Beer Test Study Guide #2: Van Halen
I need well rounded kids that can pass The Beer Test.
I am not talking about underage drinking, but the ability to have a conversation with anyONE about anyTHING. Music knowledge is a key component to this test and today I want to introduce a band that needs to be remembered…
My brother is almost 5 years older than I am and it left a bit of an age gap on most shared life experiences. Fortunately for my parents, he was a good role model and I basically worshiped him. Growing up, I was desperate for ways to get noticed and (at age 2) would go so far as to willingly check his dark room for monsters and (at age 4) play with the only action figure I was allowed to touch (Princess Leia).
But I really hit my stride as a sister when I realized the best way to get his attention was to be interested in the music he loved. So because I was willing to sit and listen to endless drum and guitar solos, I became one of the most informed 11 year old girls on the band Van Halen. Without knowing it, I was studying for The Beer Test.
Thanks to my brother, I can form an educated opinion on the highly contested “David Lee Roth v Sammy Hagar” debate (Hagar, obviously) and I think it is worth making sure my children can too. This ridiculously heated argument is much like that of “Best Bond” (Connery) or “Best Batman” (Bale). Yet you may want to argue that no one cares about this band or its rotating lead singer, but I dare you to bring it up in a group. Who you choose says something about you as a person and you don’t want to be on the outskirts of the conversation/dispute/brawl.
Sure, my 7 year old son is a bit too young to understand “Hot for Teacher” or “Poundcake”, but eventually, he will need to hear and understand the difference between a band that was led by two different front men and how the change effected the music they produced. Even more importantly, my daughter needs to form an opinion and hopefully understand the objectification of women in metal band videos of the the 80s and 90s. It’s not the “Feminine Mystique”, but it needs to be part of her education too.
Will any of this end poverty or stop a war? No, but it may help my children pass The Beer Test.
So, although it is a disgrace to the legacy that is Van Halen, I have chosen to highlight only two songs from their catalogue; one from the David Lee Roth era and one from the Sammy Hagar era that hopefully represents the two delineated time periods of the band. You do not have to agree with me on the choices (I am sure you won’t), or even on my choice of lead singer, but I think this band is worth knowing.
It’s worth stating that through the years, Van Halen broke up, got back together and broke up again with BOTH lead singers. But we have to look past inner band conflicts, alcohol addictions and overall wear and tear on members’ bodies, because this rock band is worth introducing to our children.