Van Halen concert footage from the late 1970s hit the internet this week, giving a never before seen glimpse of the band just as they were starting to hit it big.
A series of concert clips from the band’s 1978 and 1979 performances at Selland Arena in Fresno, California, appeared on YouTube this week. The Van Halen clips were the highest-quality audience footage ever released of the band’s early years, showing a band that within a few months would be at the top of the Billboard charts.
Van Halen formed in the early 1970s under a different name, and by the mid 1970s they were a fixture in the Los Angeles music scene, playing at well-known clubs. Gene Simmons of KISS saw Van Halen play and produced a demo tape for the band, but soon cut his involvement and concluded “they had no chance of making it.”
But by 1977 two Warner Bros. executives saw Van Halen and offered them a recording contract. Their first major release, Van Halen, was one of the most successful rock debuts of all time, reaching No. 19 on the Billboard pop music chart.
It was in this era, just after the band’s first major release, that is shown in the new YouTube footage.
The Van Halen clips have been popular, racking up tens of thousands of views in just a few days online.
The clips showcase the band’s trademark style, blending heavy metal and hard rock in a way that would influence many bands through the 1980s.
The Van Halen footage comes as the band has been reflecting on a big milestone. Earlier this year marked the 30-year anniversary of the classic album 1984, leading Eddie Van Halen to reflect back at the band’s peak and the turmoil that started to take hold.
Van Halen said that disagreements with the band’s longtime producer Ted Tempelman led him to break free and construct his now-famous 5150 studio, where the band would record 1984 and every album to follow.
“The bottom line is that I wanted more control,” Eddie recalled. “I was always butting heads with Ted Templeman about what makes a good record. My philosophy has always been that I would rather bomb with my own music than make it with other people’s music. Ted felt that if you redo a proven hit, you’re already halfway there.”
More of the rare Van Halen concert footage can be found here.