In anticipation of Van Halen’s upcoming Los Angeles shows, L.A. Weekly has published a fantastic interview with Ted Cohen, former Warner Music artist development director at the time of Van Halen’s early awesomeness. It’s a fantastic read and offers some entertaining insights to the decadence of the time.
On the first night of Van Halen’s 1978 world tour, in Madison, Wis., the band burst into the hotel room of their artist development director, Ted Cohen, and threw all of the furniture out of the window.
This was madness, for sure, but a calculated madness. When Cohen — the man sent by the record label to keep them on time and on task — confronted them about the incident, they said they’d read about Led Zeppelin and The Who doing the same thing. Thus, for years to come they left a trail of broken tables, shattered mirrors and stained carpeting in their wake, not to mention fire alarms set off in the middle of the night. The strange thing was the group always took responsibility; in fact, they would budget cash to pay for their hijinks.
That infamous night in Madison began Cohen’s trial by fire with the Southern California hard-rock legends, who went on to pioneer a stadium sound that would help them sell tens of millions of records. Van Halen were equally known for their bad-boy personas, not to mention wardrobes that spawned a whole new generation of hair metalers in Spandex.
Of course, Cohen was no stranger to rock-star behavior. In his role at Warner Music, he’d shared private jets with Fleetwood Mac, received home visits from Prince and witnessed firsthand the Sex Pistols’ breakup.
With Van Halen, he spent huge chunks of time with them during their late-’70s and early-’80s glory years, in tour buses, hotel rooms, radio station green rooms and backstage, where he was given the duty of distributing backstage passes to the cutest girls in the audience. “Sixty or 70 of them would show up backstage,” Cohen says, “and then there was the usual casting call.”
If this sounds sleazy, it was; the band members would determine a dozen or so of this group worthy of the “semi-finals” (Cohen’s words), at which point about half would be invited back to the hotel to party. Next, “the portable bar was rolled in, and an all-nighter took place,” he says.
It’s fair to say Cohen was unprepared for this seemingly nonstop bacchanal. Originally from Cleveland, he preferred a casual uniform of jeans and T-shirts and, rather than feathered bangs, sported short hair and a mustache. These days Cohen lives in the Hollywood Hills, and on the occasion of the band’s latest tour — which hits Staples Center on June 1 and June 9 — and comeback album, A Different Kind of Truth, he reminisced about his time with the act in the bad old days, at the height of their fame and decadence.
Read the rest of the awesome article written by Michael Wilton here: ww.laweekly.com/van-halen