After reading something recently about how great Paul McCartney was on bass I feel compelled to tell my own story about the underappreciated bass playing of one Michael Anthony. During my high school days my favorite artists were a mix of heavy metal and punk rock leavened with a dose of classics like the Who, Kinks, Stones, Dylan, and the Beatles. I was making mix tapes before I even knew the term, with segue ways between Black Flag and Van Halen, without even understanding how ironic and post modern some of the rock world’s more intellectual weenie type critics would take something like that. I just knew what I liked and the hell with anything else. Creem magazine was my magazine of choice and it led me to the holy altar of all that was great about rock and roll. One of the artists they seemed to like as much as myself was the juggernaut known as Van Halen. Whether it was true or just for sales circulations I can’t say, but I know they were featured often. In fact there were at least two special issues devoted exclusively to Van Halen during the David Lee Roth era.
When I wasn’t listening to the Clash, I was listening to Van Halen with the sound turned up to 11. I can’t get any lawyers to believe me, but years before Spinal Tap came out I had magic markered an 11 on my stereo volume dial because I had a loose knob (sounds like a joke should be said here). The one part of Van Halen’s sound I was mostly oblivious to was the great Michael Anthony’s bass fretwork pyrotechnics. Pyrotechnics is overstating it; it’s more like mortar shell sabotage since it’s still hard to notice. A nice set of headphones and some remastered compact discs or mint condition vinyl should lead one to give Michael Anthony some long overdue kudos. Before Eddie Van Halen joined the Neal Schon wannabe club, he was all over the place with his guitar playing, especially on the earlier albums when overdubs were kept to a minimum. Anthony kept the bedrock steady, and was unafraid to venture within the songs’ confines, often going to the edge where he’d look down and wonder just what song Alex Van Halen thought he was playing.