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30 Years Ago: Van Halen Debut ‘Jump’ Video

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By waiting until January 1984 to release their ‘1984’ LP, Van Halen broke an impressive one-album-a-year streak that dated back to 1978 — but they made up for it by picking up their first No. 1 single in the U.S. with the record’s lead-off single, ‘Jump.’

Released during the first week of 1984, ‘Jump’ was accompanied by a cheerfully low-budget video that showed the band goofing around on a sound stage, with singer David Lee Roth pulling out some of his most advanced preening techniques while the rest of the guys just generally looked happy to be there. At a time when dry ice and inscrutable storylines seemed to be the order of the day, the ‘Jump’ clip was refreshingly simple, even if the story behind the video included more than its share of complications.

According to producer Robert Lombard, who supervised the shoot with director Pete Angelus, this video exposed the tensions that soon came to a head between Roth and the other members of the band. Where Lombard and Angelus wanted to put together a clip that Angelus described as “something very personal” (as he put it, “Let’s see if we can get Edward to smile”), Roth insisted they film footage of him engaged in stereotypical rock-star pursuits like driving sports cars and hanging out with gorgeous women. Although they gave in, their misgivings remained, and according to Lombard, the duo eventually approached the other members of the group to plead their case.

“I said, ‘Guys, I’m taking a stand here,” he recalled later. “If you put in this crazy footage … the video isn’t gonna have the impact it should have.'” And even though he says they backed him up, he still ended up paying the price: “Two days later, I got fired. Noel Monk, their manager, said, ‘You don’t do that — you don’t go behind Dave’s back. Here’s your check, never want to see you again.’ That video won the award for best performance video at the first VMAs. And I still don’t have my award.”

Roth’s footage ended up going into the ‘Panama’ video anyway, but the incident highlighted one more disagreement in the history of a song that guitarist Eddie Van Halen has claimed sat around for years because other members of the group — particularly Roth — didn’t want to record it. Asked about the origins of ‘Jump’ in a 1984 interview, Van Halen said he wrote it “during or before” the sessions for 1981’s ‘Fair Warning’ album. “Not the way it’s on record, but musically, note for note, exactly the same,” he insisted, adding that the song was written on a “Prophet 10 synth that blew up on me — it started smoking. You know, everything I touch blows up — the way I like sound is on the verge of dying.”

Roth disputed Van Halen’s version of events in a separate interview, saying, “Well, there are always bits and pieces of music that go flying by, you can never tell exactly what form it was in two years ago. I doubt if it sounded exactly the way it does this year two years ago when Edward played it for us, because I can’t imagine us passing it up.”

According to Roth, “‘Jump’ is a song that we wrote for several different reasons, primarily because it is leap year and secondly, because I was watching television one night and it was the 5 o’clock news, and there was a fellow standing on top of the Arco Towers in Los Angeles and he was about to check out early, he was going to do the 33-story drop — and there was a whole crowd of people in the parking lot downstairs yelling ‘Don’t jump, don’t jump’ and I thought to myself, ‘Jump.’ So, I wrote it down and ultimately it made in onto the record, although in a much more positive vein. It’s easy to translate it the way you hear it on the record as a ‘go for it’ attitude, positive sort of affair — an I-jog-therefore-I-am approach.”

Whatever the song’s origins — and however people chose to interpret it — ‘Jump’ was a raging success for Van Halen, taking the top spot on the pop charts from Culture Club’s ‘Karma Chameleon’ during the week of Feb. 25, 1984, and staying there until the week of March 24, when it fell to Kenny Loggins’ ‘Footloose.’ One of three Top 40 hits from the album, it helped ‘1984’ become the band’s most successful album to that point — and although Roth would begin his long hiatus from the band the following year, ‘Jump’ kicked off a period of massive crossover success for Van Halen that continued until the mid-’90s with singer Sammy Hagar.

Next: Top 10 Van Halen Songs

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