Thursday, February 18, 2010

February 18: Van Halen, "Hot For Teacher"

Artist: Van Halen
Song: "Hot For Teacher"
Album: 1984
Year: 1984

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Perhaps the most difficult aspect of creating an anthemic song is that for the most part, it is impossible to do in a premeditated manner. In nearly every case, those songs that are familiar across the globe became that way due to public perception, as opposed to how the band presented the song. Whether it was due to an amazing lyrical pattern, an unforgettable musical hook, or simply the spirit of the song, once a song gains the title of "anthemic," it rarely fades from public memory, and refreshes itself with each new generation. When it came to writing songs that were "instant classics," few bands were as good as much a talent for the art as one finds in the early records of rock legends, Van Halen. The bands' first few albums re-defined what it meant to be a rock band, and a majority of their most well known songs come from these early years of the band. As Eddie Van Halen was re-writing the books on guitar, "Diamond" David Lee Roth was quickly making his name as one of the most outrageous frontmen in history, and the rise of EmpTV only helped to catapult the band to fame. As the follow-up to one of the bands' biggest hits, Van Halen perfectly summed up their wild attitude and phenomenal musical talents in a single song, the 1984 classic, "Hot For Teacher." The song is such a classic that the name alone instantly brings to mind so many thoughts and images, as love it or hate it, "Hot For Teacher" remains one of the most memorable songs in music history.

Due to its somewhat "racy" nature, both the song, as well as the unforgettable video were heavily protested by creativity-killers, The PMRC, and the group attempted to have both the single and video banned. However, as they usually do, The PMRC failed miserably, and their ignorant hate-speech only helped to make the song even more popular, and it remains one of the most iconic songs of the decade. Musically, the band is in rare form, and the motorcycle-esque drum opening from Alex Van Halen starts things off in high gear, and when his brother, Eddie, drops in with the opening guitar riff, the song finds itself in a truly feverish pitch. The opening guitar riff remains one of the most stunning and heavily copied in history, and it helped to prove that, while the band was beginning to more heavily incorporate synthesizers into their music, at their core, they were still a hard rock band in every sense of the term. The song itself is one of the most non-stop, high-octane songs ever recorded, as the band simply lurches forward and never looks back. It is within songs like "Hot For Teacher" that Van Halen show how much they've perfected their sound, and one can easily hear the distance they've traveled since their first records. Throughout the entire song, the band never takes their foot off the gas, as Eddie Van Halen presents one of his most face-melting solos, and the band rides the line between musical chaos and outright fun. The power of "Hot For Teacher" is truly stunning, and the fact that it remains just as potent decades later serves as a testament to the level of musicianship and performance that is found on the track.

Adding to the amazing mood of the song, David Lee Roth is also in rare form, and his vocals on "Hot For Teacher" rank among his finest. Once again channeling the testosterone of your average teenager, Roth's vocals remain some of the most spirited and truly iconic in history, and it is within his vocal work that it becomes clear just how much fun the band was having in the studio. The "asides" that Roth injects throughout the song, while clearly contrived, remain absolutely classic moments in music, and the manner in which they were transferred to the visual medium was one of the keys to the songs' success. From the parts he sings to the spoken interactions to his random vocal interjections, Roth is truly perfect on the song, and it is moments like these that still make him the only vocalists that properly captured the essence of the band. Yet "Hot For Teacher" also contains one of the most misquoted lyrics in history, as most assume that the chorus is, "Got it made, got it made, got it made...I'm hot for teacher..." The lyric is, in fact, "Got it bad...," and yet it is the smattering of not-so-subtle spoken asides that were surely the words that got parents into a tizzy over the song. With classic one-liners like "I brought my pencil..." and the iconic bridge of "...I think of all the education that I've missed, but then my homework was never quite like this..." Van Halen perfectly captured a thought that runs through generations, and the manner with which David Lee Roth delivers the words, one is left to wonder whether this may have been a song Roth wrote in high school, as the mood is so perfect, it is almost eerily accurate.

In the case of many songs that are considered anthemic, it is almost impossible to remember a time when the song did not exist. From the frenzy-inducing drum patterns to the jaw-dropping guitar work to the absolutely fantastic vocal work, there is simply no other song in history that sounds or feels quite like Van Halen's classic, "Hot For Teacher." Even if the music video wasn't so memorable, and even if The PMRC hadn't raised a fuss, the song would have become a classic, as it perfectly captures the essence of the band, as well as the mood and spirit behind rock and roll. With its wonderfully tongue-in-cheek lyrics and somewhat snarky attitude, David Lee Roth spins one of the finest vocal recordings in history, and due to his reputation, as well as the way in which he delivers the vocals, it remains one of the most authentic and completely "believable" vocal tracks ever recorded. The musical interplay between the Van Halen brothers is as stunning as one would expect from them, and at many points, it seem as if they are trying to push the other to play so fast that they mess up. Portraying a sentiment with which so many can relate, Van Halen avoids being cliché or silly on the song, and this is largely due to the combination of impeccable musicianship and truly inspired singing. Remaining today one of the most instantly recognizable songs in history, Van Halen's 1984 classic, "Hot For Teacher" continues to show its power in the fact that, nearly thirty years after its release, it remains largely unrivaled and can still whip a listener into a frenzy, even if it's being heard for the thousandth time.

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