Van Halen’s ‘Jump’: The Song’s Controversial Past
“Jump,” the hit single from Van Halen’s 1984 album, is a recognizable staple of the 1980s pop-rock genre that the band helped shape. The year 1984, known for its financial excesses and advancements in technology and culture, was a defining moment in the decade. As movies like Footloose and Ghostbusters filled theaters, popular songs like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Prince’s “Purple Rain,” Run-DMC’s “Run-DMC,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” topped the charts. While the 1984 album only reached number two on the Billboard charts, “Jump” hit number one as a single, thanks in part to its heavy rotation on MTV. Here are some interesting facts about Van Halen’s iconic song.
The Van Halen brothers, Eddie and Alex, moved from Amsterdam to Pasadena, California in 1962 when Eddie was seven years old. Despite their later success as rock musicians, they began their musical journey as classical piano prodigies, winning local competitions as elementary school students. Interestingly, Eddie’s piano teacher never trained him to read sheet music, instead he learned by ear and by observing other players.
While some fans may have viewed the inclusion of keyboards on Van Halen’s 1984 album as a departure from their earlier guitar-heavy sound, the band saw it as a return to their roots. They had been incorporating keyboards into their music for years, as evident in songs like “Sunday Afternoon in the Park” and “And the Cradle Will Rock…”. However, Eddie’s guitar playing on “Jump” was so dynamic that many listeners assumed the keyboard parts were created using new techniques involving strings and tremolos on the guitar.
Eddie had long been advocating for the inclusion of more keyboards in Van Halen’s music, but producer Ted Templeman and lead vocalist David Lee Roth preferred to stick with the guitar-centered sound that their fans loved.
However, with the creation of Eddie’s home studio, 5150, he had the freedom to experiment with his keyboard ideas without the input of the other band members. One of the first recordings made in the studio was the music for what would eventually become “Jump.”
According to Darryl Hall of Hall and Oates, Eddie later confessed to him that he had used the chords from “Kiss On My List” as inspiration for “Jump.” Hall said at the time, “I don’t have a problem with that at all.”
What does the music “Jump” mean?
When faced with the task of writing lyrics for Van Halen’s new music, Roth took a unique approach, enlisting his roadie, Larry Hostler, to drive him around in his 1951 Mercury convertible while blasting the demo and searching for inspiration. It was during one of these drives that Roth remembered watching a news report the previous night about a man threatening to jump from the top of the Arco Tower in Los Angeles. This event gave Roth the idea for the title “Jump”, which he wrote down and included on the record, but with a more positive and uplifting message. In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Roth stated that the song can be interpreted as having a “go for it” attitude, promoting positivity.
Quarrel and separation
“Jump” was Van Halen’s most successful song, but the increased fame it brought to the band members put a strain on the already fragile relationship between the Van Halens and Roth. Eddie had demonstrated that synthesizers had a place in rock music, and Roth had established himself as a talented front-man, vocalist, and award-winning director through his work on the music video. The band ultimately couldn’t handle the pressure and Roth’s solo EP, Crazy from the Heat, becoming an instant hit in 1985 was the final straw. He was let go from the band shortly after its release.
What was their later years like?
After Roth’s departure, Van Halen brought in Sammy Hagar as his replacement, and continued to have a successful run of hit songs and albums, despite some criticism from fans. David Lee Roth also had a successful solo career and formed a band with talented musicians, including Steve Vai, as the electric guitar player. In 2007, the original lineup, with the exception of bassist Michael Anthony, who was replaced by Eddie’s son Wolfgang, reunited for a tour and released one final Van Halen/Roth album, A Different Kind of Truth.