Van Halen engineer reveals band were “disappointed” with debut LP: “It’s not what they had in their mind when they came in to do the record”

“What we got on tape for 1984 was much more to Alex’s liking.”

Donn Landee, the engineer for Van Halen’s self-titled debut album, reveals that the band were “disappointed” with how the record had turned out.

While the LP is often hailed as one of the greatest debut records in rock, Landee tells Tape Op magazine that the members weren’t the happiest with the way the album ended up sounding.

The feedback came as a surprise to Landee, who says that the band did not voice such concerns during the recording process.

“They were extremely quiet. We didn’t hear anything about [the sound of the album] until well after Van Halen was out,” he explains. “They were disappointed; it’s not what they had in their mind when they came in to do the record.”

“But Al told me we got it [right] later on. What we got on tape for ‘1984’ was much more to his liking.”

During the chat, Landee also addresses Michael Anthony’s comments on how Van Halen wanted to sound like Montrose (whom Landee engineered for) and were thus happy to work with him and producer Ted Templeman.

“The Montrose and Van Halen debuts sound really very different,” he says. “With Montrose, we did overdubs. We would do two or three [tracks] of Ronnie’s guitars. With Van Halen, they played it and we were done. That’s the way most of that first album [was recorded].”

“There are some songs that have some [guitar] overdubs, but not many. We did the Van Halen albums on 24-track, but we could have done them on 16-track. I don’t think we ever filled up the tracks. That’s the reason why when we built 5150 for [recording] 1984, I did not buy a 24-track. We went with a 16-track machine.”

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