December Book Review

This month’s review is by Catherine Adde

Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal

By Greg Renoff

Recently I attended a book signing at Vroman’s in Pasadena, in a standing room only crowd of my contemporaries, many of them Pasadena High School classmates. Greg Renoff, along with legendary rock and roll producer Ted Templeman, told stories with whom many in the room were familiar: How a Pasadena ‘garage’ band rose to stardom. Eddie and Alex Van Halen were my classmates; and the flamboyant, but brilliant, comedian and frontman, David Lee Roth, attended Pasadena City College with us in the early 70’s. Whether or not you are a fan of Van Halen’s music, there is no doubt that Eddie became and still is considered one of the greatest rock guitar players of all time.

Though not a fan myself, I AM a fan of the author, who, with his PhD in American History, was the Associate Professor of History at Drury University, and interviewed hundreds of people from the San Gabriel Valley, including many Sierra Madre residents. He has painstakingly chronicled the history of Van Halen’s humble beginnings before their meteoric rise to fame and platinum record sales.

The Van Halen family sailed across the Atlantic from Holland, with $50 and a piano in the 1960s, eventually settling in Pasadena. The rags to riches tale, the music lessons, the raucous high school parties; later playing in seedy clubs of Hollywood before being ‘discovered,’ all make for a fascinating read of the history of the boys in the band from our own backyard.


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