When Van Halen burst onto the scene in 1978 with their self-titled debut, listeners were greeted with a burst of epic stomping and shredding from opening one-two of "Running with the Devil" and the instrumental "Eruption." If that sounded like the birth of a new kind of rock and roll sound, what we heard next at least was probably recognizable to fans: a riffy cover of The Kinks' classic "You Really Got Me."
There's little denying that VH are one of the most original bands of their generation - but the band weren't afraid to mix a cover or two into their discography. Nine interpretations of other peoples' songs can be heard across four of their 12 albums; join us as we count down our favorites!
9. "A Apolitical Blues" (OU812, 1988): this 12-bar interpretation of an early favorite from Little Feat isn't bad - Sammy Hagar's vocals are pretty killer - but there's not all that much there to make it feel like a classic Van Halen track. (As it happened, former VH producer Ted Templeman and engineer Donn Landee - who co-produced OU812 - oversaw Little Feat's original.) It's possible the band didn't think all that much of it, either: it was only available if you bought the album on CD.
8. "Happy Trails" (Diver Down, 1982): Van Halen's fifth album is slightly divisive among fans for just how many covers are on the album - five of the 12 songs - and the closing, a cappella cover of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans' country theme song is as unserious as it gets.
7. "Where Have All the Good Times Gone!" (Diver Down, 1982): an effects heavy take on another Kinks song, Diver Down's opener is perfectly pleasant if not entirely groundbreaking.
6. "Dancing in the Street" (Diver Down, 1982): in what was sort of an unexpected move for Van Halen at the time, this Motown classic from Martha & The Vandellas had a riff propelled not by Eddie's guitar but his bubbly synthesizers. (Fans would hear more keyboards on follow-up 1984.) Despite the unorthodox approach, the song briefly dented the Top 40 in America - their fifth song to do so. (Fun fact: lead singer David Lee Roth told the press that, despite the complex arrangement, the track was recorded live with almost no overdubs.)
5. "Big Bad Bill (is Sweet William Now)" (Diver Down, 1982): a humorous 1920s hit parade number, this might be one of the strangest Van Halen recordings ever! Brought to the group by David Lee Roth (no stranger to old-time covers himself), it's a near-acoustic jazz-rock exercise with a guest appearance from Eddie and Alex Van Halen's father Jan (a Dutch jazz player) on clarinet. "It's so funny, because I couldn't play the song for you right now," Eddie later said of the session. "I had to read because there were so many chords, I just couldn't remember it."
4. "Ice Cream Man" (Van Halen, 1978): John Brim was a semi-forgotten Chicago bluesman when Van Halen dusted off his "Ice Cream Man" - a winking, metaphor-heavy tune about a deliverer of frozen treats - and eventually used the royalties he made off their cover to open a club of his own. For the band's part, it was a cornerstone of their set through their last years together.
3. "You're No Good" (Van Halen II, 1979): written by Clint Ballard, Jr., first recorded by Dee Dee Warwick and taken to No. 1 for a single week in 1975, "You're No Good" was a standard of sorts when Van Halen picked it to kick off their sophomore album. The verses and bridge offer an appropriately menacing stomp that VH fans would already expect by now - but the staccato chorus can't stack up to how Ronstadt sang it, even with Diamond Dave's iconic throat-wailing.
2. "(Oh) Pretty Woman" (Diver Down, 1982): in terms of chart placement, Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman" is the most popular song Van Halen covered, having spent three weeks at No. 1 in 1964. Dave doesn't try to out-sing Roy, and is surprisingly reserved on the track; Michael Anthony's iconic harmony vocals and Eddie's monster leads (love that little riff that opens the track) make this a winner.
1. "You Really Got Me" (Van Halen, 1978): As stated above, Van Halen's version of "You Really Got Me" - their debut single - was perhaps the one track that locked listeners into the genius of Van Halen from the get-go. It didn't need to tremendously reinvent the song, just give people an idea of what Van Halen would sound like for decades to come, all killer guitars and soaring harmonies that time cannot erase.