On this day, in 1978, Van Halen dropped their cover of the Kinks’ 1964 smash hit “You Really Got Me.” The reimagined British Invasion classic featured as the lead single from Van Halen’s eponymous debut album that would appear around a fortnight later, shortly after Eddie Van Halen’s 23rd birthday (he would have been 67 this week.)
While introducing the song to a new generation of rock fans, Van Halen’s reworking of “You Really Got Me” was delivered with such conviction that it’s fair to say they made it their own. Indeed, many people falsely believed that it was Van Halen’s song entirely.
The Kinks guitarist Dave Davies once spoke of an infamous encounter with a young fan after a show while on tour in the U.S. “Afterwards a kid came up to me and said to me, ‘Why are you doing a Van Halen cover?’” recalled Davies. “So I had to educate him that it was Van Halen that were doing the cover, not us.”
For Eddie Van Halen, the release was a watershed moment that signalled the beginning of something truly special. "I’ll never forget hearing 'You Really Got Me' at two o’clock in the morning the very first time on the radio," said the legendary guitarist. "I ran and woke up my mom and dad, going, 'We’re on the radio! We’re on the radio!'”
This 1978 clip from Japanese television demonstrates the excitement surrounding the band at the time. When asked about new bands coming up in America and the future of rock, vocalist David Lee Roth replies, “I think Van Halen is the future of rock ‘n’ roll for the United States and for the world!”
Hard to argue there...
Buy Van Halen's groundbreaking eponymous debut album here.
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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.