In 2011 right here at The Nervous Breakdown, Duke Haney commented the following about an essay of mine on, among other things, the pop group ABBA:

“I always thought of Agnetha and Frida [the female members of ABBA] as affectless, to the point where I made a joke about them in [Haney’s novel] Banned for Life, something about a German girl having a fixed expression that reminds the narrator of Raggedy Ann or ‘one of those girls in ABBA.’ I remember seeing them on TV when I was a kid, barely moving while lip-syncing their latest chart-buster, as if they were battery-operated mannequins; yet they don’t come across that way to me now. On the contrary, I see emotion flickering in their faces, Agnetha in particular.”

In Part I we introduced each band member, with particular emphasis on attention-deprived lead singer David Lee Roth. In Part III we tried to surmise what, if anything, can be taken from an Alex Van Halen drum solo, and we somehow survived Dave’s guitar playing in Part VI. In Part VII, I identify the rock I lost.

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In Part I we introduced each band member, with particular emphasis on attention-deprived lead singer David Lee Roth. In Part III we tried to surmise what, if anything, can be taken from an Alex Van Halen drum solo, and we watched Dave throw a tizzy-fit in Part V. In Part VI, let’s try not to cringe as Dave plays guitar.

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In Part I, we introduced each band member, with particular emphasis on attention-deprived lead singer David Lee Roth. Part II delved deeply into the squat as a Van Halen performance tool, and we explored possible explanations for Little Lord Fauntleroth in Part IV. In Part V, let’s enjoy a quiet moment with Eddie before Dave throws a tizzy.

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In Part I, we introduced each band member, with particular emphasis on attention-deprived lead singer David Lee Roth.  Part II delved deeply into the squat as a Van Halen performance tool, and we examined why you damn well better have a good time at a Van Halen concert in Part III. In part four, we now take a closer look at what’s really happening onstage…

Want to start at the beginning? Part I is here.

And you can find the whole series here.

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Two songs into the set, Roth offers a final “WOOW,” and Alex gets his double kick drum rumbling in a way that even a caveman would understand signals “drum solo.” I’ve never been a zealous fan of the drum solo, but I respect that these folks can put together complex rhythms, and without an obvious place for them in pop music, it’s nice for drummers to have this little forum where they can dump their more abstract work on us. All this to say, drum solo time equals pee time for me.

Want to start at the beginning? Part I is here.

(Clip 1, 1:59)

The band opens with a song called “Romeo Delight,” which is the fourth track off their third album Women and Children First. I wouldn’t have been able to name this tune until I remembered it as a favorite off that album. It’s a great “guy song”—a demographic Van Halen never had a problem accommodating—with an aggressive beat and the memorable couplet from the chorus: “I’m taking whiskey to the party tonight/And I’m looking for somebody to squeeze.” The band accentuates the tempo with plenty of first-song-of-the-night regalia: lots of jumping and kicking and gesticulating. Dave struts around like a transvestite on some very expensive amphetamine, bopping his shoulders for the camera, preening, sticking his tongue out.

Late in 2011, I typed “Van Halen” and “live” into YouTube’s search box.

I’d started this habit earlier in the year, diverting myself from whatever I was supposed to be doing by plumbing my rock fan past. I’d wasted entire mornings watching Kiss, Rush and Led Zeppelin videos, each filling me with a nostalgia that, all of a sudden, wasn’t nostalgia anymore. There it was, right in front of me, as close as it had ever been. I watched some of these videos obsessively, bookmarking them, feeling something of that original surge each time. ABBA, Uncle Tupelo, Fastway (Fastway!), the supply was bottomless. It was like finding long-lost friends and those friends having stayed as young and vital as ever.

It’s not easy to characterize Amy Walker. At first glance you might consider her a gifted performer, but a closer look reveals talent across numerous artistic disciplines. She’s a writer. An actress. A singer. A film director. A choreographer. A skilled instructor. Her ability to assume the mannerisms and vocal patterns of regions around the globe will astonish you.

I found Amy’s work on YouTube, quite by accident, and was amazed at the breadth of unique content she’s published there. In one video she pokes playful fun at certain English words. In another she films herself preparing for a date while timing her movements and singing along to a piece of instrumental music. Her sense of humor ranges from subtle to off-the-charts wacky. But one piece in particular, a tender short story about a long-married couple titled “Toast with Butter,” impressed me enough to look further into her work. I learned that one of Amy’s videos earned her a segment on NBC’s “Today,” and that she’s working on a feature film about relationships and the amazing ways humans are connected to each other.

There’s a serious problem in this country and, for the life of me, I don’t know why we aren’t doing something about it. Where is the news coverage? Where is the media outcry? Where is Al Sharpton? Well I, for one, have had enough! No longer will I sit in silence and watch as this miscarriage of justice continues! It’s time to take a stand! It’s time to fight!


You know tapas, right? Teeny tiny itsy bitsy portions of (I’m going to go out on a limb here and say) food, commonly enjoyed by sophisticates and people who suffer from stick-up-the-ass syndrome. These, of course, are the same people who make a big production out of studying the wine in their glass (“well, it certainly appears to be serene in personality”) before, finally, taking a sip and frowning thoughtfully (“ah yes, just as I suspected. It’s a second cousin, twice removed, of the ’72 Chardonnay.”).

Tapas, derived from the Spanish word tapas (meaning “sucker”) is typically served in tapas restaurants with names like Bob’s Booby Barn. Wait, that’s topless. Tapas, on the other hand, is found in joints like El Snooteria where the servers dress entirely in black and, in accordance with strict tapas dining guidelines, are prohibited from smiling. Also, in an attempt to make up for the fact that the typical tapas entrée is the size of a bite-sized sample at Costco, they use really, really, really big plates.

“Here’s your braised pork,” the waiter says as he places the dish in front of you.

TRANSLATION: “Here’s a gigantic plate that, when placed over your head, could provide cover from a major tropical storm. I’m sure though, being the sap that you are, this clever illusion will make think you’ve had a lot of food but, fact is, you’re going to leave this table hungry.”

Of course, just as you’re about to dig in to your miniature pork thingy, six other hands comically beat you to it. See, that’s another guideline: you must eat tapas in large groups of people. Failure to do so could result in the risk of you actually consuming food and, what’s worse, potentially feeling like you had dinner. Clearly, this must be prevented at all costs. So before you know it, the braised pork is gone, leaving you staring at a gargantuan—albeit empty—plate. Repeat this about twelve more times and you have a typical tapas dining experience.

Now don’t go getting the wrong idea here. I’m not some kind of cretin who only eats at restaurants where they have pictures of food on the menu. I like good food as much as the next metrosexual but, dammit, I’m tired of leaving restaurants hungry.

Correction: I’m tired of spending a lot of money to leave a restaurant hungry. See, also in accordance with tapas guidelines, restaurants charge not by portion size, but rather by plate size. Enough! Give me real food! Steak! Chicken! Burritos! Big, sloppy, greasy food that, after you eat it, you know you’ve eaten it—largely because you spend the next three hours popping Tums like breath mints. I’m talking real food here. Man food! I know I’m not alone in this thinking either. After all, man’s need to gorge himself goes back to the prehistoric days when a couple of Cavemen set out on the first recorded bachelor party.

    (Techno music blaring in restaurant)

    CAVEWAITER: Here you go!

    CAVEMAN 1 (squinting at gigantic stone plate): What the hell is this?

    CAVEWAITER: Mini-bison sliders.

    Cavemen 1 and 2 exchange looks then quickly begin beating Cavewaiter mercilessly with their clubs.

Okay, show of hands, who’s with me? Who’s ready to fight back against the tapas machine? What we really need is to attack this thing viral-style. You know, assemble a group of 30, 40 pop stars to sing about the plight of the hungry diner (“Stopas the Tapas”), and post the video on YouTube. With any luck, we’d get almost as many views as the one of the bulldog riding the skateboard.

Sadly, I realize I haven’t had my last tapas meal. I know this to be true because I have friends and they have birthdays and, for some reason (probably because they’re not paying), people love to get tapas on their birthday. “Oh, I’ve been just dying to try that new place, La Ripoff! The food’s supposed to be amazing!,” they’ll say with genuine excitement. I’ll respond with nothing more than the forced smile of a tapas veteran who knows he’s going hungry that night.

Wow, after rereading that last sentence, I realize I may be overreacting here. I mean, maybe my next tapas experience won’t be nearly as bad as I think. It might even be fun. Particularly since I’ll be armed with a gigantic plate to throw at the first person that describes the wine as “serene.”