Skip to main content

Watch Van Halen close out a 1986 show with a rabble-rousing cover of Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll

Sammy Hagar (left) and Eddie Van Halen perform at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan on May 9, 1986
(Image credit: Ross Marino/Getty Images)

Back in 1986, during their triumphant first tour with then-new frontman, Sammy Hagar, Van Halen had more than enough original material to fill a setlist many times over. 

Never (as evidenced by the Van Halen, Van Halen II and Diver Down albums) averse to a cover though, Van Halen frequently (opens in new tab) closed the shows on their 1986 jaunt – undertaken in support of that year's 5150 album – with a spirited rendition of Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll

You can check out one such performance – filmed at the band's August 27, 1986 show at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in New Haven, Connecticut, and packed, naturally, with plenty of the fretboard acrobatics Eddie Van Halen was known for – below. 

Was the cover merely a humble salute to one of Van Halen's formative influences? That was part of it, certainly, but Rock and Roll also served a more practical purpose. 

The 5150 tour was all about Van Halen's fresh start, and to that end, the band conspicuously avoided playing more than a few songs from their first six, David Lee Roth-fronted albums at each show. 

Remarkably, Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love, You Really Got Me (itself, of course, a Kinks cover) and Panama were the only (opens in new tab) Roth-era songs that were consistently played by the band during the 5150 trek.

Even Jump, their monumental, 1984 Number One smash (the only (opens in new tab) chart-topper of Van Halen's career) was played at less than a third of the band's 1986 shows, according to setlist.fm (opens in new tab).

Given that the 5150 album clocked in at under 45 minutes though, something had to fill out the setlists for these concerts, and fill them Van Halen did with a trio of their trademark (opens in new tab) extended (opens in new tab) solos (opens in new tab), Rock and Roll, and even a couple (opens in new tab) of Hagar solo tunes.

The first song Hagar and Eddie Van Halen ever performed together (opens in new tab) onstage, Rock and Roll remained a setlist mainstay during Van Halen's 1988-1989 tour, before petering out (opens in new tab) of shows in the '90s, as the band's studio catalog with Hagar grew. 

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player (opens in new tab). Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder (opens in new tab) and Unrecorded (opens in new tab). Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.