have a band who changed their very popular singer with another one. In fact, even some people today consider that there are 2 versions of Van Halen, Van Halen and Van Hagar.
However, reviewing this objectively 33 years after its release, I can honestly say that this is a a pretty strong album. It will not be one that will get you deep into thought, but it is quite a fun album to listen to from time to time and it still holds up.
I would have to say that the thing that surprised me the most about 5150 is that, yes there are a few new sounds here and there, but it still sounds like a Van Halen album. You still have the guitar riffs and the synthesizers that was made very popular with Jump from their 1984 album.
They had quite a few chart toppers such as Dreams which hit the Billboard Hot 100 reaching 22. Why Can't This Be Love, hit number 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts. and Love Walks In made it to 4 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts.
The album also sold pretty well going 6x platinum in the United States and going 3x platinum in Canada.
Having said all of that, do I think that it is a good album? The answer is yes. I am not one that cares if the album is by David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar or even Gary Cherone. As long as the music is good, I will listen to it. This is no exception.
The strongest song on the album, in my opinion is Dreams. It just gets me going every time. It is a message of no matter if your dreams seem far away, still reach for them. I know that put on paper it sounds corny but it manages to get its point across by still sounding like a great song.
One thing that Hagar brought to the group was more ballad type songs. He has been known to write quite a few good ones in his career. Here, there is Why Can't This Be Love and Love Walks In. These were very radio friendly and still are to this day. This shows how well these songs were written by passing the test of time.
The one song that no one ever talks about on this album is Summer Nights. I rarely hear it play but it is a very good song. It just is a song about more innocent times during the summer. Being in a small town and spending your nights listening to music on your radio and staying up all night. It has a great melody and it is just a fun song to listen to.
The weakest on the album is Inside. I see that it is more of an experimental song but it just falls flat for me. The song is self aware that it is different but I just never could get into this song.
If you are not a Sammy Hagar fan and are a die hard David Lee Roth, I say give this one a chance. I tend to agree with Eddie Van Halen when he said that he gained a singer in Sammy Hagar, He has a lot more range and his music writing is more refined. David Lee Roth is great in his own right but it was more about fun and games.
I would say this is probably the strongest effort of Van Halen with Sammy Hagar as the frontman. I would have to listen to their subsequent albums, but I do not remember one that jumped out at me like this one did.
Do you remember this album? What did you think of it?