Forgotten series: Various Artists – Everybody Wants Some [Of Van Halen …] (1997)

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Back in the middle of the years when so-called Classic Rock was born, our perceptions of rock stars was somewhat different than today. They seemed larger than life; dangerous, even. Maybe they were able to effortlessly maintain their mystique because there was no Internet around to focus the digital microscope on every aspect of their lives. Our heroes could be deflated only if they did something bad enough for Rolling Stone, Creem, or Hit Parader to take notice.

When Van Halen put out that first phenomenal record, they were instant stars in my mind. Combine Eddie’s guitar histrionics with those blurred “action photos” that accompanied the album art and you had a rock band with a mysterious edge. A few years later, Women and Children first came out with that famous poster of David Lee Roth chained to a fence. Damn, my girlfriend never looked at me like that!

So you go through life with bands like this on a pedestal, and then one morning you wake up and think “I’d sure like to hear ‘Eruption’ done on a church organ!” Is this a sign of maturity? I dunno, as I’ve never felt that I was particularly mature. But last week I was sorting through a pile of CDs and came across a Van Halen compilation that I’d completely forgotten about. Everybody Wants Some, put out by Boston-based CherryDisc records back in the ’90s, presents sinister Van Halen, sexy Van Halen, and even goofy Van Halen in musical contexts far-removed from their roots.

The disc get off to a crazy start with Captain Rock‘s horn-drenched version of “Panama.” The Captain blusters away much like Barrence Whitfield, and his horn section is relentless. There are a few other selections that don’t stray too far from the original formula; “Mean Street” is given a swampy feel by Elbow, Red Time‘s “Beautiful Girls” is revved up funk rock a la Fishbone, and Sam Black Church brings the heavy crunch with “Romeo’s Delight.”

But it’s the complete reimaginations of Van Halen that really get me going: a lounge-y rendition of “Everybody Wants Some” (Talking To Animals), complete with romantic sax solo and goofy dude-hits-on-woman interlude; a countryfied “Dance The Night Away” (Tom Leach); a slinky, Portishead-noir take on “Atomic Punk” with busted jazz chords, a toy piano, and interspersed nuclear age public service announcements. Then there are the pop inversions: Jujuya‘s “Jamie’s Cryin'” (apparently, Jamie has been listening to “Low Rider”); Mary Lou Lord‘s simple folk version of “Jump”; Trona‘s No Doubt-meets-skiffle rendering of “Could This Be Magic?”; and Fuzzy‘s bouncy Luscious Jackson/Bangles reading of “Feel Your Love.”

As for “Eruption”? There are actually two versions, one by The Reverend Ed Broms on the church organ and the other a solo banjo piece by Crick Diefendorf. Both of them will make you giggle.

Oh, right…I’m sure the Sammy fans are wondering what was pulled from the Van Hagar catalog. Only one song was chosen: “Why Can’t This Be Love?” by Gigolo Aunts. While I’m no Sammy-years fan, I have to say that this is far and away my favorite song on this collection. Gigolo Aunts replace the synth with a harmonica and turn in a power pop version that’s just dripping with “That Thing You Do”/Beatles references. The quote from “Hard Days Night”? Pure genius.

Everybody Wants Some is a hilarious, loving, and sometimes tongue-in-cheek tribute to Van Halen. Unless you’ve got no sense of humour, in which case this is the worst album ever made.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
Mark Saleski
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