Thursday, February 9, 2012

No. 847 – Intruder / (Oh) Pretty Woman

Performer: Van Halen
Songwriters: Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, David Lee Roth, Alex Van Halen, William Dees, Roy Orbison
Original Release: Diver Down
Year: 1982
Definitive Version: Any that includes Intruder.

For any song where a preceding instrumental intro flows right into the song, the intro is part of the song as far as I’m concerned. And as far as I’m concerned, the only reason that this song is on the list is because of the Intruder intro.

My room in Wolcott Hall at Wabash was on the end of the building that faced East toward campus, Room 312, if I recall correctly. I lived above a couple of guys who had just learned how to play guitar, and the only song they knew was Eight Days a Week. If I heard Eight Days a Week once while I was trying to type a report or play Strat-O-Matic in my room, I must have heard it 5,000 times. Later, when I got to be good friends with one of those guys—Matt, with whom I roomed off-campus our senior year—I would chide him good-naturedly whenever he whipped out the guitar. Gonna play Eight Days a Week again? No, that was a phase, he said.

But Eight Days a Week wasn’t the only song that constantly wafted into my room courtesy of Wabash musicians during my freshman year. My room also was close to one end of the old Armory building that housed the basketball court—the side where the racquetball and handball courts were located. Below the courts was a weight room and below that, down in the basement, was a room for music rehearsal. I was in the room a couple of times, and it had lockers for instruments and acoustical tiles. I think only once I walked by and saw someone practicing the violin.

Most of the other times—and even times when I wouldn’t walk by—it was the domain of a rock band, or at least two guys who jammed together regularly. (There was never a bass player or singer that I recall.) The guitar player’s name was Paul, and he was a Beta. The drummer was a Delt, and I can’t remember his name, but I remember he played drums in the pep band with President Lew Salter. (I’ll get to that later.)

Anyway, they almost always started off their jams with this song, or more specifically, the Intruder intro. And it seemed like each time the song got longer, louder and more feedback-laced while the drums pounded out the beat in perfect time. Whenever they’d get bored with Pretty Woman, the next song was always Dance the Night Away.

Thirty years later (30?!), I can’t recall ever hearing any other songs, although I’m sure there must have been at some point. Perhaps I just didn’t know them and thus didn’t recognize them. Whatever. The Van Halen two-fer was their signature jam, and Pretty Woman was the standout. And unlike with my downstairs neighbors, I never got tired of hearing it.

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