"Fair Warning" 1981
Today marks the 38th anniversary of Van Halen's fourth studio album, "Fair Warning," released April 29, 1981.
"Fair Warning," is the dark horse of the Van Halen catalog. In 1981, Van Halen is exercising absolute domination over the Rock and Roll world. MTV comes along. Van Halen videos were already a thing but are now reaching a wide audience.
"Fair Warning," track listing is perfection from start to finish. From the moment your ears recognize but fail to understand Edward Van Halen's guitar intro for "Mean Street," you know what's coming.
I was already considering myself the biggest, or certainly most obsessive Van Halen fan I knew before being exposed to "Fair Warning." I was having to go backwards just a few years and pretty quickly had my hands on all six Van Halen albums before the breakup in 1985. The very first time I had heard anything off of "Fair Warning," it was "Unchained," on vinyl, as loud as it would go. It's 2019 and there's still not a stereo in existence which can go loud enough for the intro of "Unchained." Edward Van Halen's use of the Flanger effect is ridiculously badass. In 1981, Van Halen was as progressive and innovative as he was on their 1978 debut album. Legions of future ax slingers were learning "Eruption," while Van Halen had continued forward in his reinvention of all things guitar.
The tone. The album cover is brown. The guitar tone has often been described as Edward's "brown sound." The subject matter is dark; "Fair Warning," is not the usual summertime back yard party album from the Southern California quartet. Infighting, disagreements over creative direction, money, when and where the spotlight's supposed to shine....whatever it was...it translated into one absolutely kickass album.
David Lee Roth is the greatest American Rock and Roll front man of all time. Edward Van Halen is the King of ten fingers and six strings. Together, they are the greatest one-two combination ever thrown.
Get you some of this right here. "Sinner's Swing!" Super tight instrumentation. Alex Van Halen lays it down tight.
Listen to Michael Anthony over there on the bass guitar, laying down his legendary, irreplaceable high harmony. That's why we call him "America's Bass Player."
The greatest 15 minute long, 3-song set available anywhere on the internet is this right here. Write this down and keep it in your notes. It's another one of our Rock & Roll facts. While you're taking notes.
This should be a major source for a Van Halen movie; this show right here. The opening 15 minutes, alone, is a barrage of ass kicking like nobody could pound out in 1981. For bootleg audio, this is about as perfect as it gets. But don't be a pussy. You'll need to crank it up or put on your head phones and crank it up and pretend you're still working. Not sure what happens at the beginning of this Greensboro show. But there's some sort of malfunction, possibly in David Lee Roth's microphone or something....but the intro to "On Fire," turns into a savage instrumental jam which lasts a few minutes before Alex Van Halen redirects everyone back to the barn with his cowbell and then re-unleashes the foursome onto the already frenzied Greensboro crowd. Totally kickass. By the time Van Halen comes up for a breather, three or four songs in, Greensboro Coliseum has been thoroughly pummeled. And Van Halen's just getting warmed up. When you get the chance you should listen to this entire show. My neighbors have. Many times. Probably will again, today.
"Fair Warning" is probably Heavy Metal Thursday's all-time favorite Van Halen album. And Van Halen is our all-time favorite band. We threw this HMT thing together largely due to our mutual passion for all things Van Halen. So we're talking roots, here, boys and girls. And we ain't apologizing for the '80s.