5150 is the seventh studio album by Van Halen, released in 1986 on Warner Bros. Records. It was the first of four albums to be recorded with new lead singer Sammy Hagar,.
It was named after Eddie Van Halen’s home studio, 5150, itself named after a California law enforcement term for a mentally disturbed person (a reference to Section 5150 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code). The 5150 name has been used several times by Van Halen. The album hit number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, surpassing the band’s previous album, 1984, which had peaked at number 2 at the same time as Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, on which Eddie Van Halen made a guest appearance.
Before the album was released, Van Halen had considerable difficulty finding a replacement for the popular David Lee Roth. To make matters worse, Warner Bros. Records advised them to discontinue the Van Halen name; in the beginning of 1986, Eddie and Alex Van Halen formally refused. The trio even considered a series of temporary singers to replace Roth, including Patty Smyth, Eric Martin and Jimmy Barnes. However in July 1985, Eddie was referred to former Montrose singer Sammy Hagar by the mechanic who was working on his Ferrari. The pair hit it off and the new singer and band immediately began work on new songs.
Van Halen went to work on the album in November 1985; it would be finished in February 1986, just one month before its release.
The album was notable for a number of love songs and ballads, which were not a feature of the straightforward rock stylings of the Roth-fronted era of the band. Many who had heard the previous incarnation of Van Halen called the new iteration “Van Hagar” either derisively or affectionately, a nickname widespread enough that, as Hagar points out in his book, Warner Bros. asked them to consider renaming the band as such. Further increasing criticism was the loss of Ted Templeman, who, having produced every previous album for the band, left in order to produce Roth’s solo LP debut, Eat ‘Em and Smile. Templeman would return to contribute production to Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album a few years later, which Andy Johns was tapped for. Donn Landee took over producer duties for 5150 after having served as an engineer on the previous albums. However, many noticed that the production on this album was markedly different from their earlier albums with Templeman. Eddie’s guitar, which previously sat high in the mix and frequently pushed to the left channel (to simulate a “live” sound”), now sat equal in the mix and its overall sound had changed. This may have been his doing, as he was not a fan of the “live mix” that Templeman created with the Roth band. This is also the first Van Halen album not to feature any instrumental tracks.
Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones was also brought in as a producer, after Warner Bros. denied the band full creative latitude. According to Jones, the Van Halen brothers were “going through a particularly charged emotional relationship at the time, and there were some crazy situations that went on there.” Jones feels that his biggest contribution to the album was working with Hagar on his dynamic vocal performances.
Despite the controversy associated with replacing Roth, the album itself was the first album by the band to hit #1 in sales. Although each prior Van Halen album had gone platinum, the band had not managed previously to top the album sales chart. The album was also Hagar’s first #1 album, as stated by him on the Live Without a Net concert video.
A live video was created during the tour for this album, which was released as Van Halen – Live Without a Net, which has since been released on DVD. The tour itself was a significant change from previous tours. Where Van Halen had previously had years of material to work with, even on tour supporting the first album, Hagar was uncomfortable performing a number of Van Halen’s Roth-penned hits. Therefore, almost all of the band’s back catalog was dropped from the set lists. Instead, the band’s live shows consisted of almost the entire 5150 tracklist, a few Hagar solo hits (“I Can’t Drive 55”, and “There’s Only One Way to Rock”) and assorted covers (such as Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”). Of the Roth-era tracks, “Jump”, “Panama”, “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love” and “You Really Got Me” were performed with regularity. Also, unlike Roth, Hagar was a technically proficient lead guitarist, which allowed Eddie to play live keyboards.
The opening song “Good Enough” can be heard in the movie Spaceballs
To further introduce the new era for the band, a new Van Halen logo was introduced on the cover of the album. The new icon retained the VH of the original logo, but now it had curved, rather than straight, “wings”.
The artwork features a retrofuturistic depiction of Atlas holding a sphere on his shoulders while kneeling; the model for the album was ESPN BodyShaping’s Rick Valente. The Van Halen logo is wrapped around the sphere. The back cover of the album sees the Atlas character collapsed, with the sphere dropped and broken open, revealing the band inside.
Eddie Van Halen – lead guitar, keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals
Alex Van Halen – drums, percussion
Sammy Hagar – lead, backing vocals
Michael Anthony – bass guitar, backing vocals
Producers: Mick Jones, Donn Landee, Eddie and Alex Van Halen
Engineers: Ken Deane, Donn Landee
Mastering: Bobby Hata
Art direction: Jeri McManus, Van Halen
Photography: Aaron Rapoport
Illustration: Dan Chapman
1. “Good Enough”
2. “Why Can’t This Be Love” *
3. “Get Up” **
4. “Dreams” *
5. “Summer Nights” **/***
1. “Best of Both Worlds” ***
2. “Love Walks In” *
4. “Inside” **
(Single’s denote (*) A side, (**) B side, (***) 33 1/3 LP single)