Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rock News Artist Of The Year #1: VAN HALEN

As part of the 2011 hennemusic Rock News Awards – recognizing the biggest rock news stories and artists of the year - hennemusic is counting down the Top 10 rock news artists of the year.

The Top 10 are determined by music fans: numbers are based on the combined total page views of the top 50 hennemusic rock news stories of the past twelve months.

Rock News Artist Of The Year #02 – GENE SIMMONS
Rock News Artist Of The Year #03 – GUNS N’ ROSES
Rock News Artist Of The Year #04 – STEVEN TYLER
Rock News Artist Of The Year #05 – GARY MOORE
Rock News Artist Of The Year #06 – JOURNEY
Rock News Artist Of The Year #07 – MOTLEY CRUE
Rock News Artist Of The Year #08 – METALLICA
Rock News Artist Of The Year #09 – JAMES DURBIN
Rock News Artist Of The Year #10 – PEARL JAM

Rock News Artist Of The Year #1 – VAN HALEN

2011 was another year that proved it’s not easy being a Van Halen fan.

The VH rollercoaster ride is not for the squeamish, but longtime followers of the group already know this.

2011 will go down as a calendar of rumors, tours being booked and canceled, and the long-awaited reunion album with David Lee Roth somehow taking forever to be completed.

VH entered the studio in January with producer John Shanks to record one of the most-anticipated rock records in recent memory. The project has the weight and distinction of being the first new VH music in 7 years; the first new album in 13 years, the first new music with Roth in 15 years, first new album with Roth in 27 years, and the first recordings with bassist Wolfgang VH.

That’s some kind of pressure.

According to Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, Eddie VH was feeling it.

In an excerpt from a Neil Zlozower book published late in the year, Nuno wrote about accidentally bumping into his guitar hero in the studio in January.

“I ran into Edward an hour later in the hallway,” Nuno writes, “and after receiving a hello and a warm hug from the man who changed the world, I asked, ‘How’s it coming along in there?’ And Ed said, ‘It’s cool. . . . I’m a little nervous, though.’ I said, ‘Nervous? You!? Eddie Van? The Master? Do you have any idea what you have done? The gifts you have given us for over thirty years? You single-handedly changed the history of how we play guitar!’”

“And with that grin that we have been seeing on Eddie’s face for as long as we can remember, he looked me in the eye and said, ‘I know . . . why do you think I’m nervous?’ Then he walked off like John Wayne, straight back into the studio.”

By March, rumors that the record was in the mixing stages started up fans’ hopes that it would see the light of day before the calendar ran out. The mixing rumors lasted until the fall, co-existing alongside talk of the Eddie vs. Roth control scenarios over the recordings.

Sammy Hagar’s second attempt at an autobiography was published in March, revealing all kinds of nastiness about Eddie. Through the media and for the remainder of the year, Hagar continued to slag Eddie off, questioning his abilities and sobriety with information that he openly admitted was years out of date.

In early May, the first VH concerts in years were announced, with the band headlining the Soundwave Revolution festival series in Australia in late September. Speculation continued that the album would be out before the tour because, naturally, few acts hit the road without new product to promote.

“Get ready…” was the message delivered by Roth over the July 4 weekend, cranking up hopes that VH were getting set to unleash some news, and new music, on the public.

A hint of what was/is to come was offered by Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti, one of the few people who have heard the new album in its entirety. Tremonti witnessed a live performance of the record by the band (sans Roth) at 5150 studios.

“What makes it so great is that they took what they could from all their old demos back in the ’80′s and pretty much did what they could to create songs out of old ideas, so it sounds like vintage Van Halen,” Tremonti told 94.3 KILO in Colorado. “Musically it sounds in the [early '80's] era. I didn’t hear any vocals – David was not there. It was just the three of them and the music sounded like very authentic, old school Van Halen. It was a just a crazy experience to sit there and watch. Eddie was four feet from me, and Wolfie was on the other side. The guys were very excited to be doing what they’re doing.”

Recycling old demos is actually nothing new for VH, as they partially drew from 1970’s demos for material on albums as late as 1984 (the album and year) - 6 records into their career.

The anticipation by fans was palpable…and then vanished into thin air when the Soundwave Revolution festival was canceled in August, just 6 weeks before the traveling road show was to begin.

Reports in September suggested the new album was done, and that mixing wrapped up in mid-August.

No official word on anything came from the VH camp, as they continued to neglect maintaining any kind of online presence while off the road since 2008. The band’s website went into lockdown mode with only the classic logo on the home page, which is exactly where it sits today.

More September rumors included a label change for the band, who had been with Warner Brothers for their entire career. Early word was VH would sign with Columbia Records, and the news suggested that at least something was moving forward on the new project.

October rumors revolved around an alleged 2012 European tour – with dates being posted by some sites – but that disappeared as quickly as it arrived, along with the speculation that the whole thing had been booked and canceled before even being announced.

By November, the label situation was resolved, as the band issued a photo alongside senior management at Interscope Records.

Ridiculous rumors about an appearance at the Grammy Nominations Concert were fueled by an intentionally misleading tweet by the Grammy producers, one that included references to two VH song titles. It was later revealed that the “iconic group” reunion was actually The Beach Boys, but the Grammys couldn’t pull that together, either, for their little dog and pony show.

Still no real word on anything about the new VH record, a title, a release date for a single…just rumors that things may happen in early 2012.

For VH fans, the rollercoaster ride continues…