Recording of the album took place less than a year after the release of the band's eponymous debut album; the process was completed in three weeks. Many of the songs on Van Halen II are known to have existed prior to the release of the first album, and are present on the demos recorded in 1976 by Gene Simmons and in 1977 by Ted Templeman, including an early version of "Beautiful Girls" (then known as "Bring On the Girls") and "Somebody Get Me a Doctor". In the band's licensed game, Guitar Hero: Van Halen, four of the ten tracks of this album are available for play: "Dance the Night Away", "Somebody Get Me a Doctor", "Spanish Fly" and "Beautiful Girls".
The black-and-yellow guitar on the back of the album is buried with Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell, who was killed on December 8, 2004. Eddie Van Halen placed it in his casket at his funeral because Darrell had said it was his favorite. However, Eddie himself stated in interviews that the guitar itself was not actually used on the Van Halen II album, as it had only been completed just in time for the photo shoots for the album. David Lee Roth is shown in a cast in the inner liner notes, as he allegedly broke his heel making the leap also seen in the picture on the back cover art.