Thursday, June 17, 2021
F U C knowledge

The band Van Halen certainly didn't have anything left to prove by the time the group made ninth studio album, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Eddie Van Halen and company had successfully moved on from original lead singer, David Lee Roth, to release two chart-topping records in a row--5150 and OU812--with new frontman, Sammy Hagar. 

For Van Halen's first full-length of the '90s, the band simply plugged in, turned on, and rocked out. Opening track "Poundcake" is a strong representation of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge: a straightforward guitar riff paired with Hagar's powerful banshee vocals, motored along nicely by the dependable rhythm section of Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony. The highlight, however, is a classically melodic and inventive guitar solo from Eddie Van Halen himself.

For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge was released on June 17, 1991, and like the two albums that came before it, raced straight up the Billboard 200 to hit #1 for the week of July 6, 1991, holding the top spot for two additional weeks. Van Halen was finally toppled over the week of Juy 27, 1991, by Natalie Cole's Unforgettable: With Love. Rock radio stations across the country jumped all over lead single "Poundcake," sending it to #1 on the Mainstream Rock Airplay chart.

The group traded in a bit of nostalgia for second single, "Top of the World." Even the most casual VH fan could recognize the tune's opening riff from the fading moments of massive 1984 hit, "Jump." The song's chorus went back even further, with a vocal melody similar to the one found in 1979 single, "Dance the Night Away." The single was big to crash the top 40, reaching #27 on the Hot 100 over the week of November 23, 1991. The #1 song in America that week: Michael Bolton's "When a Man Loves a Woman."

Van Halen took a decided turn away from the usual party-hearty rock lyrics when it came to third and final single, "Right Now." "I was tired of writing cheap sex songs" Hagar once said of the song. "Eddie and I wanted to get serious and talk about world issues."

"Right Now" arrived with a provocative music video that paired the song with profound messages flashed on the screen. Hagar, angry with the idea that the video concept would usurp the lyrics, had to coerced into even participating in the shoot: "I said, 'I wrote the best lyric I've ever written in Van Halen, I'm trying to upgrade this band's image with lyrics to where we're finally not just a party band that can play instruments, and they wanna put words underneath? Why don't they use the words I wrote? They're great words. It's a statement. It's gonna be confusing!,'" is how Hagar summarized the situation on UK TV show Video Killed the Radio Star. The clip went on to win big at the MTV Music Video Awards that year, including Video of the Year.