Album: Van Halen
. . .
I’ve made it sound like — cos that’s kinda how I remember it — that Van Halen came out an instantly conquered the world. But the actual facts seem to differ. That debut album — released in February, 1978 — never made it higher that #19 on the album charts, technically making it their worst performing album. And that includes Van Halen III and a Certain Kind of Truth.
I think that just goes to how groundbreaking their combination of flash guitar and pop smarts truly was. People initially couldn’t wrap their heads around. What kind of a band was this: the kind that was doing otherworldly guitar chops like on “Eruption,” the kind of band that would so a dissonant song like “Atomic Punk” or the kind that would a pure pop song like “Jamie’s Cryin'”???
The answer, of course, was “yes.”
And once people got that, they got Van Halen. And so while none of the singles did well, they lingered on the radios and on turntables and in parking lots and on beaches for months and months, to the point where when they were touring with Black Sabbath, they were arguably the bigger draw.
She saw the look in his eyes
And she knew better
He wanted her tonight, ah
And it was now or never
He made her feel so sad
And that’s down to songs like the diabolically simple “Jamie’s Cryin’,” a surprisingly sympathetic look at a girl who had decided out she wasn’t ready to have sex with a particular dude, and got dumped as a result. All of which was the set-up was the titular chorus, featuring the now-expected Michael Anthony / Eddie Van Halen harmonies, plus Eddie’s “wahh-wahh” which I’ve always read as the only thing in the song that might be interpreted as mocking Jamie, who continued to struggle with her decision. (And my deepest apologies to all women named “Jamie” born in the past 70 years.)
She wants to send him a letter, a-yeah yeah
A-just to try to make herself feel better
It said “Gimme (gimme a call sometime”)
But she knows what that’ll get her
Except for the pre-chorus above, which features some nice hi-hat work from Alex Van Halen, “Jamie’s Cryin'” very easily could have been a 1960’s girl group song, with Michael Anthony rolling his bassline over itself like he was backing the Shangri-La’s. But of course, that was contrasted with Eddie’s guitars, giving “Jamie’s Cryin'” a musical tension that was left unresolved. Like Jamie’s situation, which is fleshed out on the breakdown on the bridge.
Now Jamie’s been in love before (ahhhhhhhhh)
And she knows what love is for (ahhhhhhhhhh)
It should mean, a little, a little more (ahhhhhhhhh)
Than one night stands, whoo
More stellar vocal work from Eddie and Michael, on both the ahhhhhhhhs and coming in over David Lee Roth on the “one night stannnnds”
There really isn’t a lot of lead guitar on “Jamie’s Cryin’,” no place where Eddie really takes off, but there doesn’t have to be, given all of his asides, echoes on the final chorus and quick little licks throughout. He’s somehow both underplaying and dominating at the same time.
“Jamie’s Cryin'” Official Music Video
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