Here Are My Dad's Thoughts on Van Halen's Debut
[Editor's Note: Shea Serrano sometimes writes about Why This Song Sucks, and sometimes about his hilarious and poignant life and times. Better put your shoes on because your socks are about to be blown off.]
I'll always remember two: On Halloween in 1998, when I flipped my car into a 15-foot deep drainage ditch. (This one was memorable because I was legit dressed as Aladdin -- like, with the fucking vest and everything -- because we were headed to a costume party. Waving down cars for help in Arabian Night pants is basically the least fun thing of all.) Then, in 2003 when I, for the life of me, couldn't unravel the mystery that had gripped my chassis.
So I did what I always do anytime I can't figure something out, I called my Parp (dad).
I said (something like), "Parp, my car won't start. I'm not sure what happened. It worked fine yesterday when I got home from work. I've tried and tried and tried but I can't figure it out. Everything looks like it's fine. Can you come help?" At the time, he lived more than 200 miles away. I thought nothing of asking because 2003 Shea was a total fucking prick. He said, "I'll be there Friday after work."
That Friday morning, he woke up, went to work, drove his city bus for 11 hours, got off of work, then got in his car and drove the three and a half hours to me. When he got there, we talked, got some food, and then went outside to figure out the specifics of the monster overhaul we were to work on.
He asked me the questions he always asked (Did you [THIS]? Have you [THAT]? Did it sound like [THIS]? Did it feel like [THAT]?), listened to my responses, calculated a list of possible problems, tightened his lips, then crawled under the car and tapped on something. Before I could squat down to join him, he popped back up.
He looked at me. His eyebrows furled.
I looked at him. My eyebrows went towards the sky.
And then he spoke: "It's out of gas, son."
IT WAS FUCKING OUT OF GAS.
And you know what he said about it afterwards? Nothing. Not one single word. To this day, he has never brought it up. In comparison: I beat him in basketball one time in 1996 and have not let more than a week go by without reminding him. 2013 Shea ain't such a peach either, I suppose.
Anyway, but to the point: His 51st birthday was earlier this month, and Wife and I wanted to do something nice for him. So we bought him two tickets to see Beyonce at her sold out show in Houston. Somehow, he is a MEGA Beyonce fan. We've never discussed the specifics of his relationship with her, so I can't speak to the origins. I can only speak to the degree of fandom, which is ferocious.
So Wife and I got him the tickets from StubHub for more than I care to admit. He rode in from San Antonio Sunday morning, spent a day and a half helping me fix things around the house, then prepped for the concert by spending Monday afternoon watching old rock videos on YouTube (Zeppelin, Scorpions, SRV, Phil Collins, etc). Eventually, he settled on a full stream of Van Halen's 1978 album Van Halen, which he considers to be their ultimate work because you can play it in the car at basically any volume and it never sounds bad. That led to this conversation:
Me: So what's the best song on here?
Parp: All of them. Your mom really liked the "Ice Cream Man."
Me: Why'd she like the "Ice Cream Man"?
Parp: Listen to it.
Me: Isn't it, like, isn't it basically about a guy that'll have sex with you. Like, he just goes around having sex with people. The ice creams are his penises or something.
Me: David Lee Roth definitely has multiple penises. You should talk to mom about liking this song. You can't allow that.
Me: The end of it sounds like what plays when you get into a not-that-dangerous fight in a bar...
Me: But like a sex fight.
Me: Have you ever been in a sex fight?
Parp: "Atomic Punk" is good too.
Me: Yeah. What were you doing when you were listening to this?
Parp: Getting high. The kids in the neighborhood would all listen to it. It was the big album then. Your mom was working at Orange Julius in the mall and we were just walking around the mall with a radio on the shoulder just jamming out.
Me: Really? That's kind of ill. I didn't figure they'd let people play radios like that in the mall. But I guess they were cool with racism back then, so maybe radios weren't such a big deal. Still, that's pretty crazy. Big radios are legit.
Parp: It was like technology was getting smaller and radios were getting bigger. They'd be this big [he opens his arms up to three feet in length].
Me: Were you guys, like, would you all park your cars in a field and sit on the hoods and drink beer and listen to Van Halen and talk about the freshmen or whatever?
Parp: Yes. Nobody cared.
Me: IT'S JUST LIKE THAT MOVIE!
Parp: Which one?
Me: ...I don't know. All of them.
Parp: We crashed our car once and a sheriff showed up. We had a bunch of beer and vodka and orange juice -- maybe a gallon of it. He just called us a tow truck and left.
Me: How old were you?
Me: 16 with beer and vodka? Why were you guys giving me such a hard time then when I was 16?
Parp: ..."Eruption" is pretty cool too. Play that one. It's just guitar.
Me: There's no singing?
Me: It's probably still about sex.
Parp: Turn it up.
At 1:30ish a.m. Tuesday morning, Parp and Wife returned from the Beyonce concert. He thanked us for the tickets, said that the show was worth whatever we paid, ate a cinnamon bun, then went to sleep.
He woke up before everyone else the next morning and drove back home, 200 miles away.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.