Friday, April 15, 2011

Might as Well JUMP!

Van Halen 1984
By the time Van Halen released 1984, my brother was 14 and had begun embracing the rock music of the day.  Somehow, he sneaked this album past the eyes of our very protective parents, who would probably have found the image of a baby smoking inappropriate for us.  Knowing now about Eddie Van Halen's unquenchable addiction to cigarettes (he smoked through throat cancer treatments) the cover seems comically apropos.  But at the time, the idea of a baby smoking was quite shocking to me.  I was vehemently, aggressively obsessed with smoking and all its dangers.  At the time, my favorite uncle was a smoker and every year, when The Great American Smokeout came around, I demanded he quit for a day, which he usually did, reluctantly.  Unfortunately for him, I didn't stop there.  I was a kid on a mission to save his precious lung tissue and I inundated him with school handouts full of pictures of black lungs and diseased hearts.  As far as I was concerned, smoking was the scariest thing in the world and it needed to be eradicated.  Needless to say, this image of a BABY smoking managed to intrigue me with fright.  I had to give it a listen...and goddamn those songs!  They were...they still damned good!   Jump!  Panama.  I'll Wait.  This was the first album I'd heard that made me want more.  There were only nine songs.  NINE!  Why not 10 or even 12 I wondered.  Just MORE! 

Once I'd been sucked in by those songs, and that scary smoking baby, I turned my attention to the band's images on the back of the album.

There was David Lee Roth bathed in shadow, with shirt off, face slightly down, eyes up in direct gaze, long windblown hair - I'd never seen a guy with such long hair or a gaze so penetrating except for maybe in mug shots on the evening news.  He was almost as scary as the smoking baby.  And, I liked spite of my god-fearing, vanilla, professional class "long hair is bad" upbringing...or maybe because of it, I liked it.

Soon, we would have MTV, and it was all downhill from there.

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