Van Halen’s Logo Identity Crisis

Anybody ever wonder why one of the coolest band logos in rock history was ditched after just 2 albums?
That’s right, Van Halen and Van Halen II are the only records from the classic period (1978 to 1984) to feature the logo we all know and love, the one high school kids across America scratched into their Trapper Keepers trying to freehand all those odd angles.

The first six albums: Van Halen (1978), Van Halen II (1979), Women and Children First (1980), Fair Warning (1981), Diver Down (1982), 1984 (1984)
So why was one of the most recognizable logos in rock abandoned for a series of non-descript fonts and non-logo logos on subsequent albums?
Didn’t the Van Halen boys know the importance of Consistent Brand Identity? Maybe they should have asked Michael Anthony. I’m sure he got free cases of Jack Daniel’s for playing that whiskey bottle bass on stage.
An updated 3-D version of the “VH” logo ushered in the Sammy Hagar era in 1986, but it didn’t seem to matter. The band’s best days were behind them. Coincidence? Never underestimate the power of a kick-ass logo (See AC/DC).
The band went logo-schizo after that. What was up with the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge basketball cover anyway?
The Van Hagar era: 5150 (1986), OU812 (1988), For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991), Right Here, Right Now (1993), Balance (1995). And the short-lived Van Halen III (1998)
What happend to the Van Hagar art department?
They even introduced a new logo (kind of) when Gary Cherone joined the band which, given the amount of time Gary was actually in the band, didn’t seem to help either.
Is it crazy to think that if the band would have stuck with the 1978 “VH” logo, maybe their career would not have sucked so much after 1984?
Give it some thought.
At least they didn’t keep the logo from the first album’s original artwork, which looked more Vixen than Van Halen:
Or the original logo which was just, well…
At least Dave Grohl knows what’s up…

Van Halen logo by Dave Bhang, 1978
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9 Responses to Van Halen’s Logo Identity Crisis

  1. mark fason says:

    it’s kinda sad how halen hit the mainstream after hagar joined the band. i think it was all because of that stupid blue angels video. the guy is and always has been an no talent jack off. i mean, really, who in their right mind writes the lyric ‘three lock box’ slaps a riff on it and says, ‘ yep that’s the song we’re going with. douche

  2. mark fason says:

    oh by the way, great work tylor. nice to see those old album covers.

  3. pb says:

    i’m on FY-AHHHHHHHHH. liking the blog!

  4. Duane says:

    May be out of place here, but do you know the font for the bands name used on the 1984 album?

  5. Patrick Marcolla says:

    This sounds like another hipster article lamenting about something that was cool before everyone thought it was cool. Van Halen has always been an amazing band, and Sammy Hagar is an incredible vocalist, one of the greats. Linking the logo to their success doesn’t make sense, especially when they continued to pack arenas in the post-Roth era.

    • therockfile says:

      Patrick,
      I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the article. It was meant as tongue-in-cheek – more “humor,” less “hipster.” That old logo still rules though…The Rock File.

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