In 1983, Van Halen was one of rock’s beloved and outlandish outfits. The band changed the sound of metal with Eddie Van Halen’s hammering guitar solos, Alex Van Halen’s head-knocking drum rhythms and all the cocky-cool slyness of leotard-wearing lead singer David Lee Roth. Hits “Runnin’ With The Devil,” “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” and “Eruption” set the band’s tone with blistering electric runs and breakneck bass, but with “Jump,” people were staring at their radios, mouth agape unable to believe what they heard. Was that a keyboard?
“Oh, we upset everybody,” Roth tells Billboard Dance. “Most of the best Van Halen material is eminently danceable … I go dancing regularly on Saturday nights, because this is the kind of music that I dance to. Eddie Van Halen and I have clashed for decades, because I have never been a rock fan. When I auditined for the band, I had to go learn ‘Smoke On The Water,’ because it wasn’t in my record collection. [I started] with Motown leading up to everything that was Superfly and everything that became Saturday Night Fever in its stead.”
Roth won any argument over synthesizers and four-on-the-floor. “Jump” became Van Halen’s biggest hit, shining its synth-rock disco light in the No. 1 spot of the Hot 100 for five weeks. Now, 35 years later, Roth’s victory shines even brighter with a blissful remix from trance favorite Armin van Buuren.
“I’ve always been a fan of the song,” van Buuren says. “I was 6 when it came out. I’ve heard it many times, and years ago, I had a conversation with my publisher saying if there could be one track that I want to get my hands on one day, [it’s ‘Jump.’] He remembered that, and a couple of months ago, I got the stems from a befriended label. First of all, to have the original stems to such an iconic record [is amazing.] I sent the mix it a label … For about two weeks, I didn’t hear anything, then I got a phone call when I was on my way to Israel to do a gig. My publisher couldn’t breathe. He was like ‘David Lee Roth loves it, and he loves it so much, he wants to come to Miami to perform with you.’ That’s when I couldn’t breathe anymore.”
The strange musical partners have hit the road, performing van Buuren’s “Jump” remix live for crowds at Ultra Miami and on stage at KAOS day club at the Las Vegas Palms Casino for last weekend’s EDC festivities. Roth, as colorful and lively a character as he’s ever been, gushes over the remix, praising van Buuren for his restraint and imagination.
“There are places in Texas where you could drive off the road and 20 minutes later I can still see the car,” Roth says. “That’s like these remixes. You can still kind of see the car and feel the music of the original, but it sure looks different and very far away from what it was originally.”
“In terms of professional artistry, you don’t always construct,” he continues. “Frequently, we deconstruct. We simplify. we got rid of “the”. It’s Facebook. that’s a very clear way of describing or illustrating that which I speak of. What Armin did is find the very soul of that and create a boom in the room. It’s not just in the bass. There is a belligerent enthusiasm … You got gotta have it.”
In the grand scheme, Roth is a natural icon for the modern rave movement. His flashy costumes, his lanky moves and infectious, over-the-top joy is as kandi kid as anything under EDC’s “electric sky.” He’s proud to see the crowd has internalized the spectacular panache with which he once strut across stage. “The crowd is a show in itself,” he beams, and he hopes this generation of dance lovers will gravitate toward van Buuren’s remix of “Jump,” too.
The remix is out now on Warner Bros. Records. Listen to it below.