Today, renowned documentarian Alan Berry releases the first two episodes from his new five-part miniseries, Van Halen 1984 Documentary.
Van Halen devotee Berry was lucky enough to have scored second-row concert seats back in ’84, and as a 16-year-old music lover was hooked on the band.
The music of Van Halen has been a lifelong passion of his, and after completing the highly rated Steve Vai documentary, Berry started work on this epic project – something he describes as “a labor of love.”
Although it took seven months to complete, Berry says he “does not profit in any way” from Van Halen 1984 Documentary. Rather each of the five episodes is his way of “making a tribute to a band that profoundly impacted his life.”
Van Halen reached a peak in 1984 with the namesake Diamond-certified album (as per their eponymous 1978 debut, 1984 has sold over 10 million copies in the U.S. alone!) that drew high praise from critics as they swept across the country on a colossal tour.
Preeminent rockstars of the MTV era, Berry says Van Halen’s creativity and tensions “reached an optimum balance” at that point – “enough to keep the passion in the music but not enough yet to destroy the band.”
Behind the scenes, however, all was not well in the Van Halen camp. Indeed, 1984 was the last album to feature all four original members, namely singer David Lee Roth (with whom the group parted ways in 1985), bassist Michael Anthony, drummer Alex Van Halen, and guitarist Eddie Van Halen.
“The wavering buzz from a mountain of cocaine and booze could no longer make up for their internal strife,” reads a press release. “The backyard party everyone had been invited to was about to get busted, and everyone would need to go home.”
The first two episodes will be released today, while episodes three, four and five are due to be released weekly from June 7.
Here’s a brief rundown of today’s episodes:
Episode 1: Building 5150 Studios
- Van Halen has a surprise hit with "(Oh) Pretty Woman" and is rushed into the studio to create an album full of covers
- Eddie Van Halen meets Frank Zappa and produces a song for his son Dweezil in Zappa’s home studio
- Ed wants the freedom of a home studio and decides to build one with producer/engineer Donn Landee
- Toward the end of the Diver Down tour in South America, the cracks in Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth's partnership start to accelerate
Episode 2: The Road to the U.S. Festival
- David Lee Roth goes on another adventure with his Jungle Stud crew
- The band gets an offer to play at the U.S. Festival for one million dollars
- Van Halen gets another $500,000 and lands in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest-paid band for one performance
- The Clash express their dissatisfaction with Van Halen's payday and the commercialization of rock music, leading to a series of verbal exchanges throughout the festival
- The missed small print in the contract causes more work for the band following their U.S. Festival performance
- Van Halen has their own private rock and roll Disneyland backstage
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Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World, Guitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.