Van Halen sparked some controversy in 2012 following the release of their long awaited reunion album with original lead vocalist David Lee Roth. Depending on which side of the infamous Van Halen divorce you were on, ‘A Different Kind of Truth’ was either one of the strongest comeback efforts in rock and roll, or somehow proof that Van Halen could no longer write new material because roughly half of the new recordings originate from thirty year old demos.
Something important to note: virtually every song goes through a “demo phase,” whether the to-be-completed song is just an idea or a riff or a solo section or lyrics. Not only isn’t Van Halen the first band to go back and revisit unfinished material, but it isn’t the first time within the band’s own history that Eddie Van Halen revisited his library of demos (including during the Sammy Hagar era!)
Here is a list of twelve classic demos which have managed to find their way onto the internet that truly rock, and we wouldn’t mind seeing make an appearance on a future Van Halen album.
“Babe, Don’t Leave Me Alone”
Originating from Van Halen’s demo sessions with Gene Simmons, “Babe, Don’t Leave Me Alone” is built around a crunching guitar riff and bold vocal harmonies which could have easily earned this track a spot on ‘Van Halen II.’
“We Die Bold”
“We Die Bold” is a fast paced 6/8 rocker very much in the vein of “I’m the One,” and even boasts a pick shattering guitar solo from Eddie Van Halen.
“The Man on the Silver Mountain” (Rainbow cover)
Van Halen covering “Man on the Silver Mountain” by Rainbow? This live recording begins with a piercing scream from Michael Anthony, just before Roth waves his passionate charisma over the verse originally controlled by the late Ronnie James Dio.
“Piece of Mind”
The band slams their first down on the tempo for this slow-paced anthem. Gloomy bass lines and tap harmonics serve as a dark introduction to this track, before exploding into a traditional Van Halen song with crunching rhythm guitar and Diamond Dave’s instantly recognizable lyrical delivery.
“Light in the Sky”
Don’t allow yourself to be easily confused: no, this isn’t “Light Up the Sky” off of Van Halen’s second studio album, but instead an entirely different song originating from the band’s Warner Brothers Demos. Anthony’s vocal harmonies during the chorus are on of this cut’s brightest highlights.
“Young and Wild”
This here-comes-the-party rocker allows David Lee Roth to fully take charge, while the rest of the vocal section joins in during the chorus. See if you can point out which guitar sections were later used on “Where Have All the Good Times Gone” and “Hear About It Later.”
“Angel Eyes” is an incredibly rare power ballad featuring David Lee Roth on lead vocals. On this track, Roth plays all of the guitar sections, wrote all the musical pieces and the lyrics. This song in particular would be exciting to hear on a new Van Halen album, just because it shows a rarely seen passionate, emotional side to this renowned rock group.
“Waiting For the Bus” (ZZ Top cover)
Van Halen give their own take on a ZZ Top classic during this live performance. “Waiting For the Bus” is revamped with cascades of string bends and propelling vocal melodies.
“Act Like It Hurts”
“Act Like It Hurts” is a high action instrumental dating back to Van Halen’s ‘Women and Children First’ sessions. The song eventually missed the cut in favor of “Tora Tora/ Loss of Control.”
“I Wanna Be Your Lover”
“I Wanna Be Your Lover” is raw, adrenaline fueled boogie rock particularly showcasing Roth’s vocal talent and the always attention-grabbing guitar playing of Eddie Van Halen.
“Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers” (ZZ Top cover)
Once again, Van Halen take a gritty ZZ Top song and make it their own, with soaring melodies and articulate guitar work decorating this memorable live cover.
“Kicks” (Paul Revere and the Raiders cover)
We end our list with Van Halen’s rare take on a Paul Revere and the Raiders classic. This recording dates all the way back to 1973, just one year before the release of Van Halen’s monumental debut album. An albeit brief yet still enjoyable rendition which could have found a comfortable home on ‘Diver Down.’