I originally wrote this in 2012. But as I sit here in 2015 listening to Van Halen to celebrate Eddie Van Halen’s 60th birthday — and with a major blizzard on its way to my neck of the woods — it’s worth a re-post. This is about using music in winter to put the brain in summer mode.
As I search for the necessary adjustments to get past bouts of S.A.D. (winter-induced depression) each winter, I find that I feel better when I listen to a lot of Van Halen. I’ve mentioned many times before that music is one of my most important coping tools, the medicine that gets me through all the rough patches.
The thing about Van Halen is that the sound and lyrics always transport my mind to summer. And summer has the weather and long days that put my brain at its healthiest.
It’s kind of fucked up, because as a child I used to prefer winter to summer. Bad things always happened in the summer. Except for my brother dying in January, winter was always like a blanket to me. It was an excuse to be all cozy indoors.
It makes sense in the rear-view mirror. I didn’t want to deal with people back then. I just wanted to stay inside, play with my Star Wars toys and watch TV. Summer meant I had to go outside and face people.
I guess the blanket started to smother me as I got older.
People often fail to recognize that there are different flavors of depression — the debilitating kind that can put your life in danger with thoughts of suicide, and the milder, grumpy-old-man variety where you’re in an ongoing state of crankiness and tiredness, but you see it for what it is — a chronic condition that comes and goes, like arthritis or sinus infections. The dark spots always pass.
But before it happens, something like Van Halen will always make me feel better.
I prefer the David Lee Roth era, which makes me more receptive to the new song than others are so far. But I like most of the stuff they did with Sammy Hagar, too. In fact, one of my favorite “Van Hagar” albums is “Balance” — the last with Hagar and not one of their more popular efforts commercially. But it has a moodiness that fits me like a glove.
For a similar reason, my favorite Roth-era album is “Fair Warning.”
Edward Van Halen’s guitar sound is what really puts my brain in a sunnier place. Even the moody stuff. I don’t know why. It just does.
Say what you will about the material they’ve released in more recent years. Complain that Michael Anthony’s bass and backing vocals are sorely missed on the last album. In the bigger picture, any new Van Halen album is like a long lost sunrise to me.