The Van Halen song that was recorded in one take

Van Halen

Most great rock and roll songs do not require a perfect take. Many artists spend hours trying to get the sound right when they enter the studio. But there are just as many who capture the magic on tape that they felt in the room. They refuse to sacrifice the final track to correct any minor flaws. There was barely a note out of place when Van Halen entered the studio. Sammy Hagar recalls that one of their most famous songs came together in just one take.

However, Van Halen’s recording career sometimes feels like it’s about two different bands. They were able to get their foot in the door with David Lee Roth. But Roth’s creative differences with Eddie Van Halen led to his departure from the group following the tour for their album 1984.

Most bands would have folded if they had to replace a frontman of Roth’s caliber. But Eddie was determined to carry on with a completely different sound. Eddie, who enjoys the sounds of keyboards and guitar, decided to work with Hagar after a chance encounter with his local mechanic, who suggested he do so after working on the singer’s car a few weeks before.

The band could have been dead in the water. But Hagar’s ability to internalize Eddie’s melodies resulted in a career resurrection unlike any other. Following one of their most successful albums to date, 5150 stood up to the Roth era. It takes the fundamental building blocks of Eddie’s work and pairs them with more thoughtful lyrics. The lyrics from songs like ‘Love Walks In’ to powerful anthems like ‘Dreams’.

If 5150 saw the band settling in with Hagar, OU812 was where they started experimenting with their abilities. Aside from the massive single ‘When It’s Love,’ the remainder of the album would take a more complex approach to rock and roll. The album would put together traditional Van Halen staples like ‘Mine All Mine’ next to bluesier material like ‘Sucker in a 3 Piece’.

Midway through the album, ‘Cabo Wabo‘ would become one of their most ambitious projects yet. Across seven minutes, the band would experiment with different song arrangements with no regard for traditional pop hooks. Hagar later admitted that the song was intentionally recorded off the cuff.

Instead of the typical approach to honing the song, Hagar recalls the track coming together after a single pass. He said, “They had already recorded an instrumental version, and I wrote those lyrics.” I came home, grabbed the microphone, and began reading the song’s lyrics. I was simply roughing it. It worked so well in one take. I wrote the lyrics while they wrote the music, and it was like [a] perfect song. I did not change a single word.

Granted, Hagar would have some negative memories of working on the final album. He believed that most of it was not produced to its full potential because no one was there to supervise them. Many of the songs could have benefited from the presence of another producer. But ‘Cabo Wabo‘ captures the essence of four guys in a room making music for the sake of it.

Leave a Reply

You May Also Like