Holy Van Halen

A new book hitches a ride on rock 'n' roll's biggest ego trip

Coinciding with the band's semireunion (Sorry, Eddie; no matter how good Wolfie is, no Michael Anthony, no reunion), this is the first full-length bio of Van Halen's brilliant but erratic history. From its origins as a popular Southern California cover band and its rise to rock gods, throughout the book Van Halen's messy saga is comprehensively and neatly told.

Author Ian Christe is clearly a great fan: In the preface, he even details his quest to (successfully) learn to play Eddie's solo showpiece "Eruption" from scratch. However, this is no hagiography, as he uses a keen and often subjective insight into the band's music that only someone who has worn out more than one copy of Fair Warning or OU812 could manage. The book offers amazing details that will surprise even hardcore fans — well beyond the true reason for the infamous "no brown M&M's" contract rider mandate (which was all about gauging a promoter's attention to details).

On the road, Christe notes that Van Halen "took rock hedonism to new levels" where "even the journalists who covered the band got laid." (Ahh, to be a music writer in the '70s...) The band's excesses are more than detailed — mostly Roth's rampant horndogness and Eddie's frequent substance-abuse travails.

For the most part, there are three types of music books: the autobiography, the biography, and the clip job, which features mostly previously published material thrown into the cauldron of information and re-extracted. Everybody Wants Some is mostly the latter, featuring no original interviews with band members or truly close staff. It's still one of the best of its kind, a credit to Christe, who also penned The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal.

Ultimately, the book is also about wasted opportunities and time. How much more music and how many greater albums and tours might fans have gotten if the five mainstays could have worked past years of infighting, egotism, substance abuse, and inactivity? If there are two sides to every normal story, there are five sides to every Van Halen story.

"All the band members have bent the truth for convenience and used the media to stall the fans, mask their true intentions, forward their own plans and polish one side of a controversy," Christe writes in one dead-on passage. "The truth is more muddled by emotion, personal politics and the haze of altered states than anyone can admit without upsetting whatever tender relationships remain, if any."

With Van Halen's history, by the time you finish reading this book, its current reunion tour may already be canceled.

 
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