Van Halen’s fifth album, ‘Diver Down,’ was released 40 years ago today

Warner Records

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Van Halen‘s fifth studio album, Diver Down.

Diver Down became the group’s highest-charting album up to that time, peaking at #3 on the Billboard 200. It’s gone on to sell more than 4 million copies in the U.S.

The 12-track collection features five cover tunes, including versions of Roy Orbison‘s chart-topping 1964 smash “(Oh) Pretty Woman,” Martha and the Vandellas‘ 1964 hit “Dancing in the Street,” The Kinks‘ 1965 gem “Where Have All the Good Times Gone,” and Roy Rogers and Dale Evans‘ country classic “Happy Trails.”

Van Halen’s rendition of “(Oh) Pretty Woman,” which was first released as a standalone single three months before Diver Down came out, became the band’s second top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching #12. “Dance the Night Away” had ascended to #15 on the chart in 1979.

The band’s cover of “Dancing in the Street” also was a Hot 100 hit, peaking at #38.

Perhaps the most interesting song on Diver Down was the band’s rendition of “Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now),” an old-timey pop-jazz tune dating back to the 1920s. Van Halen’s recording features none other than Jan Van Halen, Eddie and Alex Van Halen‘s father, playing clarinet throughout the entire track.

Jan had been a professional musician when he was younger, and he passed on his passion for music to his two sons. Sadly, Jan retired from music after losing a finger in an accident in 1972. It was frontman David Lee Roth who suggested that the band cover “Big Bad Bill,” and that they ask Jan to play on the tune. It marked the first time that Jan had played the clarinet since his accident.

Here’s Diver Down‘s full track list:

“Where Have All the Good Times Gone”
“Hang ‘Em High”
“Cathedral” (instrumental)
“Intruder” (instrumental)
“(Oh) Pretty Woman”
“Dancing in the Street”
“Little Guitars (Intro)” (instrumental)
“Little Guitars”
“Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)”
“The Full Bug”
“Happy Trails”

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