Read The Times’ first review of Van Halen, from 1976


As the Pasadena hard rock band Van Halen, whose co-founder Eddie Van Halen died Tuesday, was making the leap from neighborhood backyards to stages up and down Sunset Boulevard in the mid-1970s, its name started appearing in the pages of The Times.

First arriving via advertisements that ran alongside the paper’s beefy music listings and reviews section, the band earned its earliest editorial mention in a Dec. 18, 1976, story titled, “L.A. Rock Resurgence.” Focused on notorious L.A. producer Kim Fowley and the band he managed, the Runaways, the story offered an overview of the hard rock bands driving a new sound: “The Runaways spearhead a phalanx of local bands that include ... the Motels, the Ratz, Pop, Van Halen and others.”

Eddie Van Halen, legendary lead guitarist for rock band Van Halen, has died of cancer at 65.

Oct. 6, 2020

Less than a week later, Times’ music writer Richard Cromelin followed Fowley’s advice and checked out Van Halen at the Whisky. The club had reopened the year prior after shuttering for a few years in the mid-’70s, and was booking nascent hard rock bands, glam-rock holdouts and newly shorn punks. Van Halen fit somewhere in the middle.

Ad for an early Van Halen show at the Whisky A Go Go.
(Los Angeles Times)

“If the term punk-rock implies a musical primitivism and an attitude of street-bred defiance, the Pasadena-based quartet Van Halen falls into an entirely different category,” wrote Cromelin in the review, published on Christmas Eve, 1976. Predicting at the end of the first paragraph that the band stood “a good chance of moving from the L.A. circuit into national popularity,” Cromelin described singer David Lee Roth as “a rampaging vocalist of the Robert Plant/Jim Dandy school.”

But Cromelin was more taken with the guitarist. Incorrectly identifying him as “Edwin Van Halen,” the writer said it was apparent Eddie was “the heart of the band.” He wrote, “In addition to some flashy solo spots, he does a superb job (as the group’s only lead instrument) of establishing, guiding and adorning the sound.” Cromelin accurately called them “a package that’s sure to do the trick for the KISS/Aerosmith crowd.” With more melody, he concluded, “Van Halen could probably win over some stodgier listeners, as well.”

Read the full review below.

The Times review of Van Halen at the Whisky A Go Go, 1976.