People are more than familiar with the basic setup that goes into making a rock and roll band. You have drums, bass, guitar and maybe a piano some days if we feel like it. That hasn’t stopped music connoisseurs, however. There are a lot more instruments out there, and there have been bands playing with the idea of what you can use as an instrument.
That’s not to say that all of these songs are completely guitar-free or anything. In most of these songs you still have the basic structure of a rock song, but that little element ends up sticking out a lot more once you notice it. Sometimes it’s muffled in the background, but most of the time it’s the one part of the song you can barely turn away from, still having that weird quality that keeps you coming back for more.
While it might have seemed like a gamble to use some of them at the time, they ended up doing surprisingly well, either becoming a trend that went mainstream, or those rare once-in-a-lifetime sounds. who were never heard from again. If anything, that just adds to all that’s going on on the rock and roll side. There are no rules, so you can throw anything into the mix and it might stick.
For all the hair metal bands they spawned, Van Halen always seemed to be more on the rock and roll side of the spectrum. Although the intensity was always turned up to 10 every time they took the stage, he was the kind of guy who was looking to give you a big party every time they walked into one of their classic songs. When they needed one more album on Diver Down, they decided to keep it in the family for some covers.
Favorite artists like the Kinks and Roy Orbison aside, Big Bad Bill is the kind of old jazz standard that seems tailor-made for the voice of David Lee Roth, telling the story of a man named Bill who was defeated by his wife after being the most dangerous man in town. And where you’d think a guitar solo would be, we actually added a clarinet to the mix which was played by Alex and Eddie’s dad in the studio.
Seeing how much of a throwback this is meant to be, the solo works surprisingly well for Van Halen’s formula, giving the rest of the song a bit of a ragtime feel. As it was the album that also has a version of Happy Trails to wrap it all up, this song has the kind of spirit of boys having fun in the studio and just seeing what happens. The record itself may have been made out of obligation, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have some fun along the way, too.