Gem of the Week: “I’ll Wait”-Van Halen

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Song: “I’ll Wait”

Artist: Van Halen

Album: 1984 (1984)

Though the musical legacy of the 1980s will always be stained by an overwhelming abundance of cotton-ball pop, there’s some precious hard-rock to be found in the decade—some of wild keyboarding and puffed-up synthesizers’ most formative years. A good chunk of the stuff was corny, better fit for arena background music, but some bands wielded these fresh sound developments and turned it into an art.

The guilty-pleasure glam rock of Van Halen, and all of the electric guitar theatrics that come with it, put these new, machine-driven garnishes to good purpose–and for that, the group remains an exception amongst their largely corny contemporaries. Eddie could lay down a shredding guitar solo for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, meshing scraggy, thunderous rock with radio pop, and then the band could channel the same combo on singles like “Jump”, which put their screeching ferocity on hold without sacrificing their specialty.

1984‘s success was all the coolness confirmation Van Halen needed from the mainstream, its 10-million-copies sales status a sharp reminder that the band never had to change for people to catch on. A foursome already obsessed with both aesthetics and just plain ‘jamming out’, Van Halen capitalized on the new sound expectations of the ’80s with then-frontman David Lee Roth’s piercing vocals and Eddie’s amp-busting guitar fluency.

“I’ll Wait” stands as the most rockin’ 4 minutes on the album, its shrill, somber keyboards and shuffling percussion buildup the ideal backdrop for Roth’s love-blind griping; “You’ve got me captured, I’m under your spell…I guess I’ll never learn…”

The lyrics are simple and the theme is basic; they’re congruent with 1984‘s material…but Van Halen packs it with such a punch you might just ignore its love-song suggestion and surrender to air guitar.

Listen below:

One Reply to “Gem of the Week: “I’ll Wait”-Van Halen”

  1. It’s interesting to hear a younger persons opinion of this last Van Halen record. Having heard the first Van Halen record at the age of 10, I picked up the guitar not long after. And as someone who owns the original 1984 vinyl I can say it is well worn. Although it is a good album it was somewhat misrepresentative of their sound at the time. The pop sounds you describe were an anomaly for the band. Drop Dead Legs, House of Pain, and Panama were really more quintessential sounding tracks to me. When this was released, Van Halen really stood alone as a hard rock band. They were progressive without being overwrought. Their shows didn’t have long jams and they stuck to fairly traditional song structures with complicated riffs, rhythms, and Eddie’s incredible phrasing. What is not apparent on 1984 is how much they had changed the face of what rock was and yet there was no one trying to sound like them. It was too damn hard. Those bands would show up later in the decade. They defined this raunchy, testosterone fueled, barely contained electric mayhem that became much imitated.
    I don’t know that 1984 was the pinnacle so much as they weren’t really flying under the radar anymore. One could argue that Women and Children First was a more “Van Halen” sounding record. However, by this time things were falling apart. The tour was full of relationship drama between the band members and it was noticeable on stage. I saw the band a couple of times after with Sammy Hagar but is was very different. Frankly it looked like Eddie’s drinking was affecting his health even if his playing still seemed flawless. Nevertheless, I cannot overstate the massive influence this band had on music and musicians like me. Hearing that guitar coming through my tiny boom box speakers made my hair stand on end. I doubt there will ever be anything quite like it again.

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