The first thing to know about this nearly-400-page celebration of the Van Halen legacy is that not only is it specifically written for Van Halen fans, it’s written by one of the most rabid Van Halen fans the world has ever known, Abel Sanchez. Perhaps this is why, in what may be an effort to keep things as authentic as possible, Sanchez eschews the conventions of formal prose and writes in the casual voice of a Van Halen fanatic posting in an online chat room. (“Complaining that Edward Van Halen’s solo spot is ‘excessive’ would be like complaining that your girlfriend ‘gives you too much h**d’” is one example that comes to mind.) It’s also worth noting that if the redundant sentences and unnecessary exclamation points in this text were left out, Van Halen 101 would be significantly skinnier.
That being said, with Sanchez’s devotion to the greatest rock band that Pasadena, California, has ever produced pouring zealously off every page, this inspired text—despite its Casual Fridays approach to biography—quickly won me over. Sure, you can find most of the quotes from EVH and other key members of the Van Halen camp herein in old interviews with GP and other magazines, but when it comes to the Van Halen brothers’ evolution from two Dutch immigrant schoolboys learning classical music into pillars of late-20th-Century arena rock, Van Halen 101 conveniently puts the whole story—every last known detail—under one roof. If you’re a veteran Van Halen fan, the book’s “Tribute” section (in which Sanchez delivers dozens of fresh interviews with a startlingly wide cross-section of guitarists including Phil Keaggy, B.B. King, Kerry King, Albert Lee, Sharon Isbin, James Hetfield, Allan Holdsworth, and others) will be worth the price of admission. And if you’re a newbie Van Halen devotee, then, as the term “101” in the title suggests, you can’t go wrong with this killer crash course on the band. Authorhouse.