Fair Warning (Van Halen album)

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Fair Warning
A crude painting of a street scene with a man assaulting someone and onlookers passing by
The photo is taken from a painting by William Kurelek.
Studio album by
ReleasedApril 29, 1981 (1981-04-29)
RecordedMarch–April 1981
StudioSunset Sound Recorders, Hollywood, California[1]
LabelWarner Bros.
ProducerTed Templeman
Van Halen chronology
Women and Children First
Fair Warning
Diver Down
Singles from Fair Warning
  1. "So This Is Love?"
    Released: June 1981 (US)
  2. "Unchained"
    Released: July 1981 (Europe)
  3. "Mean Street"
    Released: 1981 (Europe)
  4. "Hear About It Later"
    Released: 1981 (NL)

Fair Warning is the fourth studio album by American rock band Van Halen. Released on April 29, 1981, it sold more than two million copies,[3] but was still the band's slowest-selling album of the David Lee Roth era. Despite the album's commercially disappointing sales, Fair Warning was met with mostly positive reviews from critics.[4]

The album was listed by Esquire as one of the 75 Albums Every Man Should Own.[5]


The album's cover artwork features a detail from The Maze, a painting by Canadian artist William Kurelek, which depicts his tortured youth.[6][7]

The album's cover artwork is accompanied by an insert of a black-and-white portrait of the members of the band, in addition to another black-and-white photo of an exterior wall featuring cracked windows and a lyric from the album's opening song "Mean Street" in handwritten graffiti. This second photo was taken by famed rock photographer Neil Zlozower.[citation needed]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record Guide: The '80sB−[8]
Record Mirror[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[10]

The Village Voice's Robert Christgau rated Fair Warning a B−, signifying "a competent or mildly interesting record usually featuring at least three worthwhile cuts." It featured "not just Eddie's latest sound effects, but a few good jokes along with the mean ones and a rhythm section that can handle punk speed emotionally and technically." He also explained "at times Eddie could even be said to play an expressive – lyrical? – role. Of course, what he's expressing is hard to say. Technocracy putting a patina on cynicism".[8]

A retrospective review by AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine found the album fairly positive. In the review, he initially stated "it's a dark, strange beast, partially because it lacks any song as purely fun as the hits from the first three records" and "whatever the reason, Fair Warning winds up as a dark, dirty, nasty piece of work [...] Dull it is not and Fair Warning contains some of the fiercest, hardest music Van Halen ever made. There's little question Eddie Van Halen won whatever internal skirmishes they had, [...] even with the lack of a single dedicated instrumental showcase."[4]

The Rolling Stone Album Guide, however, gave the album two-and-a-half stars out of five, stating that "the most significant musical development is the synthesizer introduced at the end of Fair Warning, which would be exploited to greater effect on later albums."[10]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony and David Lee Roth.

Side one
1."Mean Street"4:58
2.""Dirty Movies""4:08
3."Sinner's Swing!"3:09
4."Hear About It Later"4:35
Side two
6."Push Comes to Shove"3:49
7."So This Is Love?"3:06
8."Sunday Afternoon in the Park" (instrumental)1:59
9."One Foot Out the Door"1:58


Van Halen[edit]


  • Pete Angelus – cover design
  • Chris Bellman – remastering
  • Gregg Geller – remastering
  • Greg Gorman – photography, inlay photos
  • William Kurelek – cover artwork, from The Maze
  • Donn Landee – engineer
  • Gene Meros – engineer
  • Jo Motta – project coordinator
  • Richard Seireeni – art direction
  • Ted Templemanproducer
  • Neil Zlozower – photography



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[21] Platinum 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[22] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ "Studio 2: Legendary Recordings | Sunset Sound & Sound Factory". Archived from the original on November 14, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  2. ^ "Van Halen Biography". Rolling Stone.
  3. ^ "Recording Industry Association of America". RIAA. Archived from the original on June 26, 2007. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Fair Warning - Van Halen at AllMusic. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  5. ^ "Best Music Albums Ever - Top Album List with Covers". Esquire. March 9, 2009. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  6. ^ "The Maze by WILLIAM KURELEK - Peter Nahum At The Leicester Galleries". Leicestergalleries.com. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  7. ^ British Journal of Psychiatry (2001)
  8. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "CG: Van Halen". The Village Voice. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  9. ^ Nicholls, Mike (May 23, 1981). "Review: Van Halen — Fair Warnings" (PDF). Record Mirror. p. 21. ISSN 0144-5804. Retrieved May 24, 2021 – via American Radio History.
  10. ^ a b "Van Halen: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on December 10, 2012. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  11. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 319. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  12. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 0359". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  13. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Van Halen – Fair Warning" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Van Halen – Fair Warning" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  16. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005 (in Japanese). Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  17. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Van Halen – Fair Warning". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  18. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Van Halen – Fair Warning". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  19. ^ "Van Halen Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved June 20, 2017.
  20. ^ "Top Billboard 200 Albums – Year-End 1981". Billboard. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  21. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Van Halen – Fair Warning". Music Canada.
  22. ^ "American album certifications – Van Halen – Fair Warning". 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. 311–16. ISBN 9781770414839. OCLC 1121143123.