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Top 10 Songs Van Halen Never Played Live

todaySeptember 15, 2021 6

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Van Halen didn’t let very many of their songs go to waste.

From their groundbreaking 1978 debut all the way up to 1995’s Balance, if a song appeared on a Van Halen album you could be confident that it would also turn up on stage.

According to Setlist.fm, there are a total of just eight non-instrumental tracks from those first 10 albums that the group did not play live at least once. They even played seven songs from 1998’s much-maligned Van Halen III.

Despite that impressive usage rate, it’s still possible to build a tantalizing list of songs Van Halen never played live. The reasoning behind some set list exclusions is easily understood, but it’s hard to deny how fun it would have been to see the group performing these tracks live at least once.

 

10. “Baluchitherium”
From: Balance (1995)

The only tracks from Van Halen’s fourth and final album with Sammy Hagar that weren’t played live were its three instrumentals. The stomping “Baluchitherium,” appropriately named after the largest prehistoric mammal, was the longest of those and the only one to feature three members of the band playing together. “We were actually working on lyrics and we ended up going, ‘Fuck it, it sounds pretty good without vocals,’ so we left it,” Eddie Van Halen told Guitar World in 1995. “Sammy was relieved – ‘Okay I got one less to work on.'” It would have been fun to hear Eddie work some of this into his nightly solo showcase.

9. “Push Comes to Shove”
From: Fair Warning (1981)

This slow-burning, reggae-tinged song is better suited for a quiet late-night listening session than it is for playing in front of an arena of screaming Van Halen fans. That’s probably the main reason it’s one of only two songs from the moody Fair Warning that were never played live. Eddie Van Halen also didn’t seem to be the biggest fan of the track, describing it as “[David Lee] Roth’s idea of trying to cash in on the reggae thing” in a 1996 Guitar World interview.

8. “You and Your Blues”
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

Impressively, it took nearly three decades for Van Halen to become a nostalgia act. The band’s tour in support of their 2012 reunion with David Lee Roth marked the first time that a big chunk of Van Halen’s set list wasn’t devoted to their newest studio album. It’s a shame, because A Different Kind of Truth contained many songs worthy of the attention. You’ll find three on this list. We’ll start with the churning “You and Your Blues,” which proved that the band’s soaring background vocals could survive the departure of founding bassist and singer Michael Anthony.

7. “Feels So Good”
From: OU812 (1988)

In what might be the strangest omission on this list, the only original song from 1988’s OU812 that wasn’t played live was also the album’s fourth single. Perhaps the band felt that there were already enough keyboard-based songs in their set lists, or that the instrumental part of this track wasn’t dynamic enough to keep their rowdy live crowds engaged? Whatever the reasoning, it’s a bit of a missed opportunity because Hagar knocked his vocals out of the park on this one.

6. “Inside”
From: 5150 (1986)

Granted, the first and last minutes of this song are largely dedicated to Van Halen cracking jokes about each other’s wardrobes; that might not have gone over well live. But in between that goofiness, Hagar delivers an inspired performance on “Inside,” the only song from his first album with Van Halen that never made it to the stage. He starts with jokes about the fashion changes he’s had to make since joining the group, but quickly shifts to explaining a more serious desire to tackle new challenges – “something special, gimme someone new / some brand new group to sink my teeth into” – while effortlessly showing off the vocal range and power that helped land him the job.

5. “As Is”
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

In a perfect world, this might have been both the opening track on A Different Kind of Truth and the first song Van Halen played every night on their next tour. The transition from Eddie and Alex Van Halen’s thunderous, grinding introduction to the song’s quicksilver main riff is among the most dramatic moments on the album. “As Is” also provides the perfect framework for Roth to re-establish his personality, wit and vocal style, and he lands direct hits on all fronts. The Van Halen family seemed into the idea of trying this one live: Eddie, Alex and Wolfgang were filmed playing the song at a soundcheck in 2012, with the guitarist telling the lucky witnesses, “If Dave decides to sing it, at least we’ll be prepared.”

4. “Could This Be Magic?”
From: Women and Children First (1980)

As with “Push Comes to Shove,” it’s hard to imagine a Van Halen crowd sitting still through this gentle and quite loose acoustic number, which sounds like the band are performing at an oceanside campfire after sharing quite a few rounds together. It’s a shame they never appeared on Unplugged, this would have been a perfect fit.

3. “Outta Space”
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

Yes, an earlier version of “Outta Space” – then known as “Let’s Get Rockin‘” – was played live during Van Halen’s early club days. It’s one of seven previously unreleased old songs the group re-worked for A Different Kind of Truth, and it might be the best of the bunch. The new arrangement is a definite improvement, and Roth’s ecologically minded lyrics are another great example of how successfully he shifted and updated his approach and persona for his long-awaited studio return to Van Halen. Oh, and can’t believe we haven’t said this yet on this list, but holy s— is Eddie’s solo thrilling on this one.

2. “Top Jimmy”
From: 1984 (1984)

Well, if you were forced at threat of great personal harm to pick a song from 1984 to ban from Van Halen’s set lists forever … sure, better this than “Hot for Teacher” or “Panama.” But it still seems downright criminal. Most of “Top Jimmy” is set to simmer rather than boil, so maybe the band decided it wasn’t best choice for the enormo-domes they were playing at the time. Still, it’s hard not to daydream about Eddie suddenly lighting into these snaky opening guitar lines onstage.

1. “One Foot Out the Door”
From: Fair Warning (1981)

Fair Warning closes out with a particularly nasty one-two punch from Eddie Van Halen. First he and Alex set a menacing mood on the slow-stomping instrumental “Sunday Afternoon in the Park,” which features Eddie torturing a mini-synth to within an inch of its life. Then out of the blue, they kick the tempo up to full electro-boogie on “One Foot Out the Door,” briefly inviting Roth in to tell the story of a forbidden quickie gone wrong.

Just as quickly, Eddie shoves the singer back out of the studio again and delivers one of the most unhinged solos of his life. You can pretty clearly hear where the second verse would start, but Eddie just decides to play another solo instead. Most tantalizingly, he doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to being finished as the song fades out. So the first thing we’re doing when we get to the Van Halen wing of heaven is asking for a 10-minute live version of “One Foot Out the Door.”

The Best Song From Every Van Halen Album

They released a dozen albums over their career. These are the songs for your playlist.

See Rock’s Epic Fails: Van Halen Edition



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