Got my back against the record machine: “Jump” was Van Halen’s only #1 hit with David Lee Roth

By on July 10, 2019

Wherever you stand on the Van Halen frontman saga — vis-à-vis Sammy Hagar vs. Diamond Dave — you’ll likely find evidence one way or the other to convince yourself who did it best by watching our “Van Halen Video Profile.”

We found this vintage video profile in a syndication-era episode of “Night Flight,” hosted by Tom Juarez (who sure likes to hear himself talk!), and you can now watch this one and others (here and here) on Night Flight Plus.


We might as well jump off by telling you the year 1984 was a defining one for the original lineup of Van Halen: David Lee Roth (lead vocals), Eddie Van Halen (guitar), Michael Anthony (bass) and Alex Van Halen (drums).

The video was lensed in late ’83, ostensibly to promote their brand new 1984 album, which released on January 9th, 1984 (that’s 1/9/84, if you’re paying attention).


Lyrically, DLR has said “Jump” was inspired by seeing a man standing atop one of the Arco Towers in downtown L.A., threatening to jump to his death, on the “5 o’clock news.”

Roth says he watched people standing in a parking lot below the 33-story building who yelling up at the man, “Don’t jump!,” and thought to himself, he might as well “Jump!”


The synth-driven pop metal single — released right before Christmas ’83 — begins with a few simple notes played by Eddie Van Halen on an Oberheim OB-Xa synthesizer.

Today, these notes are instantly recognizable as the song’s intro, but when the band’s shirtless heathen fans first heard a synthesizer being played on a new Van Halen single, some were comically outraged their beloved band were possibly going “New Wave.”


It turns out, though, that Eddie Van Halen had come up with that memorable synth opening back in 1981, during the sessions for Van Halen’s Fair Warning album.

Eddie has said he was tinkering around on a Prophet 10 synth that later “blew up” and began smoking.


According to Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum’s I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, Robert Lombard, the video’s original director, was told the band wanted their performance of the song intercut with little clips of DLR doing, in Lombard’s own words, “crazy shit, like driving his chopped Merc hot rod and hanging out with midgets and girls in maids’ outfits.”

Roth has said he often thought up some of their song lyrics while cruising the Sunset Strip in his vintage 1951 Mercury convertible.


Lombard spent a few days editing the footage together and then showed a rough cut of the video to Eddie and Alex Van Halen, up at Eddie’s house up in Coldwater Canyon.

He says he told the brothers he didn’t think the intercut footage worked in this particular song, and they agreed with him.


When Roth found out they’d seen the video before he did, he felt betrayed, as if Lombard had conspired with Eddie and Alex behind his back.

It caused yet another a problem between them and Roth — and they were already pretty fed up with their singer’s outrageous antics — and led to Lombard being fired by Van Halen’s then-manager Noel Monk.

Read more about Van Halen’s “Jump” video below.


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After Lombard was sacked, DLR turned to Pete Angelus, who by that point had been working with the band for years, as a cameraman, lighting and production designer, and as a merch designer, worked on album packages and logos. Together, he and Roth co-directed the “Jump” video.

“We wanted something very personal. Let’s see if we can get Edward to smile,” is how Angelus describes the video in I Want My MTV.

“Of course, we also had to appease Dave, who wanted to throw his karate kicks into the equation.”


Rumors abound that Van Halen spent just $500 on the video, using a single 8mm camera (possibly 16mm) and no special effects, shooting it all in one day on a soundstage at The Complex in Santa Monica, California.

Read more about Pete Angelus in this previously-posted blog from 2016.


“Jump” became Van Halen’s most successful single, climbing to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for five straight weeks, February 25-March 29, 1984. It was their only chart-topper with Roth on lead vocals.

Nominated for three MTV Video Music Awards, “Jump” took home the trophy for “Best Stage Performance.”


Van Halen played their last show with Roth on September 2, 1984, during the “Monsters of Rock” Festival, supporting headliner AC/DC (Ozzy Osbourne, Gary Moore, Y&T, Accept and Mötley Crüe were also on the bill).

Everything came to a head in Nuremberg, Germany, on the “Zeppelinfeld,” part of the original Nazi party rally grounds.


The band canceled two remaining tour dates, never to play again with the original four members (Michael Anthony departed from Van Halen prior to Roth rejoining again over two decades later, in 2007).

In the summer of 1985, DLR officially announced he was no longer part of Van Halen.


We’ve previously discussed at length the stories behind the Pete Angelus & David Lee Roth co-directed videos for “Panama” and “Hot For Teacher,” so you can go here to read about both of those.

Night Flight’s early ’90s-era “Van Halen Video Profile” — which also features Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar-era music videos for “Best of Both Worlds,” “Finish What Ya Started” and “When It’s Love,” DLR’s “Yankee Rose” and “Just Like Paradise,” and Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55″ — is now streaming on Night Flight Plus.


About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.