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Recorded in NoHo: Van Halen's 'Diver Down'

The band had previously recorded all its albums at Sunset Sound in Hollywood.

Some of the greatest albums of all time have been recorded right here in NoHo, and it continues to be a central location for music recording today. Many people who live here drive by the studios everyday, unaware that some of the most famous artists in the world are right behind the walls.

One of the top recording venues for many years was Amigo Studios/Warner Brothers Recording Studio, which is no longer in existence. However, it's memory lives on in the parking garage of the NoHo Commons at Lankershim Boulevard and Weddington Street, which is near where the studio used to be located at 11114 Cumpston Ave. The parking garage features the , which pays tribute to Amigo and the great artists that recorded there.

In 1982, Van Halen was one of the biggest bands in the world, but had reached a low point. Their 1981 album, Fair Warning, was their poorest-selling record out the four they had released. Tensions were also starting to mount between guitarist Eddie Van Halen and singer David Lee Roth.

The band had just come off a 10-month tour and, according to Eddie Van Halen, was planning on taking some time off.

"Last year when we came off the Fair Warning tour, we were gonna take some time off and spend a lot of time writing and this and that," said Eddie Van Halen in 1982, according to rock writer Jas Obrecht on his website, jasobrecht.com. "Dave came up with the idea of, 'Hey, why don’t we start off the new year with just putting out a single?'"

That single ended up being a cover of the Roy Orbison song, "(Oh) Pretty Woman," which became a hit and assured that the band would in fact not be taking any time off. Their label, Warner Bros., wanted an album to support the single.

"And we’re going, 'Wait a minute. We just did that to keep us out there, so people know we’re still alive.' But they kept pressuring, so we jumped right back in without any rest or any time to recuperate from the tour, and started recording," said Van Halen, according to Obrecht.

The band had previously recorded all its albums at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, but because of the rush, Sunset Sound wasn't available and they entered Amigo Studios in North Hollywood. The change of scenery was welcomed by the band.

“We spent 12 days making the album. We had a totally different approach this time. We used a different studio too. It’s now called Warner Brothers Recording Studios, but it used to be called Amigo," said Van Halen, according to Obrecht. "It’s owned by Warner Brothers, and they have a real big room. It was nice to have a change, because we’d done every other album at Sunset Sound. It was just a lot of fun going to a different studio."

Because of the rush, the album also contained a lot cover songs, and only 17 minutes of original music, something a lot of critics were quick to point out. Some even started to write the band off.

"Strip away the four cover versions, the three brief instrumentals and the minute-long goof on "Happy Trails" and Van Halen's fifth album, Diver Down, suddenly seems like a cogent case for consumer fraud," Rolling Stone critic Parke Puterbaugh wrote in his review of the album. "Van Halen, it appears, is running out of ideas: there's more excelsior here than in a shipment of glassware."

But Diver Down served its intended purpose: it let everyone know Van Valen was still "alive." It sold well (over 4 million copies, according to RIAA), produced two top-40 hits, and also earned them a little notoriety when the bizarre video for "(Oh) Pretty Woman" became the first video to be banned by MTV after being deemed to have excessive sexual content.

Most important, Diver Down paved the way for their next album, 1984, which launched the band to new heights by reaching No. 2 on the Billboard charts as well as producing a No. 1 single, "Jump," which showed the world that the band was not out of ideas at all.

Liam October 26, 2011 at 07:43 PM
No mention here of the fact that Fair Warning (which the author implies was a 'failure' because it sold fewer albums than the previous three) is considered by many fan and (especially) guitarists to be the height of EVH's creative powers - in sum, the most interesting and technically brilliant of any of the Roth-era albums (with the possible exception of VH 1).
Craig Clough (Editor) October 27, 2011 at 04:42 PM
Thanks for bringing it up, Liam. I didn't mean to suggest that Fair Warning isn't a great album. It is. I was only suggesting that commercially the band was not connecting with fans like it had been in the past and was starting to suffer from infighting -- therefore, at a low point. ALL of the Roth-era albums are all-time classics in my book.
maria muse October 27, 2011 at 05:03 PM
Which album was Eruption on? Wasn't that Eddie's ultimate guitaring song? I wasn't the biggest fan, but I appreciated them. We had just moved to Southern California (chula vista-san diego) from NYC/New Jersey and it fit colored my youth nicely. I was more into punk, new wave...David Bowie, but it was a fun time in music and Van Halen was undeniable in the musical landscape.
Craig Clough (Editor) October 27, 2011 at 05:08 PM
"Eruption" is from Van Halen's self-titled 1977 debut album.
jeffrey bruni October 27, 2011 at 10:44 PM
Interesting history on the studio. Fair Warning was not the usual VH sound, but man, w the exception of Push Comes to Shove is nonstop blistering tunes. Dirty Movies is probably the single sleaziest tune put out. One of the ultimate strip tease songs ever. Unchained, well enough said. Awesome album.

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