After blasting onto the rock scene with a zeitgeist-shifting explosion of virtuoso party rock with their debut album, Van Halen didn’t mess with that combustible chemistry much for the band’s second album.
If anything, Van Halen II turned up the party on the band’s patented feel-good sound. Eddie Van Halen’s guitar riffs were looser, David Lee Roth’s microphone histrionics even more sensational. A shiny new coat of production gloss gave tracks like “Light Up the Sky” and “Outta Love Again” a little extra edge pumping out of muscle car stereos across America throughout the summer of ‘79.
That end-of-the-decade party-hearty vibe was most prominent on the singles from Van Halen II. All it took was a pair of songs (three in Japan) to carry the band on the radio until the spring of 1980 and the arrival of Women and Children and First.
"DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY"
If any one song defines Van Halen II, this could very well be the one. Powered by a driving cowbell and particularly melodic Eddie Van Halen guitar riff, the song David Lee Roth originally coined “Dance, Lolita, Dance” would go on to be the band’s first Top 20 hit in America (it peaked at #15).
“‘Dance the Night Away’ might seem like it’s just an AM offering, but it wasn’t planned that way,” Eddie revealed (via Van Halen News Desk). “We didn’t think pop, we didn’t think AM song. It was just a riff that I had and we put it to use. I can’t help it if I come up with a poppy-sounding riff. We just do what we come up with, as opposed to forcing ourselves to write something commercial.”
The last song on Van Halen II gives “Dance the Night Away” a serious run for the album’s defining moment. Based around a funky guitar melody that’s soundtracked a million wet t-shirt contests, “Beautiful Girls” is still very much a David Lee Roth showcase. Riffing on the “fun in the sun” lyrics like Steven Tyler going in on “Walk This Way,” Roth gleefully vamps and ad-libs throughout the song’s four-minute mix.
With roots in the band’s early days as a Pasadena backyard party band, the song was originally called “Bring On the Girls” (“You had to do the wet t-shirt contest during the fourth set,” Alex Van Halen recalled).
"SOMEBODY GET ME A DOCTOR"
This scorching high-energy cut was only released as a single in Japan. It came in a glossy picture sleeve, and is a highly sought-after collectible among Van Halen vinyl completists.
Where “Beautiful Girls” was a vehicle for David Lee Roth to ride into the sunset, “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” finds Eddie Van Halen in full guitar legend mode, peeling off riffs and solos to such a degree that he gets a rousing ovation from the in-studio mob that can be heard on the track.
Van Halen: The Japanese Singles 1979-1984 Red Vinyl Boxed Set will be released on November 1.