Van Halen Rising

Greg Renoff
the rise of Van Halen

As the title, suggests, this book chronicles the rise of Van Halen from a Pasadena back yard party band to the rock giants they became in the late 70s. The book takes you through the band establishing itself on the debut album and first major tour. Renoff does a pretty remarkable job here of telling this story without much input from the band.  Most of it is told through interviews with the band's early friends and fans, supplemented by quoting other print interviews from band members, and sources such as DLR's autobiography Crazy from the Heat.  Such hear-say composite bios are usually iffy at best, but not here. This book flows very well and packs in an enomous amount of referenced info and details. 

The book presents minimal character study of the band members, but rather focuses on the band itself as the protagonist.  Its all in here:

  • A quick rundown of the VH family coming to the US, settling in CA, and the early development of the brothers as musicians. 
  • The early days of the band, as a covers band -- once called Genesis, then Mammoth.
  • Ed's development as a guitar phenom by the time he was 14.
  • DLR early years as a bad singer who badly failed the VH audtion 3 times. His own band Red Ball Jet.
  • The back yard party years and growth.
  • Trying to break into the club scene -- and failing, before succeeding.
  • DLR finally talking his way into the band.
  • Finally breaking into the club scene.
  • Being spotted by Gene Simmons, who made a demo with them and wanted to sign them, but couldn't.
  • Being spotted by Ted Templeman and finally getting signed.
  • Making the debut album -- lots of good stuff on this.
  • Hitting the road as the opener for Journey, Ronnie Montrose, and Black Sabbath, and blowing them all off the stage. 

Lots of good stuff here on Ed's guitar playing and sonic development, including the fact that the tapping and whammy bar stuff he would become SO known for, happened only 6 months before the making of VH1. 

I wasn't expecting much with this book, but I was pleasantly surprised and found it difficult to put down. And while I love VH, I am hardly their biggest, diehard fan. Those folks will likely get even more out of the book than I did. 


Overall Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)