Diver Down

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Diver Down
The "diver down" flag: a white band sloping diagonally down on a red field. "VAN HALEN" in the top right corner, "DIVER DOWN" in the bottom left
Studio album by
ReleasedApril 14, 1982 (1982-04-14)[1]
RecordedJanuary–March 1982
LabelWarner Bros.
ProducerTed Templeman
Van Halen chronology
Fair Warning
Diver Down
Singles from Diver Down
  1. "(Oh) Pretty Woman"
    Released: January 18, 1982 [3]
  2. "Dancing in the Street"
    Released: May 1982
  3. "Secrets"
    Released: August 23, 1982

Diver Down is the fifth studio album by American rock band Van Halen, released on April 14, 1982. It spent 65 weeks on the album chart in the United States and had, by 1998, sold four million copies in the United States.

Cover art[edit]

The album cover artwork displays the "diver down" flag used in many US (and Canadian) jurisdictions to indicate a SCUBA diver is currently submerged in the area.[4] David Lee Roth said it was meant to imply that "there was something going on that's not apparent to your eyes. You put up the red flag with the white slash. Well, a lot of people approach Van Halen as sort of the abyss. It means, it's not immediately apparent to your eyes what is going on underneath the surface."[5] While impressed by Roth's creative marketing spin, manager Noel Monk also explained the sexual double-entendre "dive her down" in his 2017 band memoir Running with the Devil. The back cover of the album features a photo by Richard Aaron of Van Halen on stage at the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Florida, that was taken on October 24, 1981, as they concluded a set opening for The Rolling Stones.

Background and recording[edit]

Five of the twelve songs on the album are covers, the most popular being the cover of "(Oh) Pretty Woman", a Roy Orbison song. Eddie Van Halen recalled how the album came about:

When we came off the Fair Warning tour last year [1981], we were going to take a break and spend a lot of time writing this and that. Dave [Lee Roth] came up with the idea of, 'Hey, why don't we start off the new year with just putting out a single?' He wanted to do 'Dancing in the Streets.' He gave me the original Martha Reeves & the Vandellas tape, and I listened to it and said, 'I can't get a handle on anything out of this song.' I couldn't figure out a riff, and you know the way I like to play: I always like to do a riff, as opposed to just hitting barre chords and strumming. So I said, 'Look, if you want to do a cover tune, why don't we do 'Pretty Woman'? It took one day. We went to Sunset Sound in L.A., recorded it, and it came out right after the first of the year. It started climbing the charts, so all of a sudden Warner Bros. is going, 'You got a hit single on your hands. We gotta have that record.' We said, 'Wait a minute, we just did that to keep us out there, so that people know we're still alive.' But they just kept pressuring, so we jumped right back in without any rest or time to recuperate from the tour, and started recording. We spent 12 days making the album... it was a lot of fun.[6]

Three of the original songs were around long before the album was made. "Hang 'Em High" can trace its roots back to 1976[7] as "Last Night", which had the same music but different lyrics.[citation needed] "The Full Bug" borrows heavily from a demo track called "The Bottom Line" (not the track of the same name released on Roth's 1988 album Skyscraper) that leaked in 2023 and "Cathedral" was played in its final form throughout 1981 with earlier versions going back to 1980. Additionally, "Happy Trails" had been recorded for their 1977 demos.[citation needed]

"Where Have All the Good Times Gone" is a cover of a song by The Kinks. During the band's bar-playing days, vocalist David Lee Roth bought a budget label Kinks double album, and Van Halen learned all of the songs on one side to use as staples of their set.[5] Eddie Van Halen created the effects in the guitar solo by running the edge of his pick up and down the strings and using an Echoplex.[6]

"Cathedral" was so named because the band members thought it sounded like a Catholic church organ.[6]

The lyrics to "Secrets" were inspired by greeting cards which Roth bought in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on the preceding tour.[5] Eddie Van Halen used a Gibson doubleneck 12-string for the song, played with a flatpick. The solo was done in one take.[6]

The track "Intruder", which precedes "(Oh) Pretty Woman", was written by Roth specifically to cover the length of the promotional video for the "(Oh) Pretty Woman" single. Roth recalled that the video "was about three minutes too long. So, I said, we won't cut any of it; we'll write soundtrack music for the beginning. So we went into the studio and I played the synthesizer and I wrote it. It took about an hour to put that together."[5] The "(Oh) Pretty Woman" music video was one of the first banned by MTV, although VH1 Classic (now MTV Classic) has continuously aired it. Roth explained the ban as the result of complaints that it made fun of "an almost theological figure", the Samurai warrior (played by bassist Michael Anthony), and also because two little people appeared to molest a woman (actually a Los Angeles area transvestite performer).[5] The video, directed by Roth and Pete Angelus, was, he[who?] said: "rather like a surrealistic art project ... where they paint the picture and come back three days later and try to figure out what they meant."

"Little Guitars" was inspired by the flamenco guitar playing of Carlos Montoya. Eddie Van Halen found he was unable to imitate Montoya's finger picking, so he used a pick as an assist.[6] Roth, who thought the music Eddie Van Halen came up with sounded Mexican (Montoya was actually Spanish), wrote lyrics intended to evoke that nation.[5] The guitar used on the recording (and subsequent tour) was a miniature Les Paul, built by Nashville luthier David Petschulat and sold to Eddie on the earlier Fair Warning Tour.[citation needed]

Covering "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)" was Roth's idea, as was having Eddie and Alex Van Halen's father Jan play clarinet on the track.[6]

Of "The Full Bug", Roth said 'PRFCs' were "great shoes for when the cockroach moves into the corner and you can't get at it with your foot or the broom anymore. You just jam your toe into the corner and hit as hard as you can. And if you did it right you got the full bug. So this slang means — bammm! — you have to give it everything you've got. Make the maximum effort, do everything possible, get the full bug."[5]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record Guide: The '80sB−[9]
Rolling Stone[10]

In a retrospective review, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic called Diver Down "one of Van Halen's best records, one that's just pure joy to hear", saying it hearkens back to the exuberance and lightheartedness of their early albums while retaining the tightly knit and practiced playing honed over the length of their career. He also found it effectively showcased all four individual members, and said the cover songs were thoroughly revamped to make them distinctly Van Halen works.[8]

In 2022, Diver Down was named #3 of 'The 25 greatest rock guitar albums of 1982' list in Guitar World.[11]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
1."Where Have All the Good Times Gone!"Ray Davies3:02
2."Hang 'Em High"Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony, David Lee Roth3:28
3."Cathedral" (instrumental)E. Van Halen, A. Van Halen, Anthony, Roth1:23
4."Secrets"E. Van Halen, A. Van Halen, Anthony, Roth3:28
5."Intruder" (instrumental)E. Van Halen, A. Van Halen, Anthony, Roth1:39
6."(Oh) Pretty Woman"William Dees, Roy Orbison2:53
Side two
7."Dancing in the Street"Marvin Gaye, Ivy Hunter, William Stevenson3:43
8."Little Guitars (Intro)" (instrumental)E. Van Halen, A. Van Halen, Anthony, Roth0:42
9."Little Guitars"E. Van Halen, A. Van Halen, Anthony, Roth3:47
10."Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)"Milton Ager, Jack Yellen2:44
11."The Full Bug"E. Van Halen, A. Van Halen, Anthony, Roth3:18
12."Happy Trails"Dale Evans1:03
Total length:31:04


Van Halen

Additional personnel

  • Jan Van Halen – clarinet on "Big Bad Bill"


  • Richard Aaron – photography
  • Pete Angelus – art direction
  • Ken Deane – engineer
  • Donn Landee – engineer
  • Jo Motta – project coordinator
  • Richard Seireeni – art direction
  • Ted Templeman – producer
  • Neil Zlozower – photography


Chart (1982) Peak
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[12] 79
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[13] 5
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[14] 28
Finnish Albums (The Official Finnish Charts)[15] 20
French Albums (SNEP)[16] 9
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[17] 65
Japanese Albums (Oricon)[18] 22
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[19] 37
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[20] 19
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[21] 28
UK Albums (OCC)[22] 36
US Billboard 200[23] 3


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[24] Platinum 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[25] 4× Platinum 4,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ "New Releases" (PDF). FMQB. April 16, 1982. p. 34. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  2. ^ John Scanlan (November 18, 2012). "The Story Behind Van Halen's 'Diver Down'". Van Halen News Desk. Retrieved August 21, 2022. The album was recorded in 12 days at Amigo Studios (now known as Warner Brothers Recording Studios) at a cost of approximately $46,000.
  3. ^ "Van Halen singles".
  4. ^ "Dive Flag Law". Dive-flag.com. Retrieved March 15, 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g York, Alan (April 14, 2022). "Diver Down: How Van Halen Flagged Up an Instant Classic". Warner Music Group.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Obrecht, Jas (June 7, 2022). "Eddie Van Halen 1982 Interview, Part 2". Guitar Player.
  7. ^ "Van Halen - Live at the Golden West Ballroom, c. 1976". YouTube.
  8. ^ a b Diver Down at AllMusic
  9. ^ "Robert Christgau: CG: van halen". robertchristgau.com.
  10. ^ "Diver Down". rollingstone.com. June 10, 1982.
  11. ^ Prato, Greg (March 2, 2022). "The 25 greatest rock guitar albums of 1982". Guitar World. Retrieved March 27, 2022.
  12. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  13. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 6473". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved February 2, 2024.
  14. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Van Halen – Diver Down" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved February 2, 2024.
  15. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
  16. ^ "Le Détail des Albums de chaque Artiste – V". Infodisc.fr (in French). Archived from the original on October 22, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2024. Select Van Halen from the menu, then press OK.
  17. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Van Halen – Diver Down" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved February 2, 2024.
  18. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005 (in Japanese). Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  19. ^ "Charts.nz – Van Halen – Diver Down". Hung Medien. Retrieved February 2, 2024.
  20. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Van Halen – Diver Down". Hung Medien. Retrieved February 2, 2024.
  21. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Van Halen – Diver Down". Hung Medien. Retrieved February 2, 2024.
  22. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 2, 2024.
  23. ^ "Van Halen Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved February 2, 2024.
  24. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Van Halen – Diver Down". Music Canada.
  25. ^ "American album certifications – Van Halen – Diver Down". Recording Industry Association of America.

Further reading[edit]

Templeman, Ted; Renoff, Greg (2020). Ted Templeman: A Platinum Producer's Life In Music. Toronto: ECW Press. pp. 318–25. ISBN 9781770414839. OCLC 1121143123.