Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding: Van Halen's "Right Now"

In her 1986 treatise "The Greatest Love of All," philosopher Whitney Houston argues, "I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way." This child-first, future-centric ideology ruled our world for half a decade, and the results were disastrous, because otherwise intelligent people thought they heard her sing, "I believe the children are our present." As a result, every new day was a birthday for the children. National and personal debt soon ballooned. All of our streets were littered with discarded R.O.B.s, gilded rattles, and flattened Pogo Balls. Traffic was THE WORST because kids on their damned Big Wheels were clogging up all the freeways with their insufficiently slow (albeit environmentally friendly) form of transportation. Thankfully, the adults reclaimed their fault-proof logic (example: "Why can't I play with Timmy?" asks unnamed child. "Because I said so," replies fully-grown adult parent, expertly!). And the inspiration came from a most unlikely source: Van Halen's 1991 triumph "Right Now."

For a small sliver of the 1970s and all of the 1980s, no band's music was the soundtrack to every kegger you went to more than Van Halen's. They screamed PARTY. Anchored by the greatest single guitar player in the history of human beings playing guitar in Sir Eddie Van Halen, the group knocked out hit after hit, including "Running with the Devil," "Panama," "Jump," and "Poundcake." Lingering behind this facade of inartful debauchery, the casual spreading of sexually transmitted diseases, 50-yard marker-sized lines of cocaine, and warehouses of zebra-print clothing was our salvation from this Ritalin-happy generation of Whitney Houston future-kids. Apparently, Eddie Van Halen composed the music for his most important anthem during the David Lee Roth years. But it wasn't until deep into his tenure with the Cabo Wabo man himself, Sammy Hagar, that this gorgeous melody would be served by such insight into the human condition.

"Right Now" is great because it least represents Van Halen's usual musical strengths. The track is not frivolous: it is absolutely serious and heart-felt; Eddie Van Halen's tapping and whammy-bar drives are pushed far into the background, substituted by a Bruce Hornsby and the Range-style piano figure geared toward latte-drinking progressives; and Sammy Hagar isn't actually singing about his boner for a change. Instead, Hagar's lyric is a direct subversion of Whitney Houston's philosophy. "Right now is everything," he yelps, passionately, during the chorus, adding, "It's your tomorrow." By actually paying attention to the present, Hagar tells us, we can "catch that magic moment and do it right." Translation: We don't need to wait for no stinking kids to do it for us when we are old, covered with uncomfortable bed-sores, and being totally ignored by them in our smelly and understaffed retirement homes. No truer words have ever been spoken. We were so brainwashed during the reign of the Whitney Houston's enlightenment that we couldn't see the signs in front of us. For example, in the 1989 Peter Weir film Dead Poet's Society, the "children are our future" mindset was subtly subverted when John Keating, played by the venerable Robin Williams, pleads, "CARPE DIEM." But we were too busy tearing up our books to notice. Sammy Hagar's lyric is empowering and immediate, emphasizing that we "turn this thing around" and "do it right." "Why wait another day?" he asks us. Exactly. Thanks to Sammy Hagar and the rest of Van Halen, children no longer ruled, and we were able to become self-centered again, leaving our destructive and extremely expensive legacy to them to repair. Neenerneenerneener.


  1. If only I could have enjoyed this entry with a Crystal Pepsi

  2. I'll have you know, Brian, that I had discarded my Big Wheel by the time "Right Now" hit the airwaves, preferring, instead, this form of environmentally friendly transportation. See how hip I was? Also, since the title of the record from which this track comes allows me to use such language, fuck off for ensuring that "Right Now" will be in my head for the rest of the day, and probably rest of the week as well.

  3. ♪Right now, welcome to an aural shitstorm...♪♪