Monday, 13 May 2013

Underrated Musician #9: Michael Anthony

     One had to be a pretty darn good musician to hold their own alongside Eddie Van Halen. Nobody will doubt that he was a brilliant, innovative, and exciting musician, and his place in rock and roll history is right at the top, with the likes of Clapton, Page and Beck. A real musician like Eddie also knew that if he wanted to make it far in music, you needed a good band of highly skilled musicians, to take you as far as you could make it. Eddie knew his rhythm section was an important decision, and he chose well: brother Alex Van Halen on drums (and what a drummer he was!) and bassist Michael Anthony, who, so far, is being remembered (if he is remembered) as the forgotten member of Van Halen.
     First of all, from what I hear of the band members' personalities, Michael wasn't one of those shy guys who everybody ignored. Van Halen fans know that Eddie was the quiet one. I guess Michael got left behind because he wasn't as colorful and dynamic as David Lee Roth, and he wasn't as flashy a musician as Eddie or Alex Van Halen. Alex also had the name Van Halen on his side, I hate to say it, but I know it helped. Maybe also because Michael is currently the only original member of Van Halen who isn't touring right now which pushes him even furher into the background.
     But all this aside, let's talk about what Michael Anthony meant to the band. Mike was an excellent bassist, and a lot of Van Halen's catchy, infectuous sound was owed to his melodic and memorable bass lines. He was never necessarily extremely technical skilled, but what was much more important was that he always had goos ideas and made good music. He helped write a fair amount of Van Halen's music too. But what Mike contributed to Van Halen's overrall sound most importantly was the backing vocals. All those catchy vocal hooks, which were probably the most important part of the classic Van Halen sound, were more of Mike's doing than anybody else's. Songs like Dance the Night Away and Running With the Devil especially could never have been the same thing if it wasn't for his high-pitched vocal harmonies.
     Mike's not being in the band nowadays still seems to be for reasons not quite clear, but I know it was something related to a personality conflict with the other band members. Oh well. Maybe he was right. Maybe they were. Ultimately it doesn't really matter, because what's done is done and sometimes people just can't get along anymore, like Don Dokken and George Lynch. It is too bad for the fans that he isn't there anymore, but Eddie's son Wolfgang is doing an excellent job filling his shoes, and the sound isn't suffering.
     So you can say what you want about Mike, and his involvement with Van Halen, but you really can never deny that he made the band what they were, and they might still be touring the LA club circuit if it wasn't for him.

Nice bass, Mike

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