In 1977, Van Halen was poised to be the next big thing. Rocking up and down the Sunset Strip club circuit, the Pasadena party band was so hot that none less than Gene Simmons of KISS swooped in to make the guys an offer they couldn't refuse.
“I saw them and signed them and flew them to New York and put them in Electric Lady Studios. They were signed to my company, Man of 1,000 Faces," Simmons told Rolling Stone in 2016. "I produced their 24-track demo — 15 songs — which I still own, and, oh, it has everything from the first record and also faster versions of ‘House of Pain’ and stuff. It’s a lot of cool stuff, but the band just doesn’t want it to come out — you know, the back and forth with [David Lee] Roth complicated matters.”
While Simmons would ultimately free the band of their contract when no one else in the KISS camp was interested in working with them, they were quickly snapped up by Warner Bros. They would hit the recording studio with producer Ted Templeman, and over the course of three weeks in October 1977, Van Halen would record the group's debut album.
“Ted Templeman wanted to make a big, powerful guitar record, and he had all he needed in what Eddie was doing," bassist Michael Anthony told Music Radar. "He fell in love with Ed’s playing. 'Eruption' wasn’t written out or anything. Eddie was just noodling around before a session, but once Ted heard it he said, ’Stop everything. Ed, we’re rolling tape on that.’"
Released on February 10, 1978, Van Halen would do big business right out of the gate, cruising up to #19 on the US album charts. Packed with many of the band's most famous tracks, it has since been certified Diamond status: more than 10 million copies sold.
Three singles were released from Van Halen: the band's take on the Kinks' "You Really Got Me," "Runnin' with the Devil" and "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love."
“As confident and full of ourselves as we came across on that record, the truth is, we were all pretty scared," Anthony admitted. "I remember we put our headphones on and kind of looked at each other like, ‘Wow, we’re really doing this. Hope we don’t mess up!'”