March 1979: Van Halen Releases VAN HALEN II

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

After blasting onto the rock scene with the zeitgeist-shifting explosion that was their self-titled debut, Van Halen didn't mess with that combustible chemistry much for the band's second album.

If anything, the group and producer Ted Templeman turned up the party on the band's patented feel-good sound. Eddie Van Halen's guitar riffs were looser, and David Lee Roth's microphone histrionics even more sensational. A shiny new coat of production gloss gave tracks like "Light Up the Sky" and "Outta Love Again" a little extra edge pumping out of muscle car stereos across America throughout the summer of '79.

Van Halen II featured the band's first US top 20 hit, "Dance the Night Away," which peaked at #15 on the Hot 100 over the week of July 14, 1979. The #1 song in America that week: Donna Summer's "Bad Girls."

"'Dance the Night Away' might seem like it's just an AM offering, but it wasn't planned that way," Eddie revealed during an interview. "We didn't think pop, we didn't think AM song. It was just a riff that I had and we put it to use. I can't help it if I come up with a poppy-sounding riff. We just do what we come up with, as opposed to forcing ourselves to write something commercial."

While album closer "Beautiful Girls" would only reach #84 on the Hot 100, it was a hit on FM rock radio, and gave the world one of David Lee Roth's finest vocal performances on record. The tune had roots in the band's days as a Southern California backyard party band, and was originally entitled "Bring on the Girls."

"Somebody Get Me a Doctor" was a single in Japan, but fans around the world loved the track's frantic performance, with Eddie Van Halen's guitar work eliciting a rousing ovation from the ramshackle crowd collected in the recording studio. They can clearly be heard on the record.

Released on March 23, 1979, Van Halen II was another monster on the charts for the Pasadena band. The LP peaked at #6 on the Billboard album charts for the week of May 19, 1979. The #1 album in America that week: Supertramp's Breakfast in America