Rock writer Ian Christe broke major ground with his book Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal. Now, Christe is back with a shockingly clear view of life behind the iron curtain that is Van Halen. Through Everybody Wants Some: The Van Halen Saga (Wiley & Sons 2007), Christe gives his readers a chance to relive the glory days of Sunset Strip glam Metal, while exploring the complex relationships between the brothers Alex and Eddie Van Halen.
The book is divided into three sections, appropriate since Van Halen has employed three different frontmen over 30 years of rock. The first section, “Runnin’ With the Devil” chronicles the formative years, and the time with David Lee Roth. The next section, “Top Of the World” chronicles the band’s time with Sammy Hagar and massive album success. The final section “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?” focuses on short-lived singer Gary Cherone, Eddie Van Halen’s ongoing battle with alcoholism, and the band’s uncertain future.
Starting with the history of the Van Halen family, readers learn how music was available at a very young age to Alex and Eddie. Just as gigs with father Jan van Halen were expected at an early age, so were excesses like smoking, drinking and sex. The book chronicles the frustration of Jan and his attempts to become a professional musician, eventually moving his family from Holland to California and Americanizing his surname in the process. Once the van Halen clan, the family was suddenly Van Halen and looking for work as a band of traveling minstrels.
While explaining the early life of the Van Halen brothers; Christe also intertwines the histories of bassist Michael Anthony (originally Sobolewski) and singer David Lee Roth. For both Anthony and Roth, music as a career choice was met with some disdain from their respective families. Only Jan Van Halen gave his sons carte blanche to their future when it came to musical aspirations. One of the most amusing facts in The Van Halen Saga is when Christe recalls that Eddie Van Halen’s mother worried about her son’s future so much she insisted he enroll in computer classes at DeVry Institute of Technology in Phoenix, Arizona. He never attended a single class.
Readers gain an understanding and appreciation of the work ethic that the Van Halen brothers, Anthony and Roth all put into making their band the biggest act in the land. Playing nearly every night at any gig available, Van Halen got a great start through word of mouth and a few hundred popular cover tunes. Alex Van Halen ran the business end of things for quite some time while Roth put every ounce of his energy into creating a stage show bigger than any other band on the Sunset Strip. Eddie Van Halen and Michael Anthony practiced their craft and created the music of a generation.
The book takes a painful turn when talking about the initial departure of Diamond David Lee Roth. Recalling the split, Christe shoots down the middle, careful to not take sides in this ongoing turf war. While the Hagar years seemed happy and successful to many on the outside looking in, the Van Halen Saga paints a less-rosy picture. Constant bickering, creative differences and alcoholism eventually tore this version of the band apart. The problems that started with Roth only snowballed with Hagar, pitting the Van Halen brothers against the more docile Hagar and Anthony. While Hagar would fight back, Michael Anthony remained a laid-back diplomat. Eventually, it becomes clear that Alex and Eddie Van Halen were taking Anthony for granted and effectively began to write him out of the band.
Christe recounts with gory details the nasty departure of Sammy Hagar. While Hagar went on to build a tequila empire the Van Halen brothers began bouncing back and forth, looking backward to Roth and forward to a new singer. As Michael Anthony’s role in the band began to constantly diminish, he started performing with Hagar, further incensing the Van Halen brothers.
Throughout the entire history, Christe is exceptionally careful in his word choice. While some would use the words “painful,” “embarrassing” or “disrespectful” to describe the way Eddie and Alex treated David Lee Roth after the Hagar departure, Christe simply recounts the facts and lets readers make their own judgments.
Toward the end of the book, Christe recalls the mistake of hiring Gary Cherone as new lead singer and the recording process of Van Halen III. Here, readers learn that Eddie Van Halen played the bass lines for Michael Anthony, further relegating him to the back of the bus. Christe ends the book with the very embarrassing Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the surprising absence of David Lee Roth (Anthony and Hagar attended). Only at the very end of the work does Christe inject his opinion, expressing the desire for a reunion tour with David Lee Roth. While we all know the band is planning a massive fall stadium tour, it is without bassist Michael Anthony. Instead, Eddie’s teenage son Wolfgang will fill the role. Like many, Christe sees this as a slap in the face of fans, and an undue pressure on a young boy. Most would vehemently agree.