I resisted Van Halen for a good long time. In fact, I had a bunch of Sammy Hagar albums but not one Van Halen LP (although I did, inexplicably, have their "Pretty Woman" 45) in my considerable collection. My first Van Halen album purchase would prove to be "5150," their first with Sammy on lead vocals after he joined the band. Maybe ten seconds into "Why Can't This Be Love" I was in hook, line, and sinker...down at the ol' fishin' hole.
Then, once you see Eddie Van Halen live - his effortless riffing, grin across his face, with the guitar making noises one wouldn't think a guitar could make - it was like you had to go back and listen to everything he ever committed to tape. So, I worked backwards from Sammy to David Lee Roth, inimitable front man that he is, and rejoiced in tunes my stoner Halen friends never got 'round to: "Little Guitars," "Feel Your Love Tonight," Drop Dead Legs." I've always maintained there's something about an Eddie Van Halen riff that just makes you feel good.
Heck, I even went along for the "Van Halen 3" ride, seeing Extreme front man Gary Cherone bring the house down (despite it being half full) at Madison Square Garden, nailing both the Dave and Sammy era tunes, plus doing the stuff off that underrated record incredible justice.
And so I saw every incarnation of Van Halen. I felt that magic every time out, no matter who was singing. That wasn't a guitar; it was a magic wand. RIP.