Number Ones: #71


  • VAN HALEN Why Can’t This Be Love? (Warner Bros.)
  • Week Ending 17th May 1986
  • 1 Week At #1


Just when my chart was getting a bit too Record Mirror-esque, we’re back to some beefy US rock. Albeit with some synthesizers prominently featured.

When lead singer David Lee Roth quit the band in 1985, on the back of the band’s most successful album 1984 and mega hit single Jump, few could have guessed Van Halen would not only regroup but come back with another massive-selling record. But regroup they did, with ex-Montrose vocalist and solo artist in his own right, Sammy Hagar.

More of a team man than the extravagant showman Roth, who tended to overshadow everything else, Hagar’s presence put the music to the forefront and added some heft to the material. In the case of their first single Why Can’t This Be Love?, the material was very much top-drawer stuff.

A pulsing keyboard throb explodes into a burbling synth riff not a million miles from Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer (released around six months later), and Why Can’t This Be Love? was another superb example of US Rock’s commercial face in the mid 1980s. It shares the same vibrant, accomplished vibe as Mr. Mister’s Kyrie, which was of course a #1 on my charts just a few weeks before.

It was a style which definitely appealed to me at that time. One common theme with most of my personal #1s during this period is a sonic oomph; it can be heard in everything from Kyrie to The Honeythief, to Stripped and even The Art Of Noise’s Peter Gunn Theme.

Often when a slice of American Rock took my fancy to such a degree, I’d be tempted to buy the parent album rather than just the single (see: Foreigner, Mr. Mister, Tom Petty). So it proved with Van Halen’s 5150 opus, a bit of a punt in the dark when – Jump aside – I’d not been especially interested in the band’s output, but one that proved worthwhile.

On the few brighter days (literally and metaphorically) that occurred during the late Spring and early summer of 1986, my cassette of 5150 would usually be the soundtrack.

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