Unreleased Van Halen Tracks Include Alternate ‘Hot for Teacher’
An alternate version of "Hot for Teacher," featuring different lyrics and Eddie Van Halen dueling with himself on bass and guitar, is among the Van Halen treasures locked up in their record label's vault.
This unheard version of the hit 1984 single, along with a different take on Van Halen's "Little Dreamer" and four CDs worth of "usable, releasable material," was unearthed 15 years ago by engineer Brian Kehew, an independent contractor who was asked to sift through the Warner Bros. archive in search of material for potential expanded reissues of Van Halen's studio albums.
"'Hot for Teacher,' there's different lyrics all the way through it," he explains in the new Sunset Sound Recorders video interview embedded below. "Dave [singer David Lee Roth]'s original vocal had different words. That is a strange one, because Eddie plays bass on that one. ... And on the intro, which is that great guitar part, he actually doubled it on the bass. But probably, they couldn't quite play it live, so they didn't keep it on the record. But they did keep [the rest of] Ed's bass track on the actual record."
If you're wondering how this bass and guitar duel could have sounded, Kehew says you can get an idea by hearing what Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan did on Roth's full-length solo debut Eat 'Em and Smile two years later. "If you've heard 'Shyboy' ...they did the exact kind of idea," he noted. "They took that idea, to do the bass and the guitar doubling and tapping each other in octaves, which is exactly what Eddie tried to do on ['Hot for Teacher']"
The music found by Kehew dates back to Van Halen’s earliest days at Sunset Sound in 1977 up until the recording of 1984, which was tracked at Eddie's 5150 Studios in 1983. In addition to the unreleased versions of "Hot for Teacher" and "Little Dreamer," there are also first-generation versions of long bootlegged demos such as “Bring on the Girls” and “Voodoo Queen," which later morphed into “Beautiful Girls” and “Mean Street,” respectively.
“Four CDs were put together,” he explains. “I know [Warner Bros.] made a set that went out to the various people. I know that they handed some to [drummer] Alex [Van Halen], I don’t know that Eddie got some, [but] years later one of Ed’s friends called me and said, ‘Do you still have those tapes?’”
Around that time, Van Halen were working on what would become A Different Kind of Truth, the 2012 studio album reunion with Roth which featured re-worked versions of some of the group’s earliest unreleased songs.
Asked why the material he uncovered a decade and a half ago has yet to reach the public, Kehew says the timing was never quite right. “At the time, Sammy Hagar was in the group, so it was bad timing to promote anything with Dave,” he says. “When Dave got back in the band, ‘Now we need a new album, now we need a new live record,’ and it was not a time to promote the past and the old stuff. I think down the road somewhere, it will be time.”
Soon after Eddie Van Halen's death last month, band manager Irving Azoff stated that Alex and Wolfgang Van Halen would at some point go through the vaults at the guitarist's 5150 studio to look for unreleased songs.
“Given that we have this great stuff in store, all the tapes at 5150 that people have seen – who knows what’s on there – but I’ll be willing to pay for it, whatever they can put out that’s good,” Kehew says. “Ideally, hopefully some of the stuff in the Warner's vault is worth releasing too. There’s a lot going on there. It’s not tons and tons, but there is absolutely top quality – not just outtakes or rehash – but great stuff which shows how good they were.”