Van Halen’s Parody Of Labelmate Nicolette Larson: “It’s Gonna Take A Lot Of Drugs”

By on April 22, 2015

On Greg Renoff’s new Van Halen blog, Van Halen Rising: How A Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal, there’s a fun little anecdote from producer Ted Templeman and engineer Donn Landee, who explain the origins of Van Halen’s parody of Nicolette Larson’s 1978 hit, “Lotta Love,” written by another labelmate, Neil Young, and reworked as “It’s Gonna Take a Lotta Drugs.” The tune was then tacked onto the end of the band’s 1977 Warner Bros demo tape:

Landee: Ted and I were working on Nicolette Larson’s album. I let them hear it the tape, and David [Lee Roth] said, “Hey can I have a copy of that? We want to try something.” So David and Mike [Anthony] did “Gonna Take a Lotta Drugs” to that tape. When we played it back, David and Mike said, “Do you think Ted’s gonna get mad about this?”

VAN HALEN 1

Templeman: “I had been gone from the studio. I had a meeting or something. So the guys went in there and wrote this song. [sings] “It’s gonna take a lotta drugs to get us through the night!” Donn put them on Nicolette’s track. [laughs] They loved that. I came back, and they were all nervous. But when Donn played it, I fucking cracked up.”

There were all kinds of connections between the two labelmates at the time.

First, Nicolette Larson just happened to be Ted Templeman’s girlfriend. She had also been a backup singer for Little Feat, another Warner Bros. band who Ted and Donn Landee had previously worked with (Templeman produced a few of their early albums, Sailin’ Shoes and Time Loves A Hero).

Eddie Van Halen had contributed a guitar solo to “Can’t Get Away From You,  on Larson’s album, Nicolette, which came out on September 29, 1978; apparently David Lee Roth was upset that Eddie had played guitar for anyone other than their band, and ultimately Eddie’s name was kept out of the credits because, as Larson says in this interview, Eddie “didn’t want his name used because they were Van Halen and that’s all there was to it. That was when they were just starting, and they were very much into being just Van Halen and nothing else.”

Van Halen’s debut album had been released months earlier, on February 10, 1978.

She also says Young had already recorded his own version of “Lotta Love” but apparently wasn’t planning on putting it out. When Larson expressed interest in the song, he gave it to her to record.

Larson: “So I recorded it, and got it all ready to put out, then at the very last minute he changed his mind on Comes A Time and put it on that. So we both released it the very same day, actually. I changed it around quite a lot from Neil’s version. His is a lot different with all the ‘la la la la’s’ at the beginning.”

Larson was later a maid of honor for bride Valerie Bertinelli, who married Eddie Van Halen on April 11, 1981. She died on December 16, 1997, as a result of complications arising from cerebral edema triggered by liver failure. She was only 45.

Now we’re kinda wonderin’ what ol’ Neil thought of Van Halen’s version…

(h/t Van Halen Rising)

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.
  • iLeonD

    Neil took the version off of all streaming services.