By Natalya Jones
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Retirement. In a weakened economy, the thought of calling it quits at 55 is a pipe dream. The grim reality for many is that they'll work till the day they die, much like the 80-year-old who settles for a part-time gig at Publix to supplement a $300 Social Security check.
For rock stars, however, working past the AARP benefits-eligible age has become an inspiring musical trend. Just take Van Halen, a band that's currently in the midst of a 45-date reunion tour and being helmed again by original lead singer David Lee Roth.
Despite their withered appearance, brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen are silencing ageist naysayers by arena-rocking sold-out gigs across the U.S. and Canada in support of their band's latest effort, A Different Kind of Truth. Unlike the group's short-lived reunion with Roth in 1996, "Van Halen now comes across like a happy, well-oiled machine," according to one Toronto Sun critic.
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Perhaps it's the addition of Eddie's 21-year-old son and current Van Halen bassist, Wolfgang. With the bass chops of a seasoned veteran and the genuine excitement of a kid in his 20s touring the country as part of one of the world's biggest rock bands, Wolfie is quite possibly the missing puzzle piece that'll return the 2012 version of Van Halen to its hell-raising rock-god days of the '70s and '80s.
After 40 years and a handful of lineup changes, Van Halen is back on top of the world. But it's been a long road peppered with substance abuse, internal squabbles, heartbreak, accolades, and milestones.
This is Van Halen by the numbers.
236. Eddie and crew have sold a ton of records, somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 million over the course of the band's four-decade career. However, what's equally impressive is that 20 Van Halen singles have spent a combined 236 weeks on Billboard's Top 100 chart. That's a little over four-and-a-half years.
$51. Forget the $995 "Ultimate VIP Package" that guarantees front-row seating, a backstage tour, preshow party, and an "exclusive Van Halen gift bag." Real fans sit with the common folk. And for this Tuesday's sold-out show at the BankAtlantic Center, the average ticket price was valued at $51, "commemorative laminate" not included.
48.5. Van Halen's average age is more than double that of its youngest member. And if you took Wolfgang out of the equation, the group's median age is a healthy 57 years old.
36. Including live albums and two best-of compilations, ten of Van Halen's 15 records have been certified platinum 36 times. The group's 1986 release, 5150, has gone platinum a staggering six times. But that's only the tip of the multimillion-unit iceberg: Two of Van Halen's albums — 1978's self-titled debut and 1984's 1984 — have earned Diamond status, denoting sales of 10 million or more. Speaking of 1984...
28. Prior to the new album, 1984 was the last Van Halen record to feature David Lee Roth on vocals. That was 28 years ago. Also, A Different Kind of Truth is the group's first studio slab in 14 years.
13. At presstime, Van Halen had successfully completed 13 tour dates 'round the U.S. and Canada without any public meltdowns. Everyone in the band seems to be getting along, performing a nightly blend of old favorites and deep cuts.
3. How many wives must a man divorce before he can find one that works? Well, for the Van Halen brothers, the answer is three. Eddie Van Halen is currently on wife number two while Alex works on his third. Between them, that's three rock 'n' roll divorces.
1. The number of guns tattooed on David Lee Roth's ass.