Van Halen – Goldenwest Ballroom Live 1976 (Bottoms Up)

Goldenwest Ballroom Live 1976 (Bottoms Up) 

Goldenwest Ballroom, Norwalk, CA – May 9, 1976 

(54:14) On Fire, I’m The One, Last Child, Tush, The Rover, Let’s Get Rockin’, Ice Cream Man, Last Night, Eruption, We Die Bold, Somebody Get Me A Doctor, Babe Don’t Leave Me Alone, Oceanside, She’s The Woman

The latest release from Bottoms Up features an early soundboard recording from a yet unsigned Van Halen. With decent quality for a tape of this age, the recording captures all instruments with the focus upon guitar and vocal with the bass a little too low in the mix. This tape was previously released on silver disc as Goldenwest Ballroom – Live 1976 (VHCDJPN5150, AP1001)

The recording cuts in during “On Fire”. This misses the intro and part of the first verse and is also cut briefly at 1:35 with a second of music repeated. This segues into “I’m The One” and is the type of one/two punch that probably had most people’s jaws on the floor by now. The band was opening for UFO with Michael Schenker on guitar so the audience probably had its share of guitar fans. 

At this point without a record deal, Van Halen was still mixing covers into the set and some interesting choices I might add. Aerosmith’s “Last Child” is the first up and some problems with Ed’s guitar signal in the solo sees him drop out of the mix leading into some improv by the rest of the guys until the problem gets straightened out. There are also some quick drop-outs with Roth’s vocal microphone throughout the show but nothing that will last more than a split second or so. (Roth even addresses the problem at the start of “The Fool And Me”) 

After ZZ Top’s “Tush”, the band gets into Led Zeppelin’s “The Rover”. Both Ed and Dave inject their unique flavors into all these cover tunes and they take on a totally different vibe from their original counterparts. “The Rover” eventually segues into Robin Trower’s “The Fool And Me”. This track is not listed on the cover and only lasts about a minute before cutting off. 

From here on out, VH returns to their original material including some tracks that wouldn’t be released officially. “Let’s Get Rockin” is an unreleased track that never made its way onto any of their LPs but was recorded during the demo sessions made with Gene Simmons while trying to score a deal. “Last Night” is an early version of “Hang ‘em High”, one of a few original compositions to eventually get reworked, this one surfacing years later for the band’s fifth LP, Diver Down

“Eruption” has some absolutely amazing shredding and is no wonder that it cast Eddie as one of the most innovative guitar players of his generation. “We Die Bold” is missing the last few seconds and is another unreleased track that is followed by an early version of “Somebody Get Me A Doctor”. This arrangement differs only slightly from the version found on Van Halen II

The final three tracks on the disc are also unreleased VH originals, at least in this form. Unfortunately, “Oceanside” is only a fragment that lasts 1:40. “She’s The Woman” is a very interesting listen which contains the guitar break eventually featured in “Mean Streets”. Certainly a classic riff that luckily didn’t go to waste. 

I definitely agree with one VH fan site calling this show a must have for any serious Van Halen fan. Overall, this is a solid release of an early soundboard that thankfully found its way onto silver again courtesy of the folks at Bottoms Up. The cover shot features a picture of Ed playing his guitar backstage somewhere with the original Goldenwest Ballroom boot cover superimposed on the wall behind him.

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