As recently reported, Mammoth WVH (Wolfgang Van Halen) has his latest single, “Don’t Back Down,” perched at #1 on the Active Rock charts. It has over 6 million combined streaming impressions. The music video has Van Halen performing all of the instruments, just as he did in the song itself. This is a major achievement and is well-deserved for Wolfgang. Literally a rock lifer, he previously performed bass duties in his father’s band and also was the bassist in Mark Tremonti’s band.
That’s where it should end. Congratulations, and no strings.
Yet there always seem to be strings. There were reports of Wolfgang being rightfully offended by “fan” social media, reporters, and on wondering when he was going to reform Eddie’s band, because…why?
I think it needs to be said that I loved Van Halen the band, both the Roth and Hagar years, because that’s all there were and you cannot convince me otherwise. And yet, I am fascinated by what Wolfgang is doing. The Mammoth WVH album is, in a fashion, like the first Foo Fighters album, the core of which is entirely Dave Grohl, and yet it sounds like a full band effort.
So it is with Mammoth WVH, with Wolfgang doing everything from the top down, and it deserves attention for what is there for everyone to enjoy – an impressive, capable musician coming into his own.
But there is the inevitable question aimed at him, sometimes glossed up, sometimes not: When will you take over your dead father’s band for the amusement of a former generation who won’t be caught dead with music issued later than 2005?
Wolfgang handled it correctly and with some teeth bared on Twitter. To sum it up in paraphrase, “How dare you?”
I remember Julian Lennon putting out great pop music in the ’80s, only to be badgered about his pop’s music. Similarly, Sean Ono Lennon rarely gets an interview where the famous ghost of his dad isn’t invoked.
Ghoulishly, there were false rumors floated about a decade ago positing that Julian and Sean, Dhani Harrison, James McCartney, and Zak Starkey were going to form a modern Beatles. I believe I got into a shouting match with someone about it. They intimated that it was destiny and had to be dragged into reality. This person was, of course, not a musician. She was not artistically inclined at all and had more of a mind for business. When viewed from that lens, and only that lens, it makes sense. It is a clear-cut call to action for asset management. It’s also an insult.
I am fully aware of the hypocrisy baked into my defense because, once again, I’m name-dropping the parents whose shadow their children have been stuck under, and it will be the last time I go to this place. I think that if this fixated audience bothered to hear the work these people are making, they’d appreciate it. I mean, really listen, not just the shadowplay of “I did my part, okay, now do yours.” Being made living props to furnish the wish fulfillment of previous consumers is a nasty business.