The Story of Van Halen’s “Jump”

I get up and nothing gets me down!!!

I previously said that each and every song has its own story and its own place in music history. For today’s publication, I will tell the story of one of the most distinctive and instantly-recognizable rock tunes ever – Van Halen’s “Jump”. “Jump” is one of the songs that set new standards for rock music back in the early 80s and the song that is basically responsible for Van Halen’s explosive rise to stardom. From the simple but memorable synthesizer intro, to the kooky but captivating lyrics, Van Halen’s “Jump” is anything but your usual boring rock song.

Time to dive into the song!

Firstly, “Jump” was released back in December, 1983, as the lead single from their sixth studio album – “1984”. Till today, the song remains Van Halen’s only song to peak at number 1 on Billboard hot 100 chart. Outside USA, the song also performed quite well – it reached number 2 in Australian, Irish and Italian charts and grabbed the first spot on Canadian Top Singles chart.

The album itself was released on January 9, 1984 – which ended their streak of releasing an album per year. Whether it was due to the international craze over the song, or because it was indeed such a well-crafted album, “1984” became Van Halen’s best-selling album of all time with more than 20 million copies sold in USA alone.

Back to “Jump”, the story behind one of the most commercially successful rock songs of the 80s is quite long, turbulent and it involves a lot of disappointed band-members and eventually one of them leaving the band.

The infamous synthesizer intro was written somewhere early in 1981 by Eddie Van Halen himself. Probably all of you guys know that he was a classically trained pianist, before becoming this guitar God we all know him as. Therefore, he was quite fond of the keyboards – whether we talk about a piano, or a synthesizer, his ability to create tunes and play them as fast as lightning on the keys is nothing but fascinating and exceptional. We can clearly see it here. “Jump” has a solid guitar solo, again by Eddie, however the main “instrument” of the song is the synthesizer – in this case in particular, OB-Xa synthesizer was used (Oberheim was a huge company, manufacturing synthesizers during the 80s).

The idea of using a synthesizer as a lead instrument on a rock song was almost unthinkable at that time. Therefore, it led to many unhappy faces and arguments between the members of the band. Eddie wanted to stick with his original idea and use the synthesizer solo he had previously written by himself, however, David Lee Roth – the frontman of the band was 100% against it. He thought that by doing so, the band is going to be criticized for selling out to the radio. Besides, this project was something quite new to Van Halen’s fans – it was the first time they chose to replace the guitar as a lead instrument in a song. Their previous albums were hard rock solid – and now, things were taking a new turn. It’s not like fans were mad, though (at least I’m not). The chart positions and overall reception prove how much people enjoyed the song.

The song is also very much related with Eddie Van Halen’s self-development as an artist – taking the next essential step, allowing him to make his own music, the way he likes and sees it. “Jump” was the first project he did in his newly opened studio in California – 5150 (5150 is a police code for a mental case). David, as well as the producer – Ted Templeman were both strictly against crafting such “sell-out” and “mainstream” rock song, Eddie thought that it was high time he started taking matters into his hands. In an interview, he says “the first thing I did up here was ‘Jump’ and they (Roth and Templeman) didn’t like it. I said ‘take it or leave it’, I was getting sick of their ideas of what was commercial … At first (Roth’s solo EP) Crazy from the Heat was great because Roth laid off me a bit. Little did I know he was testing the waters. Then he called me up and asked me to go to his house and said he was going to make a Crazy from the Heat movie. He had some deal that fell through. But at the time I was depressed. I cried, then I called my brother and told him the guy quit.” (1995 Rolling Stone Magazine, interview with Eddie Van Halen)

Despite the tension, the band (temporarily) worked things out and released the song and the album. David was the one who came up with the unconventional lyrics and vocal techniques. After repeatedly listening to the song, he thought about a news report he had previously seen about a man, threatening to commit suicide by jumping off a high building. David thought to himself that probably some of the onlookers would shout at this man “go ahead and jump” (I don’t really think a person would just shout “jump” at someone who wants to jump off a building). In addition, in some interviews, however, David says that the lyrics were also talking about a stripper (?). Nevertheless, the results were in – he managed to craft very bizarre, but interesting, (quite funny to me also) words and performed the song quite well, if I may say.

“Jump’ was recorded at Ed’s studio. (Engineer) Donn (Landee) and Ed put the track down alone in the middle of the night. We recut it once in one take for sonic reasons. Dave wrote the lyrics that afternoon in the backseat of his Mercury convertible. We finished all vocals that afternoon and mixed it that evening,” Ted Templeman says on Van Halen: A visual history: 1978-1984 (Neil Zlozower, 2008)

David dedicated this song to Benny Urquidez – a martial artist of whom he was a student.

JUMP MV

Let’s move forward with the music video – this unbelievably ridiculous and rather foolish music video which somehow managed to set new standards and new trends for performance videos back in the 80s. The music video was directed by Pete Angelus and the band members themselves. It is quite simple actually – for 8 straightforward minutes, you just watch David Lee Roth doing the spread-eagle jump, dancing and jumping like a crazy alien to whom gravity doesn’t really apply, along with the other members having fun on the stage, performing. In order to gather up enough video material, the band actually played the song several times – in some scenes we can see Eddie playing the guitar when actually no guitar can be heard. In addition, some scenes include the band just goofing around, having fun, smiling, being silly and all. I guess that’s the essence of it – I mean how many other bands can actually pull this thing off? It’s pretty obvious that it was indeed a cheap, 8-minute music video of them being silly on stage – and it’s still as fun as ever! Why? Because they are too charismatic, hypnotic and appealing to watch!

“While most bands lack the charisma to pull off moves like the “bass player duck under the lead singer’s leg” and “point guitar directly into the camera,” they try lame versions of it anyway, using such tactics as “run to the camera and stop” and “blow a kiss.” In an age when anyone can make a video but most bands lack the money and talent to make a good one, these videos have proliferated, and none has lived up to the standard set by Van Halen with “Jump”.
(extract retrieved from http://www.songfacts.com)

Furthermore, the MV was nominated for three MTV Music Video Awards and actually won “Best Stage Performance Video” at the first MTV Video Music Awards in 1984.

“1984” was the last album featuring frontman David Lee Roth. Both the musical and instrumental approaches, as well as the music video for “Jump” were some of the causes that triggered such negative vibes between David Lee Roth and the rest of the members of the band. The producer of the MV wanted to present the viewers with a more personal and rather exclusive experience while watching the MV. David, on the other hand (of course) had some different plans – he wanted the stage performance to intercut with some footage of him perusing various rather hedonistic actions, such as riding a motorcycle, walking around naked, etc. Robert Lombard edited the video and decided to omit those scenes – for which he was fired by the manager. I try to understand the reasons – I mean he was indeed refusing to take into consideration the ideas of a band member, but look how great things turned out! Lombard also says that he never received the award the video won at MTV Music Video awards. “I didn’t shoot them together until the end of the day. I was trying to keep the peace, because I felt tension among them. David thought he was bigger than the rest of them,” Lombard said in the book I Want My MTV. Eventually, the scenes in which Roth engages in his usual silly little things ended up on the music video of “Panama”.

“JUMP” LYRICS

I get up, and nothing gets me down.
You got it tough. I’ve seen the toughest all around.
And I know, baby, just how you feel.
You’ve got to roll with the punches to get to what’s real
Oh can’t you see me standing here,
I’ve got my back against the record machine
I ain’t the worst that you’ve seen.
Oh can’t you see what I mean?
Might as well jump. Jump!
Might as well jump.
Go ahead, jump. Jump!
Go ahead, jump.
Aaa-ohh Hey you! Who said that?
Baby how you been?
You say you don’t know, you won’t know until you begin.
Well can’t you see me standing here,
I’ve got my back against the record machine
I ain’t the worst that you’ve seen.
Oh can’t you see what I mean?
Might as well jump. Jump!
Go ahead, jump.
Might as well jump. Jump!
Go ahead, jump.

[Guitar solo]

[Keyboard solo]

Might as well jump. Jump!
Go ahead, jump.
Get it and jump. Jump!
Go ahead, jump.


I guess this is what happens when one of the band members believes more in himself than the band. I’m not going to criticize or talk about David’s demons or what actually made him leave the band. However, the train kept on rolling – with or without David. Sammy Hagar was recruited as the new frontman and Van Halen became even more successful than they were.

Well, this is the story of one of the greatest rock tunes of the 80s – Van Halen’s “Jump”. It’s a very catchy, easy to sing/dance with, goofy but also quite fascinating and intriguing song. Songs like this one can never be forgotten and will forever remain in the history of rock music with its influence, achievements and significance. It set new standards, it shaped rock ‘n’ roll and it provoked generations of rock critics, musicians and fans with its electronic touches. Most importantly, proved that Van Halen are versatile geniuses who know how to have fun and produce something meaningful (at least to me, though).

I hope some of you guys managed to learn something new or remind yourself of the song. I had a lot of fun while writing this post. It is very difficult to compose such publications in dedication to artists or songs you love with all your heart – somehow you can’t find the right words…However, bottom line is – David or no David, jump or no jump – Van Halen are amazing and I (we) love them with all my (our) heart(s).


 

References
“Jump” by Van Halen, retrieved from www.songfacts.com
“Jump” by Van Halen, article retrieved from www.wikipedia.com
Van Halen: A visual history: 1978-1984, Neil Zlozower, 2008
500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll” The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, 2007
P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.

The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~

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