Thursday, June 17, 2021

"Black and Blue" by Van Halen

Song#:  3527
Date:  05/21/1988
Debut:  66
Peak:  34
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  With their new lead singer, Sammy Hagar, Van Halen roared back with their seventh studio album, 1986's 5150. It would be VH's first #1 album thanks to three Pop Top 30 hits including the #3 "Why Can't This Be Love?" Over time, the LP would sell over six million copies. As soon as the album's supporting tour was finished, the band got back into the studio to record a follow up. They would adopt a sort of ad hoc approach to production with the band directing themselves along with engineer Donn Landee. In the end, they came up with the jokingly titled OU812. This first single would be issued out and it was an immediate hit at Rock becoming their fourth chart topper. It didn't take long for the song to cross over to the Pop chart, but its heavier rock-blues sound ended up being a tougher sell. The best it could do was a Top 40 showing. Despite the single not doing well at Pop, the album exploded on the chart and quickly went to #1 where it stayed for four weeks. The day after it reached that peak, the LP would be certified double-platinum.

ReduxReview:  The band had a bit of a balance issue by this time. With their previous two LPs generating a Pop Top 10 hit each, there were expectations of having something commercial to release, however, they also needed to keep their core rock fans happy too. They navigated the waters pretty well with 5150, but that just applied pressure for the second go-round of "Van Hagar" and that led to OU812 being a mixed bag. It showcased various styles that while firmly planted in rock including shades of pop, country and as in the case of this first single, blues. I understand why the band would want to kick off the LP with a big rock single, but this one certainly didn't have the same commercial appeal as "Why Can't This Be Love?" The tune's plodding, stomping blues-rock and wink-wink sex joke lyrics wasn't something that could competed on the Pop airwaves alongside the sleek rock/glam rock tracks that were gaining favor at the time. In other words, it was a little rough for pop radio and that played out on the chart with a very mild Top 40 peak. However, it seemed to keep rock fans happy and it was enough to reach #1 at Rock and send the LP to the top. Despite the silly lyrics, I actually liked the song. I thought it was a good, swaggerin' track that fit well into the new world order of the Hagar-led VH.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Apparently the working titled for the album was Bone and that was what the band was going to go with despite Alex Van Halen hating it. Then just as the album was ready to be sent off for final artwork and pressing, Sammy Hagar found a bit of inspiration via a delivery truck. Hagar was driving on the highway and happened to see that the actual serial number on a truck was OU812. He thought it was hilarious because when said aloud it comes off as "oh, you ate one too." Hagar took the jokey code back to the band and suggested it for the LP title. Since Bone wasn't necessarily a favorite, they agreed. After the album's release, rumors started that the title was sort of a jab or response to David Lee Roth's first full-length solo album Eat 'Em and Smile, but that wasn't the case (although kind of convenient). That combo of numbers and letters had been around for a long time even being seen in Cheech and Chong's Next Movie and the hit TV show Taxi, but for Hagar, he just happened to see it on the side of a truck.


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