Über Van Halen
In the late 1970s and on into the '80s, Eddie Van Halen's virtual re-invention of the guitar and David Lee Roth's horny circus performer stage presence were the core of one of Hard Rock's most enduring bands. Eddie's older brother Alex's shimmering hi-hat attack has always been as much a trademark of their shiny, sexy sound as Eddie's hammer-on-crazy solos -- solos that essentially introduced the phrases "ribboning leads" and "guitar pyrotechnics" into the rock vernacular. From their self-titled 1978 debut to the chart-smashing, band-wrecking 1984, each of their records with Roth contains at least one Classic Rock gem, if not an entire side of them. The band's early era was topped off with Fair Warning (1981) -- an uncharacteristically dark record that, through blazing songs of pure, unyielding rock power, reflects the growing tensions between Eddie and Roth at the time. Those same tensions eventually led to a much-debated switch to frizzy-haired "Red Rocker" Sammy Hagar in 1985. While the Hagar years still featured dynamic playing, the dreaded power ballad became a staple of their new, more mature demeanor. Nevertheless, VH continued to sell an unholy number of records on through the mid-1990s, and you practically had to kill yourself in order to avoid hearing their cloying soft drink anthem "Right Now." After further upheaval led to the departure of even Hagar's replacement Gary Cherone, rumors flew that the unfortunately named Bruce Cockburn would take over next.