Recently the speculation over Van Halen's future has reached fever pitch amongst fans and rock critics. It is allegedly the 'worst kept secret' in the rock scene right now that David Lee Roth is once again in and a new album has almost been completed. Of course the band has not made this official and keep people waiting. On various websites fans have already voiced their displeasure at this. Van Halen are not the force they once were. They have lost their right to behave like this.

Bassist Michael Anthony recently told press seven songs had been finished and the music was a return to 1978 era Van Halen type music. That was all he said though. Even if the music was along these lines, Van Halen are all in their mid forties and unlikely to recreate the excitement that surrounded their initial breakthrough with 1978's 'Van Halen'. I have no doubts they can still create exciting music, but with the youthful energy long gone ,the music itself will be their most potent weapon.

If they tour with Roth it will be their first shows with him since the '1984' tour all those years back. Perhaps the thrill of the original lineup sharing the stage will see them through,but anyone hoping to see Roth recreate his stage act of twenty years ago will surely be disappointed. Roth can now concentrate on becoming a solid frontman in the Daltrey-Gillan mould, a great vocalist with presence. But Roth has never lacked that. He is more charismatic than most. I'm sure Anthony will continue the Jack Daniels drinking bass solo routine and Alex Van Halen is a solid skin pounder so the rhythm section should remain undaunted. As for Eddie Van Halen. it remains to be seen if his hip problems will bother him live, but with his unchallenged guitar prowess, Van Halen should remain a fine live act. What is not impressive is Van Halen keeping people in the dark. When Gary Cherone was vocalist, Van Halen lost a lot of mainstream spotlight and credibility. Cherone was hardly as high profile as Roth or Sammy Hagar. No one remembered Extreme. So the dismal sales of 'Van Halen 3' were hardly surprising. After Cherone 'left' Van Halen has been in limbo. They have barely been heard from since I first wrote about Cherone leaving back in 1999. So surely the band owed it to their fans to keep them aware of any new goings on. But they have been shut out entirely. Van Halen should not fool themselves into thinking every rock fan cares about them enough to keep it top secret. True they are radio staples and legends, but the days of the mid eighties where the rock press championed their every move are history. And I am talking about rags like Metal Hammer. The current events are of more interest to die hard fans than casual listeners familiar with only 'Jump' and ' Hot For Teacher'. They owe their fans for putting up with years of substandard albums and lineup shuffles. Anyone who foolishly bought 1993's appalling live 'Right Here, Right Now' deserves free concert tickets for life. But acting like hotshots they continue their silence,which will hopefully be ended shortly. But if it turns out as expected then what would have been so hard to announce it? Are we in for a surprise? Is Pete Goalby going to take over vocals? As for the music, it hopefully exceeds that of the dire 'Van Halen 3'. With Roth the music should be of a higher standard. The two excellent songs they recorded on 1996's ' Best Of Volume 1', 'Me Wise Magic' and 'Can't Get This Stuff No More' were as good as anything Roth era had ever produced. and Roth's last album 98's 'DLR Band' proved he could still cut it. The results should be worthwhile as Roth era Halen has a certain sound only Roth can bring. And when he left he took it with him. And while there is probably no chance of repeating the memorable sound of 'Fair Warning', here's hoping. What nobody is hoping for are some of the dull ballads that have sunk the last two albums. It is time to concentrate on hard rock. If The Who are capable of playing as heavy as they did in 1975 in their mid fifties, then Van Halen should have no trouble tearing it up in their mid forties. Right now it's a toss up. Either things will work out or collapse like they did in 1996 when Roth was in and out in a flash. The band needs to realise this really is their last shot. All the previous chances have been blown and all that's left to do is rock. And that's what it is all about, rock 'n' roll. And there are a lot of people wondering if Van Halen can still do that. We will see. Until then just listen to the silence.

Kept it short this time around. I just hope they don't make any announcements before this is printed otherwise it will have to be shelved. But I almost guarantee they won't.

Thanks as always!

Alun Thomas.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online April 4, 2001

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