"Runnin' with the Devil:" – Van Halen's manager's book about their early years

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    I just finished Noel Monk’s book about his years managing Van Halen in the early years –
    up until David Lee Roth’s departure in 1985.
    Fun read, especially if you are a fan of the band. Not all of it is salacious.


    There is the interesting tale of how Monk tricked Warner Brothers into forgetting to renew the band’s original contract (a terrible deal for the band) so they could renegotiate it for 2X the royalty rate and earning them millions more than they otherwise would have earned.

    There is the curious story of how Edward and Alex’s mother was terrified of Jehovah’s Witnesses, almost to the point of delusion that they were out to get her.

    And there is the sad story about how David Lee, Edward, and Alex, bullied Michael Anthony into giving up his ownership in the band, in effect becoming an employee of Van Halen in 1984, just as the album “1984” was earning the band tons of money; Anthony signed away his rights to any royalties from the album even after it had come out.

    And of course, there are plenty of stories about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, how the guys in the band were f’ed up pretty much all the time.

    I wouldn’t call Van Halen my favorite band – never did see them live – but I’ve always loved the first album especially (who doesn’t). Didn’t really care for Edward’s move away from guitar to synthesizer, and I gave up on the band once it became Van Hagar.


    Van Halen is one of my all time favorite bands. I’ve seen them several times and have never been disappointed.

    Eddie is one of the best guitarists ever, if not the best of all time. I’d be willing to give him that crown. He shredded back in the day and still shreds today. The sad part is, his fingers can only do that for so long. The last time I saw Eddie his fingers were as limber as ever.

    There’s been a lot of talk over the years of the BS of the band, but let’s face it, any good band in their youth is a trainwreck.


    Monk says Edward (as he called him, or Ed – for some reason, never Eddie as we all know him) was a savant with a guitar – hard to disagree. He relates how, when Van Halen opened for the Stones, long after Van Halen had become huge, Mick Jagger came backstage to chat with the band and made a point of telling Edward how great he was…and Edward was just in such awe of Jagger and the Stones and he didn’t know what to say.

    Obviously Edward was (probably still is) a brilliant guitarist. My only gripe might be that he seems to be technically brilliant without necessarily expressing much of a feeling in his playing. It’s like he was showing off in every song, at least the early stuff (in songs that I sill love).

    Someone like Hendrix, on the other other hand, while he often seemed to be showing off as well, seemed to express some feeling in his playing. Van Halen’s playing sometimes feels kind of cold, for lack of a better description.


    Eddie may be on the spectrum.

    Andy Brown

    I agree with Andrew about Eddie’s playing. He is a great guitar player but lacks feeling. He isn’t even close though to being the best I’ve ever seen live and the reason is to be really really great you need more feeling then he has ever shown on an album or live. I’ve watched him pretty closely on video where the view is clearly better then at a concert (plus you can replay segments to see what he is doing). Alex and Eddie have music in their genes as both folks were in the biz, but Eddie’s playing often comes off as perfunctory and emotionless.

    The band was built for hits and top track radio. What Van Halen the band never accomplished was not for lack of musicianship within the band, it was lack of focus and no desire to push their songs to boundaries and beyond. Everything is cut and dry. Instrumentally, Eddie could make the guitar sound like anything, but he seemed to do it just for the sake of doing it, not to round out or highlight a part of a song or the whole.
    Van Halen was about having fun, being loud and flashy, getting laid and making money. That’s OK. But he’s like a pitcher that only has a blazing fastball and nothing else. Guitar theatrics can be fun to watch and listen to for a while, but a critical view sees what’s missing.

    Hendrix was better, but I personally don’t think he was the best guitarist either. Hendrix could write songs which he did much better then Van Halen. I mean really, Little Wing vs. Hot For Teacher. My favorite Van Halen tune is Ain’t Talkin Bout Love.


    I love Van Halen and Van Hagar. While I enjoyed The Diamond Dave era more than the Hagar era, mainly because their music was better with Roth, I always felt that Sammy had better vocals and was an all around better singer than Roth. One of my favorite Van Halen songs of all time is “Humans Being.” I think it was one of the last Van Hagar songs recorded and boy did it rock. Eddies guitar is outstanding on this song. Such a bad ass track.

    What’s your favorite VH song?


    I love that track, too.

    Many don’t like Van Hagar, I feel because the band got away from its roots. The songs had more depth, with more keyboards, etc. The fact that Sammy plays guitar freed up Eddie’s creative side.

    Ray Danniels (who has been Rush’s manager since day one) was later the manager for Van Halen. He said one of the biggest differences between the two was that Rush was genuine in their relationships with the fans and each other, and were true friends. Van Halen HATED each other.


    Roth was recruited into what was then a band they called Genesis in part because he came from a wealthy family and had good equipment; he had a great PA, not easy for a struggling local band to afford. The guys in Genesis had been renting it from Roth in the past anyway. It wasn’t just that of course – Roth was a dynamic stage presence and a great performer. But the other guys never really liked him even at the beginning – he was recruited for practical reasons, not because they were friends.

    It seems Michael Anthony (who was the last to join the original lineup) was an easygoing, likable guy who was devoted to his high school sweetheart (still his wife today) and didn’t partake nearly as much in the antics and habits of the others, which is one reason it’s even sadder how he was later treated by the others. Maybe anyone good could have played bass for Van Halen, but he did provide those signature background vocals – impossible to imagine the original Van Halen songs without them. Perhaps the others didn’t like Anthony because he wasn’t “one of us” on the road.

    Alex and Edward had a complicated sibling rivalry – hard to say they hate/hated each other more than the average bickering brothers. Would be interesting to put them in the same room with Ray and Dave Davies! Drug and alcohol abuse certainly made things a lot worse between all of them.


    Seen Van Halen perform twice and Van Hagar once. First time, working the show in Boise. Our station promoted it. Sparks is the opening act. Saw Dave do his trademark leg split jump over the mic stand and over the stage he went. Fans got him back on stage and the band finished the show.
    Second time is in Spokane. Sammy Hagar is the opening act. Road fatigue is obvious. Upon band instructions, audio guys cranked the mixer output channels to eleven before the headliners took the stage. Standard practice. Last act is ALWAYS louder. Sound was awful. David asked the stage monitors be turned down because of feedback. After the second song, Dave fires the sound crew. During the third song, he fell off the stage and breaks his leg ending the show and the tour.
    Driving to work on the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101), a RR Corniche pulls along side and Bob Hope points at me, the rear of my Rover TC2000 and starts laughing at the rear bumber sticker (remember those?) which read “All parts falling ovv this car are of the finest British workmanship.” He pulls off for Barham Blvd most likely for Universal. A brand new red Chevrolet Corvette convertible then pulls along side with a most beautiful woman behind the wheel blond hair flowing in the wind and wearing Ray Bans (remember those). As the ‘Vette passed me, I saw the California vainity plates; PANAMA. Doh! I got off the freeway at Alameda Blvd. Diamond Dave drives on towards Pasadena and presumably home.
    Last time I saw David is at work for a Midnight Special (remember those?). He would try to poke anything with a hole and often did, becoming a sex trophy for some men.
    Met the Van Halen boys twice. Once at the Procaro house (remember Toto?). Always thought Alex was the better musician.
    Bertinelli family once came to Tio Luigi’s Easter dinner. Their kids and most of Tia Cecilia’s family kids attended the same Catholic Academy in Mission Hills. Val became a sitcom TV star and I could never understand why.
    Just another L.A. band that made it big.

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