Sunday, December 6, 2009

Everybody Wants Some: The Van Halen Saga

Every Sunday The Rock and Roll Guru reviews a new or classic music CD, DVD, or a rocking book.

Everybody Wants Some by Ian Christie is the definitive history of the storied band that is Van Halen. Capturing the ups and downs of more than 30 years of Van Halen history, this book reads like a highlight reel of the career highs and lows captured during Van Halen’s assault on the world and ultimate descent into darkness.

Everybody Wants Some delves into the three eras of Van Halen, plus the two reunions. The early life with David Lee Roth is covered, the Sammy years are chronicled, and the Gary Cherone project rounds everything out nicely. Through it all, we see the deterioration of Eddie Van Halen, a guitar God that allowed drugs and alcohol to ruin his life. Endless clashes with David Lee Roth’s ego and bitter feuding with Sammy Hagar led both of those singers to be ousted from the band. All the while, Eddie and his brother Alex trudged forward, making music and finding new pieces of the band to patch together an outlet for their talent.

If the upside to Everybody Wants Some is the definitive history of Van Halen, then the downside is the lack of heavy detail. While the highlight reel is nice and makes for a quick, entertaining read, the lack of deep specifics leaves the reader wanting more. There is no new perspective on David Lee Roth and Van Halen’s bitter split in 1984. We know all we need to know of Sammy Hagar’s departure from reading magazines and issues of Rolling Stone. No new light is shed on this break up (not the 1st or 2nd). The lack of these specifics takes away from what otherwise is a fantastic book. Either the fine details were unavailable to Christie while he worked on the book, or he failed to try his hardest to find them. Either way, it left a lot to be desired. While Everybody Wants Some is the definitive read for the history of the troubled band, it could have been much deeper with the inclusion of more intricate details.

Well written and nicely chronicled, The Van Halen Saga covers an era of rock and roll that a lot of fans have forgotten or never known. The early days of Gene Simmons “discovering” the band, playing the clubs in Hollywood to cut their teeth are well described. Eddie spending relentless hours playing and learning the guitar rather than partying with his brother or enjoying the girls that were more than interested in him captures the true spirit of the guitar hero. Everybody Wants Some does a superior job of setting the stage and showing the average reader what it meant to make it to the big time.

The David Lee Roth stories are comical, showing his typical ego and overinflated image of himself. While he ultimately did himself in, we see how Dave bickered endlessly with his band mates, cutting them down every chance that he got, and being especially vicious toward Michael Anthony. When Sammy Hagar entered the fold, it was a new love. Dave was out and the band was more than happy to express themselves with new creativity and in a new musical direction. David Lee Roth countered by assembling his own super-group of young talent (including Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan), releasing a blistering solo album, and taking pot shots at the band every chance he got. The drama unfolded all the way through the 2nd David Lee Roth reunion more than 20 years later.

Highly informative, well written, and thoroughly enjoyable, Everybody Wants Some is a must have for any Van Halen fan and a great read for any fan of rock and roll. If you want to remember, or learn for the first time, what caused the rise and fall of one of the mightiest bands in rock and roll history, then this is the book for you. A fast, enjoyable read, Everybody Wants Some is a Van Halen lover’s dream.

Ryo’s Rating: B

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