Happy Anniversary: Van Halen, Fair Warning
33 years ago today, Van Halen released the one album amongst their classic David Lee Roth era output which can reasonably described as “underrated,” inasmuch as you can use the word to describe an album that hit #5 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart and went double-platinum.
It’s true, though: Fair Warning may be just as big a deal amongst the diehard VH fans as everything else in their discography, but if you look back at the band’s successes on the singles charts over the course of their career, it’s the only studio album – and we’re talking from their self-titled debut in 1978 all the way through 1995’s Balance, their last effort with Sammy Hagar – that didn’t have any songs hit the Billboard Hot 100.
Oh, sure, four of the album’s tracks did relatively well on the Mainstream Rock charts at the time – those would be “Mean Street,” “Unchained,” “So This Is Love?” and “Push Comes to Shove,” in case you were wondering – but you wouldn’t know it from the band’s two best-of collections: both the single-disc Best of Volume 1 and the double-disc The Best of Both Worlds spotlighted only a single song from Fair Warning…and it was the same song (“Unchained”).
Why all the limited love for Fair Warning? We’re only speculating, of course, but perhaps it’s because history has revealed it to be a transitional album for Van Halen, beginning the incorporation of synths to the band’s sound even as Eddie Van Halen attempted to bring his guitar skill to the forefront even more than it already had been. Obviously, the synths would prove to be far more prominent in the future, as would the pop flamboyance of the aforementioned Mr. Roth, but here it’s darker, harder material, none of which exactly screamed “hit single.” But here’s the thing: because it hasn’t gotten as much airplay over the years, Fair Warning arguably feels fresher than anything else in the early Van Halen catalog.
Don’t believe us? Give it another listen and hear for yourself!