VAN HALEN (album)


1984 (Van Halen album) – 1984

1984 (stylized as MCMLXXXIV on the album’s front cover) is the sixth studio album by American hard rock band Van Halen. It is Van Halen’s biggest-selling album, with 20 million copies shipped in the United States. 1984 reached number two on the Billboard 200 album chart and remained there for five weeks, behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller (where Eddie Van Halen made a guest performance). It produced several memorable singles, including “Jump”, Van Halen’s only number one single on the Billboard Hot 100; the top-20 hits “Panama” and “I’ll Wait”; and the MTV favorite “Hot for Teacher”. 1984 was the last Van Halen album to feature lead singer David Lee Roth until 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth, and the final full-length album with all four original members.

Reportedly dissatisfied by the concessions he had made to Van Halen’s frontman David Lee Roth and producer Ted Templeman on the group’s previous album, the #3 Billboard album hit Diver Down—both of whom had discouraged Eddie Van Halen from making keyboards a prominent instrument in Van Halen’s music—Eddie Van Halen built his own studio in his backyard. Eddie Van Halen named that studio 5150 (after the Los Angeles police code for “escaped mental patient.”) At 5150, Eddie Van Halen composed Van Halen’s follow-up to Diver Down—without as much perceived “interference” from Roth or Templeman. The result was a compromise between the two creative factions in the band—a mixture of keyboard-heavy songs, and the intense rock for which the band had become world famous.

In Rolling Stone’s retrospective review of 1984 in its 100 greatest albums of the 1980s, producer Ted Templeman said, “It’s real obvious to me why 1984 won Van Halen a broader and larger audience. Eddie Van Halen discovered the synthesizer.” The review continues, “The foursome had been selling out arenas for 5 years on the basis of Eddie’s virtuosic, fleet-fingered guitar playing, singer David Lee Roth’s blunt, raunchy lyrics and the brute force of Michael Anthony’s bass and Alex Van Halen’s drums. But 1984, abetted by tunes that swirled elements of synth pop into metal—most evidently on the hit single “Jump”—and by a string of campy, low-budget videos that found favor on MTV, carried Van Halen to a new plateau of popularity. No longer viewed as threatening to those with a chronic fear of metal, the band somehow became amusing and even endearing to middle America.

“At the time, Eddie was in the process of building his own studio with Donn Landee, the band’s longtime engineer (and later producer on 5150 and OU812). While boards and tape machines were being installed, the guitarist began fiddling around on synthesizers to pass the time. “There were no presets,” says Templeman. “He would just twist off until it sounded right.”

Album cover

The iconic cover was created by graphic artist Margo Nahas. It was not specifically commissioned; Nahas had been asked to create a cover that featured four chrome women dancing, but declined. Her husband brought her portfolio to the band anyway, and from that material they chose the painting of a putto stealing cigarettes that was ultimately used. The model was Carter Helm, who was the child of one of Nahas’ best friends, whom she photographed holding a candy cigarette. The cover, featuring as it did the smoking putto, was ‘censored’ in the UK by the addition of a sticker that obscured the cigarette in the putti’s hand, and the packet of cigarettes; but the censoring of the cover is cancelled.

The album’s original release credits all songs to Edward Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony and David Lee Roth. The label on the UK single release for “I’ll Wait” (catalog #W9213) credited Michael McDonald as a co-writer, but he was not credited on the US version of the single (catalog #7-29307).

Songs from this album which appeared on compilations released after a royalty renegotiation with the band’s label Warner Bros. (Best Of – Volume I, 1996) and a lawsuit brought by Roth (during the preparations for The Best of Both Worlds compilation, 2004),[citation needed] were credited to Edward Van Halen, Alex Van Halen and David Lee Roth, with Michael Anthony’s name removed from the credits, as evident in the end song credits of the 2007 film Superbad. Subsequently, Anthony has been removed from all songwriting credits on the 1984 album.

The ASCAP entry for “I’ll Wait” lists Michael McDonald as co-writer with Roth and the Van Halens. Like many bands starting out on their career, Van Halen shared songwriting credit equally between all members (including guitar instrumentals, which were clearly composed only by Eddie), but subsequent claims would lend credibility to the view that all songs were entirely or predominantly written by Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth, with little input from Van Halen’s rhythm section.

In 2004, Roth discovered that the rest of the band had renegotiated a more preferential royalty rate with Warner Bros. for all releases made during his time as lead singer, giving them a royalty rate five times greater than his. This was later rectified.

1984 peaked at #2 on the Billboard Magazine album charts, (behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which featured an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo on “Beat It”,) and remained there for 5 straight weeks. As previously noted, it contained the anthems “Jump”, “Panama”, “I’ll Wait” and “Hot for Teacher”. “Jump” reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. 1984 is the second of two Van Halen albums to have achieved RIAA Diamond status, selling over ten million copies in the U.S. alone.

“Jump” was one of the most successful singles of 1984, spending 5 weeks at the Billboard’s #1 position. It sold over three million copies alone, making it one of the four best-selling rock songs of the 1980s.

of two Van Halen albums to have achieved RIAA Diamond status, selling over ten million copies in the U.S. alone.

“Jump” was one of the most successful singles of 1984, spending 5 weeks at the Billboard’s #1 position. It sold over three million copies alone, making it one of the four best-selling rock songs of the 1980s.

The album’s follow-up singles – the synth-driven “I’ll Wait,” and then perhaps the original Van Halen line-up’s most straight-ahead rocker, “Panama”, each peaked at Billboard #13, (Pop,) respectively, in March and June. “Hot for Teacher”, a bombastic hard rock boogie, was a moderate Billboard Hot 100 success, reaching #56; however, the MTV video for “Hot For Teacher” became wildly popular, making it one of Van Halen’s most well-known songs. The “Hot For Teacher” video stars pre-teen lookalikes of the four Van Halen band members; a prototypical nerd named “Waldo;” David Lee Roth as Waldo’s bus driver; and numerous teachers stripping. “Jump;” “Panama;” and “Hot For Teacher” remain three of the most popular rock songs played at American arenas in the 2010s.

When Van Halen’s 1984 was released in the UK, a removable sticker with the Roman numerals MCMLXXXIV (which is “1984”), had to be placed over the cherub’s hand, as it was holding a cigarette and there happened to be a non-smoking campaign happening at the time. The same protocol was upheld for several other bands’ albums as well, such as the UK release of Canadian rocker Kim Mitchell’s album Akimbo Alogo, where the entire cover was changed due to a smoking reference.

To promote the album the band ran a contest on MTV. The contest was called, “Lost Weekend” with Van Halen. Fans mailed over 1 million postcards to MTV in hopes of winning the contest. In the promo for MTV, David Lee Roth said, “You won’t know where you are, you won’t know what’s going to happen, and when you come back, you’re not gonna have any memory of it.”

Kurt Jeffries won the contest and was flown to Detroit to join the band.[8] Jeffries was allowed to bring along his best friend. He was given a Lost Weekend T-shirt and a hat. He was also brought on stage and had a large sheet cake smashed in his face which was followed by about a dozen people pouring champagne on him.

In the band’s licensed game, Guitar Hero: Van Halen, three of the nine tracks of this album are available for play; “Jump,” “Panama,” and “Hot for Teacher.”

Theme songs

After its release, the Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League played “Jump” on the arena PA system as the team came onto the ice. They used the song until the team’s departure for Phoenix after the 1995-96 season. On the team’s return in 2011, public outcry for use of the song again fell on deaf ears as the team wished to leave the past behind stating the 1980s/1990s Jets are a different organization from the one (Atlanta Thrashers) coming in now.

This song is also used by the French soccer team Olympique de Marseille as they enter the field in their Stade Velodrome.

Critical reception

Professional ratings

Review scores

Source Rating

AllMusic 5/5 stars

Robert Christgau
Rolling Stone 4/5 star
Reviews for 1984 were generally favorable. Robert Christgau rated the album a B+. He explained that “Side one is pure up, and not only that, it sticks to the ears” and that “Van Halen’s pop move avoids fluff because they’re heavy and schlock because they’re built for speed, finally creating an all-purpose mise-en-scene for Brother Eddie’s hair-raising, stomach-churning chops.” He also called side two “consolation for their loyal fans–a little sexism, a lot of pyrotechnics, and a standard HM bass attack on something called ‘House of Pain’.”

J.D. Considine, a reviewer for Rolling Stone, rated 1984 four out of five stars. He called it “the album that brings all of Van Halen’s talent into focus.” He stated that “”Jump” is not exactly the kind of song you’d expect from Van Halen”, but that “once Alex Van Halen’s drums kick in and singer David Lee Roth starts to unravel a typically convoluted story line, things start sounding a little more familiar”. Although he mentioned “Jump”‘s “suspended chords and a pedalpoint bass in a manner more suited to Asia”, he went on to state that “Eddie Van Halen manages to expand his repertoire of hot licks, growls, screams and seemingly impossible runs to wilder frontiers than you could have imagined.” He concluded that “what really makes this record work is the fact that Van Halen uses all this flash as a means to an end—driving the melody home—rather than as an end in itself” and that “despite all the bluster, Van Halen is one of the smartest, toughest bands in rock & roll. Believe me, that’s no newspeak.”

A retrospective review by AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine was extremely positive. He noted that the album caused “a hoopla that was a bit of a red herring since the band had been layering in synths since their third album, Women and Children First”. He further stated that “Jump”‘s “synths played a circular riff that wouldn’t have sounded as overpowering on guitar”, but that “the band didn’t dispense with their signature monolithic, pulsating rock.” He also stated that “where [previous] albums placed an emphasis on the band’s attack, this places an emphasis on the songs, and they’re uniformly terrific, the best set of original tunes Van Halen ever had.” He concluded that “it’s the best showcase of Van Halen’s instrumental prowess as a band, the best showcase for Diamond Dave’s glorious shtick, the best showcase for their songwriting, just their flat-out best album overall. There’s no way Van Halen could have bettered this album with Dave around (and they didn’t better it once Sammy [Hagar] joined, either).”

With 1984 some critics felt Van Halen reached the pinnacle of its commercial and critical success.

At the end of the 1980s, Rolling Stone, which had previously been critical of Van Halen, ranked 1984 at number 81 on its list of the 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s.

Track listing

On the original release, all music and lyrics were credited to Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony and David Lee Roth, except where noted.

However, as per the above notes in ‘Songwriting credits’, from 2004 this was changed to just Edward Van Halen, Alex Van Halen and David Lee Roth; removing Michael Anthony.

Side one

No. Title Length

1. “1984” (instrumental) 1:07
2. “Jump” 4:01
3. “Panama” 3:31
4. “Top Jimmy” 2:59
5. “Drop Dead Legs” 4:14

Side two

No. Title Length

6. “Hot for Teacher” 4:42
7. “I’ll Wait” (E. Van Halen, A. Van Halen, Anthony, Roth, Michael McDonald) 4:40
8. “Girl Gone Bad” 4:35
9. “House of Pain” 3:19


Van Halen

David Lee Roth – vocals
Eddie Van Halen – guitars, keyboards, background vocals
Alex Van Halen – drums, background vocals
Michael Anthony – bass, background vocals


Ted Templeman – production
Ken Deane – engineering
Donn Landee – engineering
Chris Bellman – mastering
Gregg Geller – mastering
Jo Motta – project coordination
Joan Parker – production coordination
Pete Angelus – art direction
Richard Seireeni – art direction
Margo Nahas – cover art
Pete Angelus – lighting