Following the darkest, most serious album in VH's career to date, the release of a cover version of "(Oh) Pretty Woman" as a single in early 1982 prompted the band to throw together Diver Down in the space of two weeks, which became the least substantial record in the band's career, yet much like the single rocketed up the charts. This was the original Attack of the Killer B's, so eat your heart out, Anthrax…except that everyone in Van Halen - minus Dave - thought it was D-level material.
But the band was on such a roll that their D-league material was still really entertaining. By no means is it substantial, but it is short run-time wise (a stark 31 minutes), and a real grab bag of cheap tricks, no pun intended. I used to think it was a complete Dave-fest, but there are just as many Eddie highlights to be found on this one - it's just that he is not throwing down the absolute killer solos, riffs, or even the unfolding layers of psychological darkness that we heard from the previous record - this is more like Ed fooling around in his home garage or hotel room, saying, "look what I can do here! And here! And here, too!"
Anyway, let's move on to the songs and see where we can find some appreciation of this comparatively light-weight material.
A1 "Where Have All the Good Times Gone!" - I honestly think any songs from The Kinks I know through Van Halen. Well, not every song - since they never covered "Paranoia" or "Come Dancing". Anyway, a decent, if expected start for this record.
A2 "Hang'em High" - Reminds me of something from Van Halen II or Women and Children First, and apparently it dates back to around of the time of the debut album. It sounds like it.
A3 "Cathedral" - See the point above about Eddie and messing around on his guitar for the hell of it.
A4 "Secrets" - This was a candidate to be on the Fair Warning album. I actually think it's a slight bit better than say, "Push Comes to Shove".
A5 "Intruder" - When more music was required to beef up "Pretty Woman", this track was the result.
A6 "(Oh) Pretty Woman" - I never knew this, because I never saw it before, but there was a video for this song and it was banned by MTV - one of the first to garner this distinction! DLR directed the video. Maybe when I get some time I will watch the thing. Anyway, the song itself is one of those kitschy, of-its-time deals, IMHO. The biggest VH single to date, but not one of my favorites from the band.
B1 "Dancing in the Street" - Speaking of "of-its-time" deals, this had to be a total DLR thing, although the weird effect you hear in the background is Eddie playing a synthesizer with an echoed guitar. I just can never get over how close to disco this one sounds. Just not one of their better moments, but it was fun to hear when I was little!
B2 "Little Guitars (Intro)" - The short acoustic lead-in for "Little Guitars".
B3 "Little Guitars" - I really like this one because it's the one place on the record where Dave's crazy spontaneous idea and Eddie's spontaneous idea come together, share the same space, and form one coherent, near-magical piece which could stand proudly next to any track on the proper albums.
B4 "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)" - Dave got the inspiration for this after hearing an old Vaudeville tune. He even got the Van Halen brothers father, Jan, to play clarinet on this track. It's goofy, but catchy as hell.
B5 "The Full Bug" - More showbusiness from DLR, with everyone else along for the ride.
B6 "Happy Trails" - How the heck else would you expect this one to end?