Great Rock Albums of 1986: Van Halen- 5150


A couple of weeks ago, when I posted about 38 Special’s “Strength in Numbers” album, I mentioned that I accused the band of ‘selling out’ back in 1986. I also stated that the term ‘sell out’ was brandished about quite liberally back then, especially by me. However, one band in 1986 which was accused of selling out by many metalheads around the world was Van Halen when they released the album “5150.” Gone were many of the power metal riffs from Eddie Van Halen and replaced by synthesizers. While synths were seen as the commercial friendly thing to do, it alienated a lot of metalheads who remember the glory days of Van Halen’s earlier metal albums.

80smetalman opinion: Many people blamed the ‘sell out’ on singer David Lee Roth leaving the band and being replaced by red rocker Sammy Hagar. I reject this claim. I’ve heard several of Sammy’s solo albums before his joining VH and saw his kick ass live show in 1984. Therefore, I was quite excited at the fact he was replacing Diamond Dave in the band. While I was disappointed the first time I heard “Why Can’t This Be Love” on the radio, I never attributed the synth sound to Sammy. Even before he joined, evidenced in Van Halen’s previous album, “1984,” Eddie Van Halen was already incorporating keyboards in the band’s sound. Maybe he was trying to experiment but let me bring in another piece of evidence. Even before “1984,” Eddie’s then wife, actress Valerie Bertinelli, had gotten him to play on Michael Jackson’s song “Beat It.” My thought and I have stated this in other blogs, was that Eddie had become so henpecked by Val, that it was getting into his music and that could be why he went more into softer synth pop. I know that sounds very sexist but at the time, I knew quite a few ladies who thought the same thing.

Regardless of the cause, “5150” is definitely a departure from what Van Halen sounded like in previous albums and if I had based the entire album on “Why Can’t This Be Love,” than I never would have listened to it. I mean there isn’t even a cool Eddie guitar solo on that song. Contrast this with the second single, “Dreams.” It too is synthed out way too much but at least there’s a good Eddie guitar solo on that song. The same can be said for “Love Walks In.” This one is more of a ballad but I must admit that there’s a cool Eddie guitar solo on it.

Fortunately, not every song is a synth oriented pop sounding song. My favourite track on the album, “Hot Summer Nights” is definitely a throw back to the Van Halen of old. Everything you remember and loved about them is all there in the song. Great guitar riffs, the ever so strong rhythm section of brother Alex and Michael Anthony and a killer of a guitar solo from Eddie. In addition, Sammy’s vocals on the track only makes it sound that much better. Coming second on my favourite track list is the following one, “Best of Both Worlds.” This too is another throwback to classic times and is just a pure rocker. Every time I listen to this album, I ask myself, “Why can’t the entire album sound like these two songs?” Then again, “Get Up” is pretty good too so make it three songs, possibly four with the title track.

Track Listing:

  1. Good Enough
  2. Why Can’t This Be Love
  3. Get Up
  4. Dreams
  5. Hot Summer Nights
  6. Best of Both Worlds
  7. Love Walks In
  8. 5150
  9. Inside


Van Halen

Sammy Hagar- lead and backing vocals

Eddie Van Halen- guitars, keyboards, backing vocals

Michael Anthony- bass, backing vocals

Alex Van Halen- drums, percussion

In all fairness, I have come to the conclusion that Van Halen’s “5150” album is half a hard rocking album. Four, possibly five if you count the opener, are good rocking tunes. The other four give lots of weight to the notion that this album was a sell out album for the band. Whatever side you’re on, the album really isn’t that bad.

Next post: The Firm- Mean Business

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19 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1986: Van Halen- 5150”

  1. Hmm… there is no Van Halen without DLR. But this, and subsequent albums grew on me. I just wished they’d changed their name… and no, not to Van Hagar.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I also caught Sam on the VOA tour as well as Metal Man! Where did you see him that year? I saw it in Duluth with Krokus opening.
    When VH announced Hagar as a lead singer I was totally ok with it as Sam delivered the good live so I figured what the hell between Roth and Halen were going to get two good records by them in 86.
    Good post dude!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I love the mixing of both the first two eras. The early Feral DLR stuff is pure rawk. 1984 onwards VH are the same band with or without Sammy. 5150 is probably my favourite overall album. I was jamming that and Skyscraper back to back for the longest time. I really love OU812 for what it is too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree. Half a sellout but not that bad. I think the production could have been beefier…but then it probably wouldn’t have had as many hits!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Sammy albums were only okay for me. As you say, about 1/2 is rocking. I find these first 2 Sammy albums don’t hold up as well as the DLR ones have held up. But then again, I haven’t listened to this one in a long, long time.


  6. I only got into Van Halen about 5 years ago or so, but I’m of the opinion that Dave and Sammy front very different bands. I find Dave’s era way more interesting. This one did nothing for me… some decent radio rock singles, but nothing I’d choose to listen to.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Why cant This Be Love was my first ever hard rock record/single. I bought this LP again last year and was surprised how much I still liked it, despite a couple of clunky bits. I love love love ‘Summer Nights’.

    Liked by 1 person

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