Me wise magic - 1996

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    • Feb 2006
    • 129

    Me wise magic - 1996


    This is one of my favorite Van Halen songs. Ed was seeing a therapist at the time - Sat-Kaur Khalsa, and he was caught up in, "New Age Thinking" at the time. Alex makes some pretty bold comments about Dave.

    Do you believe Dave was thrown out of the Warner Brothers building while discussing the video? Had the band released a video for the song, which was number 1 at the time, had they put something out, would the backlash of getting Gary in the band have been worse?

    Are you shocked that in 2000 Dave came to the table with his lawyers?

    __________________________________________________ __

    GW: So it's been easier to compose since you gave up drinking?

    VH: Yeah, but it wasn't easy to convince myself that it would be. I swore to this therapist that there was no way that she would ever get me to write without a few beers. Drinking was the one thing I would count on to help me break down my inhibitions and loosen up. She said, "Give me 12 hours." I said, "You're wasting your time, it ain't gonna work." Then she had me do some yoga and some meditation and some chanting. And then we went outside and did a bunch of weird exercises for half an hour, to the point where I almost passed out. And then she told me to close my eyes and "imagine the room that you go to after you've had a six-pack of beer. Really try and feel that place." I sat there for a couple of minutes and said, "Yeah, I'm kinda there."

    I kept my eyes closed, she handed me a guitar and I just started writing. I couldn't believe it. It only took an hour! I ended up writing five songs that day, including the music for "Me Wise Magic." It blew my mind. I just didn't want to believe I could do it without drinking. The therapist said, "Look, you've been chosen to do this, all you're doing by drinking is blocking it. It's a lot easier for them to send it when you're clear." I just refused to believe it, but she proved me wrong. And now I can't stop writing in what I now call my "room." My wife, Valerie, recently said, "The next time you see your therapist, ask her how do get out of that room and into the bedroom." [laughs]

    __________________________________________________ _____________

    GW: What was it like going to Dave's house for the first time?

    EVH: We just had a great time bullshitting as friends. We hung out for about three hours and smoked some cigars. It was only about two weeks later when I realized that the only new track that we had for the Greatest Hits was "Humans Being," that I came up with the crazy idea of having Dave sing on a couple of new songs. We thought about it for a couple of days and said, "Yeah why the fuck not?" So I called up Dave and said, "Would you be interested?" And he said "Sure, I'm not doing anything." I was very clear that he was not in the band--that it was just a project. What I wanted to do was write five new songs and pick two out of those five. We had a bit of difficult time because we wrote a song for him that he didn't particularly care for. It wasn't up his alley. So we got past that and Glen Ballard and I sat down with Dave, and I okayed with him all this new material I had. Eventually we narrowed down to this pop song, "Me Wise Magic," and a shuffle, "Can't Get This Stuff No More," with a "Panama" sort of groove.

    "Me Wise Magic" has a line in it, "I know what you're thinking," which Dave felt uncomfortable with. He said, "That bit sounds so angry; it's just not me. People want to hear Dave sing." But I thought it was majestic; it takes you on a roller coaster because there are so many changes. I nicknamed it "The Three Faces of Shamus," because there is that first low part, the high part, and then the chorus. All three have completely different vibes going on. At first he wasn't into that one at all. A week later, I was still playing him songs when finally he said, "What about the first one?" So, finally, he came around and realized that it wasn't as dark and angry as he originally thought.

    During the process, Dave and I were really becoming good friends. In my heart I really wanted to believe that he had changed a bit. We worked and we worked and he actually thanked me for hanging in there with him. It was a struggle to find anything that would inspire him and that he could connect to. Finally, we came up with the other song, and Glen suggested the title and it's premise. Dave came up with the lyrics, and it worked. Dave said, "Thanks, because anyone else would have probably thrown up their arms and said fuck it." And I said, "Well, you're a trooper, however long it takes and whatever. It's all about making it a good song. There's no time frame here; it doesn't have to be done tomorrow. I just wanted to find something you liked, and I'm glad I found one."

    GW: What gear setup did you use on the most recent tracks?

    EVH: The meat and the beef of the sound is the 5150. And I did experiement with some new stuff--I used a talk box on "Can't Get This Stuff No More," but Matt Bruck [Bruck, Van Halen's guitar tech] actually ran it for me. My mouth wasn't big enough or something because when I tried it, it just sounded like a wah-wah. I played and then we added it later with Matt doing it through a re-amp or whatever you call it. On "Me Wise Magic" I'm using the protoype Peavey with the Steinberger tremolo.

    __________________________________________________ ____

    GW: What can you tell us about the new tracks with David Lee Roth? How did you compose "Me Wise Magic?"

    VH: That was just one of almost 20 songs I'd written in the previous couple of months. I played it for Dave, and at first he didn't care for it. Alex and I had already written a verse melody, and Dave wanted to do something where he sang more. But after playing 15 other pieces of music for him, we still couldn't find anything that inspired him. After thinking about it, he decided he wanted to go back to "Me Wise Magic." And I went, "Okay, cool." At the time he thought it sounded angry, but I convinced him that the verse melody didn't sound angry, it just sounded like some kind of strange creature. And the chorus was undeniably majestic and powerful. That song has major imagery for me. There are so many vibes to it: the verse is one thing, the chorus is another, and then there's the breakdown before the solo, the solo, and the whole fadeout. It's a ride!

    __________________________________________________ ___

    "We had already jammed with Dave," claims Alex, "and it was like he never left... he hadn't changed. He had brought down a dozen palm trees to the studio to create a mood; now that's an artist!" Shortly thereafter, the two new studio tracks, including the incredible single "Me Wise Magic," were cut. Here's where the difficulties start to mount... "We all know David isn't the greatest singer," Alex said, "and you have to admire his work ethic, he was in the studio everyday pushing himself. But in all reality it only took us three takes, just a few minutes to nail a good performance, and it took Dave two and a half weeks to get the vocals together to Glen Ballard's (the producer) approval."

    __________________________________________________ __

    DLR (Crazy From the Heat)

    Trouble is, you can’t sing an unwritten song. You can’t build muscles on an unwritten song. The lyrics aren’t in place. You don’t know what the next lyric is, and I’m not going to know what the next lyric is, and I’m not going to know until the producer is in there. He’s going to earn his percentage, because he’s going to make as much as me in the end. So let’s have some of that melodic expertise, Cool.

    Work on some plays that you already know, guys, that’s how you build the team. But when we actually began rehearsing I was banished to a storeroom in the back of the studio, a windowless cement box where I could see nothing and hear nothing except over my headsets. They would push a button to talk to me. They would run through these new songs and I would sing along back there in my cement bunker.

    So I bought in five potted palm trees and some clamp lights, oranges and yellows, and I made a little Club Dave with a big glass ashtray I stole from a British hotel.

    Hey, if I’m working Ice Station Zebra I’m gonna make it comfortable. Al right, this is a test. God and his five angels are testing me. The potted palms. Oh, my God. Alex screaming at Big Ed as they bring these things in. My guys take pride in their stuff because it’s colorful, it’s eccentric. We built an oasis, and we said all were invited. Where do you think the crew hung out when we took a break? Club Dave.

    “What the fuck is this Goddamn fucking bullshit! We’re motherfucking forty year olds. What is this fucking palm tree horseshit? This is fucking work man! This is motherfucking business, okay?” That’s Alex Van Halen speaking.

    And I stay cool. I start showing up with my lyrics and they’re dismissed out of hand, one right after another. Edward Van Halen would hold the paper in front of his face, stare right into the middle and go, “I don’t know.”

    Edward doesn’t read. It’s a muscle he doesn’t use. He can’t read a whole set of my lyrics in seven seconds. Some of my stuff you’ll still be figuring out seven years later, you know? So first Edward puts me in a room where I’ve got to make my own environment, now he’s looking at the middle of a page, lookin’ to put the thumb on me.

    Now both Edward and Alex are demanding rewrites: a brand new addition to the process. We’re getting ready to record, the producer is just now showing up, and they walk in with Desmond Childs, some character who writes lyrics for Bon Jovi. They had written a whole song, lyrically and melodically, over the telephone: the producer, Glenn Ballard, Edward Van Halen and Desmond Childs. They brought it in, said, “Sing this.”


    AUGUST 20th, 1996
    New Tracks Completed

    Van Halen, with David Lee Roth on lead vocals, finished recording the two new tracks to be included on the upcoming Greatest Hits album on Friday August 2, 1996. The first new track is titled Me Wise Magic and has been described as "different" and "really heavy". The title of the second track was unknown until today. The second new track with Dave is titled Can't Get This Stuff No More. Mixing on the new tracks began on Monday, August 5 1996.

    Radio: What was it like recording Me Wise Magic.

    EVH: He was a trooper! Granted you know- he hadn't sang in 7 months. He was a trooper, and and he did actually... thanked me for hanging in there, he said anyone else would've thrown up their arms up and said forget it! You know?

    MA: He did work real.. very hard at it.

    EVH: And he worked very hard. But it was uh...It took 3 takes, 15 minutes to do the music, and 2 and a half weeks to do the vocal, but we got it out of him, and the record is smokin'!


    SEPTEMBER 17th, 1996
    Howard Stern plays Me Wise Magic

    Howard Stern has done it again! Somehow he obtained a pre-release DAT copy of the new Van Halen track Me Wise Magic and played a snippet of it on his radio show this morning.
    I've been jumping all day after hearing the new track!! Yes folks, Dave really is back. Van Halen are rocking like there's no tomorrow. Eddie's guitar never sounded so good. Expect to hear the track on radio from October 4.


    NOVEMBER 1st, 1996

    Van Halen Debut At #1

    Warner Bros Records report that over 233,000 copies of the new Van Halen album were sold in its first week of release in the U.S.A., making it the third Van Halen album in a row to debut at Number 1. Second and third place on the chart were new releases from Westside Connection and Journey whose albums sold around 145,000 copies each. The 1995 release Balance sold 295,000 copies in it's first week when it also debuted at Number 1.

    Me Wise Magic is also Number 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for the third week in a row!


    NOVEMBER 17th, 1996

    In other news, Van Halen's Best Of Volume 1 album continues to sell well in the USA. In its third week on the Billboard Album Chart, the album placed in the Top 10 once again, coming in this week at Number 6. Me Wise Magic is still Number 1 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.


    Mike: That is a great song, by the way.
    Drew: Yeah, that was a great song.

    Eddie Van Halen: Thank you. But uh... the first song was Me Wise Magic. Granted Dave had not sang for a couple of months and he was a little rusty... it took a little longer than expected to get the song out of him. Ya know, the whole performance. But he was a trooper and ya know he did a great job. When he was done with that song and uh... I said you know should we do another one? And he goes "Wow!" This is like the first and only time that he has ever thanked me in all the years I have known him. He said...ya know" Ed, I appreciate this so much man," ya know, "anyone else would have just thrown their arms up in the air and said," ya know, "that is enough get the f...[censored] out of here." Bleep that out.....

    Mike: It's fixed.

    Eddie Van Halen: The "f" word [laughs]... But ya know, he even quote said "Hey, if it all ends tomorrow at least we are friends now."

    Drew: Wow...

    Eddie Van Halen: "...and at least I got to do it with you guys again" And so, I really thought we were friends. And ya know, that was the first thing that went out the window. It just blew me away, I was depressed for like two weeks after that MTV.

    Mike: Oh yeah, that MTV. We saw that, wow....

    Eddie Van Halen: Ya know, then he goes on to say that the only reason we did the MTV thing was for some sort of publicity stunt. That was not it at all. We were asked to do it and he was the one that was all up for it. I was the one that really did not want to go because I missed Wolfie's first day of school.

    __________________________________________________ ______________________


    Road: Did you hear the two songs with Roth- Me Wise Magic & Can't Get This Stuff No More? What was your opinion of them?

    Hagar: "I didn't think it was worth breaking the band up for (laughs). But, it wasn't bad. When I first heard, 'Me Wise Magic,' I thought it was some bad ass music. I would have liked to tear that fucker up. The other one was a reject from Balance, that I wrote with Eddie, called, 'The Backdoor Shuffle.' They totally stole the melody in the chorus from my original. I just made one phone call and Ray Danniels overnighted me a check for $35,000, saying he was sorry. These guys don't have any class anymore."

    WW: Do you think one of the reasons they ditched him is because as soon as they got him back, they thought, "Hey, now we remember why we were glad to be rid of him in the first place"?

    Hagar: Totally. But it was a little bit of a trick in the first place. It was like, "Fuck, let's try it, and if it works, let's go for it." And when it didn't work, they didn't go for it. They thought it was going to be the biggest thing since sliced bread, getting David Lee Roth back. They figured, "Sammy don't matter. We'll get all the old fans back and we'll be bigger than God." This is what they were thinking. But those two new songs they did [on Greatest Hits, Volume 1] were shit. Those were the worst songs Van Halen made in twenty years. And let me give you another piece of information about one of them, "Can't Get This Stuff No More." I wrote that song with Van Halen. It was an outtake from Balance [released in 1995].

    WW: And they didn't give you a song credit?

    Hagar: They rewrote the lyrics and they used some of my melody, but no, they didn't give me a song credit. But they paid me off like a motherfucker the first time I heard it on the radio.

    WW: You called them on it?

    Hagar: You bet I did. I was so shocked. That song wasn't good enough to be on Balance, and what I did with it was so much better than what Roth did. If I played them for you or anybody else, you would go "Wow." But they used his anyway. That's how desperate they were with this guy. I think Roth's fucking washed. So obviously they were struggling. They saw that it wasn't working, that it was a big mistake, and it was too late with me. Obviously, they weren't going to call me up and say, "Well, Sammy, we're sorry." And I wouldn't have gone for it anyway, because I was well on my way. So their manager suggested Gary Cherone, because he managed him, too.

    WW: What's the manager's name?

    Hagar: Ray Daniels. He's a piece of shit, this guy. But he's also Alex's brother-in-law, and he managed Extreme, which shows you what a great manager he was. And when the Roth thing fell apart, he's like, "I've got a guy." The whole thing just reeks of bullshit.

    __________________________________________________ _________________


    "There's things you can do in the studio that you can't do live," Eddie concedes, "and it's better left a memory. 'Cause if he is so concerned about the fans, he would have been there to do a video last Thursday, which he refused to do. But he would go on tour for the money, but we won't. That's not what it's about."

    Alex Van Halen:

    I'll tell you, you are very gentlemanly about the whole thing. We were going to make a video for "Me Wise Magic." We met with the director, we had a storyline, we had the whole vibe of the song. I call Dave up and he starts yelling and screaming at the top of his lungs about how he thought the video was all about bullshit. I said that if he had a problem with the concept, he should call the director, because he would be able to explain to him what it was all about. You can't expect to read something like that on a piece of paper and know exactly what it's all about. That was the last conversation that I ever had with him, I'll never talk to him again.

    Livewire: Let's not waste anymore time on Sam. So, the video with Dave isn't going to happen?

    Eddie Van Halen: Yeah. He didn't want to do it. We had this great concept, "Me Wise Magic" creates a lot of great imagery. It was going to be this cool, freak, voodoo kind of thing. He didn't want to do it. He said, "I'm not going to sit on no fucking throne, I'm not doing this shit." He went off on Al on the phone the other day. I can't believe how long Al kept his cool. He was saying, "Look, this is just a treatment, it could still be changed." And I could hear Roth screaming just standing near Al. After about five minutes of this, he just told Roth to go fuck himself. Then the head of video and the new CEO of Warner Bros. called and told us they wouldn't let him back in the building. They had no idea this guy was such a manic.

    Livewire: What do you think Dave's problem is?

    Eddie Van Halen: Look, l'm not a doctor. I never lied to him about anything. What hurts the most is what he said after recording the new songs. He said, "Even if it all ends tomorrow, at least we're friends now and I finally got the chance to play with you guys again." That's the first thing that he just threw out the window. We said, let's just start off with one song, then we said, "OK, lets do another one." He actually thanked me because I played him 15 or 20 pieces of music before he could find something that he could relate to. He thanked me for hanging in there with him because anyone else would have thrown their arms up in there air and said, "Forget it man, one song's enough!" It took two and a half weeks to just get one song out of him. I don't know what changed in his twisted mind, because I did leave the door open for future possibilities. He couldn't relate to a damn thing musically that I am writing right now, because l'm not the same guy that I was. He just shut the door on our friendship. I was depressed for a fucking week, ask my wife, I was bummed out, I couldn't believe it. I was going over and over in my head what I did wrong for this to happen.


    Three weeks went by, not a call, not a word, nothing. Finally I phoned Warner Brothers and said, "Are we doing the video for the Greatest hits package?" They say, "Yeah, we're shooting in a couple of days."

    Yeah. Can I see the treatment? Sure. Sends me this treatment, where I'm regulated to being an image on a screen in the background, while the band jams in the foreground.

    It was going to be Alex Van Halen's way of putting the thumb on the classic Van Halen legend. It's just the way he scraped the album clean of anything interesting or colorful. He was going to do that with the video. And at that point I said no, just no.
    Last edited by THE SAINT; 08-20-2015, 12:16 AM.
    • Feb 2006
    • 129




    • Von Halen

      • Dec 2003
      • 7514

      I have always thought, the guitar solo at the end of this song is one of the most fret burning runs Ed has ever laid down.


      • vandeleur
        • Sep 2009
        • 9865

        For the record I thought it was great at the time still do but after reading that has ed ever did an interview before he starts with the" poor me"
        Its starting to get like his solo spot.

        Starts with cathedral goes into poor me, a bit of mean streets then into better be wearing a cup , more poor me , widdley widdley Dave won't be my friend , eruption then poor me slight return.

        Just saying .
        fuck your fucking framing


        • Grit
          • Oct 2011
          • 109

          "But those two new songs they did [on Greatest Hits, Volume 1] were shit." - Spammy Hagar.

          "Me Wise Magic" is better than anything Van Hagar ever did Sam, most everything you did with Van Hagar was "shit"!


          • Silexxx
            Head Fluffer
            • Sep 2010
            • 269

            Originally posted by Grit
            "But those two new songs they did [on Greatest Hits, Volume 1] were shit." - Spammy Hagar.

            "Me Wise Magic" is better than anything Van Hagar ever did Sam, most everything you did with Van Hagar was "shit"!
            So he's saying that they were shitty songs and then brags about writing the melody to one of them? Hmm...

            "The Backdoor Shuffle." I can only imagine how horrible that would've been.


            • VAiN
              Use my hand, I won't look

              • Nov 2006
              • 5056

              Originally posted by Silexxx
              So he's saying that they were shitty songs and then brags about writing the melody to one of them? Hmm...

              "The Backdoor Shuffle." I can only imagine how horrible that would've been.
              Hmm, the master of subtle innuendo worked up another masterpiece... 'the backdoor shuffle' - GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK
              Originally posted by wiseguy
              That shit will welcome you in the morning and pour the milk in your count chocula for ya.


              • 78/84 guy
                Crazy Ass Mofo
                • Apr 2005
                • 2557

                I like both those song's. Hagar ?? He has Never topped Dave lyric wise. Not on a Van Halen song anyway.


                • 78/84 guy
                  Crazy Ass Mofo
                  • Apr 2005
                  • 2557

                  Great stuff SAINT. I have read some of this stuff but not everything. The shit that went down in 96 sucked. I might be on the brothers side on this one. Dave should have called the director if the story is true. It is the brothers version !! LOL !! Maybe Dave saying fuck off about the video was the last straw for them. Enter Gary.


                  • DLR Bridge

                    • Mar 2011
                    • 5471

                    There's, of course, three sides to every story. Parts of both Ed and Dave's stories have believable elements, but certainly not the whole. I can't picture Dave having a problem with the line, "I know what you're thinking". I also figured he wrote the damn line. Why was a track cut from fucking Balance a front runner for tunes to work from? Doesn't ADKOT prove that there were more useable tunes at the ready? Something also doesn't sound right about the phone call between Al and Dave regarding the ill-fated video. I just don't see Dave going ballistic over a treatment pitch. Such an unfortunate time for the fans who thought the universe was righting it's self.