Van Halen Engineer on Recording Band’s Debut LP: ‘They Were Disappointed With the Sound; It’s Not What They Had in Mind’

Engineer Donn Landee looked back on working with Van Halen on the iconic band’s 1978 self-titled debut album, noting how the band’s members were initially disappointed in its sound.

Even though it would go on to redefine rock music for a whole generation, 1978’s “Van Halen” got off to somewhat of a rocky start. Right after the release, the album was greeted with some less than complimentary early reviews — for one example, Rolling Stone wrote: “In three years, Van Halen is going to be fat and self-indulgent and disgusting … follow[ing] Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin right into the toilet. In the meantime, they are likely to be a big deal.”

And while Eddie or his band members never got “fat” or went sewage-diving, they definitely became a “big deal” pretty quick.

Some members of the band, however, clung to their misgivings with the original album’s sound for a bit longer, with Alex Van Halen reportedly saying that it didn’t sound as imagined. Asked in a recent interview with “Tape Op” whether members of Van Halen voiced their concerns during the recording process, engineer Donn Landee said:

“They were extremely quiet. We didn’t hear anything about [the sound of the album] until well after Van Halen was out. They were disappointed; it’s not what they had in their mind when they came in to do the record. But Al told me we got it [right] later on. What we got on tape for ‘1984’ was much more to his liking.”



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