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THE TOP TEN BANDS MOST OFTEN MISCATEGORIZED AS HAIR METAL: #9, VAN HALEN

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Since its inception by the typings of some clever music journalist in the 80s, the categorization “hair metal” (or “glam metal”) has been as amorphous and, consequently, as misused as “metalcore” has been in the aughties. And since it’s hair metal week here on MetalSucks, we thought we’d try to address this issue by pointing the spotlight on ten bands that are often, and incorrectly, deemed “hair metal.” And to that end…

It’s easy for me to understand why some people would dub Van Halen “hair metal.” Between the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth’s chest/Michael Anthony’s back and arms, the band certainly had plenty of hair on-stage in their heyday. (Things changed in the reunion era, as Eddie, Alex, and Diamon Dave have all adopted more “adult” hair cuts, and Michael Anthony’s back has been replaced by Fatty Ding Dongs Van Halen’s almost-grassless playing field.) And, certainly, no band besides Kiss was more influential on the hair metal scene — for what were the glam bands if not just one long string of EVH and DLR impersonators?

And yet it is this very influence which disqualifies Van Halen from being categorized as a hair metal band — for how can they be part of a trend that they pre-dated? Call Van Halen “cock rock” and I’d be hard pressed to argue, but a bunch of Aqua Net lovin’ pretty boys Van Halen were not.

Sure, Van Halen music bears a lot of the same hallmarks as hair metal: the faster-than-the-speed-of-light-guitar shredding, Godzilla-sized rhythms, vocals too obnoxious to meet traditional standards of rock but too melodious to really meet the strictest classifications of “metal,” arena rocks anthems with lyrics pertaining mostly to topics like sex, drugs, sex, partying, sex,and partying with sex and drugs, spandex, sun tans, smiles, and slick production… the list goes on and on. But I’d argue that while these elements describe Van Halen, they do not define Van Halen.

Eddie Van Halen revolutionized rock guitar playing for ever, and David Lee Roth redefined what it means to be a showman and a front man; their influence, ultimately, reached far beyond the confines of the Sunset Strip, to a point where  where Metallica, Pantera, and Zakk Wylde are just as obvious to name them as an influence as are  Warrant, Nitro, and C.C. DeVille. Bottom line: Van Halen were, are, and will forever be just an awesome American rock n’ roll band. Period.

-AR

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