What Might Have Been: Imagine Van Halen with a different singer in 1985

Life is full of many great “What ifs?”, music just as much as any other.

What if in 1981 Phil Collen had joined Iron Maiden and Adrian Smith joined Def Leppard, the guitarist each band first asked?

What if Vicki Peterson (The Bangles) or Charlotte Caffey (The Go-Gos) had recorded solo albums?

What if The Police had reunited and continued?

What if Rush had broken up after “Grace Under Pressure”?

What if Eric Clapton had not given up his seat on a helicopter to Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1990?

Et cetera, et cetera.

What if Eddie Van Halen had convinced his first choice to replace David Lee Roth as the band’s singer?  

This one really blew my mind.  More below the fold….

In a recent interview, the video linked below, Patty Smyth (formerly of Scandal) tells of her meeting with EVH, how he liked and respected her singing.

She said that if EVH had asked her to record an album with the band, instead of asking her to permanently join, she might have said yes. She turned down the offer because she’s a New Yorker, and joining would have forced her to move to Los Angeles, just as she was having a child.

Smyth said she doesn’t regret her decision because of the work she did after Scandal broke up, but she continued to think about it, right up until Eddie Van Halen’s death this year.


  1. says

    Grace Under Pressure would definitely have been an interesting album for Rush to end on. Some of the response would have been “If only they stayed together they could have done another Moving Pictures,” with no albums to show, no, they weren’t going to do the same albums over and over again.

    Maybe Geddy goes into production. He produced Boys Brigade’s first album, which did fairly well, so he might have been a success at it. (The band’s keyboardist Malcolm Burn went on to a successful production career.)

    Of course it’s just as likely he and Alex form a new version of Rush a few years down the road, possibly with no Neil, leading to the inevitable “They should never have reunited!” cries.

    Neil possibly ends up as primarily a freelance lyricist, with occasional drumming appearances.

    We kind of know what would have happened if the Police reformed. “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ’86” doesn’t make me confident it would have been any good.

  2. says

    I never liked anything after Grace Under Pressure as much as I liked GUP, so I would have missed some songs, but others felt (for me) late, rather than topical, or just… not relevant. Cinderella Man feels forever fresh, and Witch Hunt never goes a decade without finding its necessary moment. But “Subdivisions” felt … forced. I was a pretty young kid at the time (10? 12? I can’t remember when it came out) and I recognized that it should have been relevant to me, but coming out of the mouths of 30+ year olds it just didn’t seem authentic. They got back to better things in GUP and I like the homage to the holocaust experience of the woman that named him Gary but pronounced it, with a yiddish twist, “Geddy”. Red Sector A was written in a way that was vague enough that it could be a generic dystopian-future lament, and I wish it had been more specific, but many knew it was a deliberate reference to the Holocaust and it was still meaningful to me, especially paired with Distant Early Warning which opened the album and as bookended by Between the Wheels which concluded it. Kid Gloves rocked, Body Electric was catchy as hell. Red Lenses was a percussion masterpiece by Peart.

    There simply was no album after GUP that I felt came close (though I admit that there are some newer albums I’ve never heard at all). It’s not like Power Windows or Hold Your Fire were bad albums, but I didn’t like them the way I liked Permanent Waves or AF2K or GUP. I just felt that after GUP they never achieved that hard groove in the same way that they managed on Red Lenses or La Villa Strangiata or YYZ.

    I would certainly have been a high note for them to leave on.