Whammy Bar: Van Halen vs. The Police Print
Thursday, 08 March 2007 07:25
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Editor’s note: Sir Whammy penned his column prior to the news last week that the 2007 Van Halen Tour was cancelled due to discord in the band. Guitar Jam Daily regrets that the column wasn’t posted prior to the announcement. However, we feel that it remains a great work by Mr. Dobrow. Although it may tease your imagination as to what “could have been” for Van Halen, it offers a prophetic vision of “what could be” for the Police.

We hope the grin stays on your face long after reading the column. Ours remains.

It is well documented that the founding members of both The Police and Van Halen do not particularly care for one another. Neither has functioned as an actual band for around 23 years, thus putting into doubt whether any musical chemistry remains. And by all accounts, both groups are hitting the road once anew for a single reason: an ocean of dollars so vast and deep that each participant can procure anything from pimped-out electro-lutes (Sting) to his two front teeth (Eddie Van Halen).

Will we be treated to anything beyond rote versions of the hits? Probably not. Will the musicians, with the possible exception of newly anointed bassist/15-year-old substance-abuse-problem-waiting-to-happen Wolfgang Van Halen, show much in the way of chops? Doubtful. Am I excited, bordering on euphoric, for both tours? Hells friggin’ yeah.

I’m on record as being quite the fan of the guitar work of both Eddie Van Halen and Andy Summers. Never mind their prickly personalities; their playing has never been anything less than wildly inventive, both technically and sonically. At the same time, I can’t think of two road trips boasting more inherent potential for disaster…well, not until Axl and Slash set aside their differences, anyway. Hence I present this clip-n-save S.O.S. to the world comparing the two bands and their respective possibilities for summer-tour superiority and/or sloth.

Probability that tour will actually happen:
Van Halen v.9.0 may have fallen apart before it was even officially announced, as witnessed by a recent report in Pollstar. Or maybe it hasn’t, according to a more recent-erish one in Billboard. Either way, installing your girlfriend as your band’s de facto manager/agent/publicist, as Eddie Van Halen has reportedly done, is not unlike installing the girl behind the counter at CVS to serve as your de facto physician/surgeon/oral hygienist…The Police have already bought mid-sized foreign municipalities with their advances from the first round of ticket sales. If they cancel now, Sting might have to—gasp!—go back to writing murderously catchy pop songs. Advantage: The Police

Likelihood of on-stage meltdown:
As much as Eddie Van Halen might be consciousness-challenged at times—during a Chicago show on the band’s last U.S. trek, Senor Snoozy-Strings apparently shut himself down for a brief interlude—you get the impression that Diamond Dave’s always-on chest-thumping will spur him to greater heights of coherence. In other words, expect many a hip-crippling tumble off the drum riser…The Police might melt down during their pre-show affirmation, the encore break, while noshing on the post-show vegetarian canapés or as they pile onto the tour bus (“mom! Sting’s jostling me!”). During their time on stage, however, they’ll remain as clean and professional as a Sub-Zero refrigerator. Advantage: Van Halen

Potential for catastrophic inter-band violence:
Van Halen has always belonged to the Metallica let’s-hug-it-out-with-the-help-of-a-licensed-psychotherapist school of inter-band communication, as witnessed by David Lee Roth’s recent quip to the Los Angeles Times: “The two worst words in the English lexicon are ‘band meeting’”…Most of The Police’s squabbles over the years have featured Stewart Copeland launching himself, SCUD-missile-style, over his drum kit and into Sting’s kidneys. I just don’t see him having the range he once did, so he might have to settle for a few stealth jabs with the drumsticks during the bow to the crowd. Advantage: The Police

Wailin’ song that should, but likely won’t, be rescued from back-catalog obscurity:
On Van Halen II’s “D.O.A.,” Mr. Eddie dodges and deflects a killer central riff much in the same manner that he has dodged and deflected any number of substance-abuse counselors…“No Time This Time,” off Regatta de Blanc, alternates bright staccato stabs with doomsday chords. It’s one of Andy Summers’ most versatile moments – not that anyone except an old-timer would ever know it, given the band’s propensity to air out the hits and the hits alone. Advantage: Van Halen

Squealing guitar-God moment in the spotlight:
If past history is any indication, the feral Van Halen I call-to-arms “Eruption” will feature quotes from Pachelbel, Wagner, Zappa and High School Musical, and perchance an actual riff from the song itself…Summers’ angular, out-of-nowhere “So Lonely” guitar bluster ought to rouse the Gruppies from their mid-show BlackBerrying.Advantage: Van Halen

Song that oughta be shelved:
When Van Halen turned “You Really Got Me” on its ear back in 1977, it hadn’t yet been appropriated by grade-C cover bands and “hip,” “edgy” advertisers looking for some baby-boomer bombast in their marketing missives…For a song about stalking, “Every Breath You Take” has proven surprisingly resilient in this topsy-turvy, post-Fatal Attraction world. Advantage: The Police

Song likely to be sentenced to slow death via over-arrangement:
Say what you want about Van Halen—that its members haven’t had an original musical thought since 1984, for example—but they don’t dilly-dally. So long as Li’l Wolfie isn’t allotted 20 minutes of alone-time on stage every night with the bass, Van Halen will continue to mete out its music in digestible four-minute chunks. “Everybody Wants Some” could get a little sludgy, I suppose, if Dave is feeling overly conversational…We’ve already heard what The Police have in store for “Roxanne,” courtesy of the Grammy night mid-song musical walkabout. Bad things could happen here—16-minutes-worth-of-spacey-“Walking-on-the-Moon”-noodlings bad, man. Big, big advantage: Van Halen

Chance to flash some rhythm chops:
Has Eddie Van Halen ever strummed a simple rhythm progression? If somebody asked him to play a straight cover of, say, “Sister Golden Hair,” could he pull it off? I’m dubious…Any of the ska/reggae/rock hybrids from The Police’s first three records could qualify here. “Canary in a Coal Mine” wouldn’t be a bad call, but Sting has no more chance of hitting its high notes than he does of reclaiming musical street cred. Andy Summers might be advised to add a few of the straightforward rockers from Outlandos d’Amour into the set, as ballsy runs through “Next to You” and “Truth Hits Everybody” could go a long way towards ridding the band of its Synchronicity-era rep as world-music dabblers. Advantage: The Police

Final score: Van Halen 4, The Police 4. Might as well jump…