Song Spotlight: ‘Dreams’ by Van Halen

Tiger Media Network

Line-up changes are very common in famous bands. Whether it’s due to creative differences, wanting to move on to other things, or a tragic case of losing a band member, having a new member join a band happens a lot more than you might think. Typically, if it’s a guitarist or drummer, it may not be that significant, although there are certainly exceptions. However, it is a different case entirely when it comes to replacing singers. 

One of the best examples of this transition is Van Halen. A massive powerhouse of the late 70s through to the early 90s, hard rock would be defined by the impeccable and undeniable guitar work of the late great Eddie Van Halen, whose incredible lead and rhythm guitar playing, combined with his famous tapping technique, would influence rock and metal music in a major way. Another defining part of the band was lead singer David Lee Roth. 

While far from the greatest singer, Roth had an undeniable stage presence and made an excellent frontman, attributing quite a bit to the band’s style and image. However, in 1985, Roth left the band due to creative differences with Eddie. Shortly after, the band found a suitable replacement: Sammy Hagar, who in comparison to Roth, sported an incredible set of vocals, and would mark a distinctive change in the band’s style. This change could be felt on Van Halen’s 1986 album, “5150”.

While the change to a more synth-heavy sound proved to be controversial among fans, the album led to some absolutely great songs, such as “Why Can’t This Be Love,” “5150,” “Summer Nights,” and today’s Song Spotlight and in my opinion, a classic of the 80s: “Dreams.” 

Initially formed in 1973, Van Halen has become one of the most beloved and well-recognized hard rock bands. Of course, you can’t talk about the band without talking about the man himself, Eddie Van Halen. Considered by many (including me) to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time, his influence can be felt throughout the entirety of rock and metal music, thanks in large part to his iconic tapping technique; perfectly showcased on the iconic “Eruption.” Alongside drummer and Eddie’s older brother Alex Van Halen, bassist Michael Anthony, and David Lee Roth, the band released a string of highly acclaimed albums before Roth departed from the band after their massive sixth album, “1984”. 

Sammy Hagar served as the new lead singer from 1985 to 1996. Extreme frontman Gary Cherone briefly served as the band’s singer for the much-maligned “Van Halen III”, before the band went on hiatus. Michael Anthony would be fired from the band in 2006, being replaced by Eddie’s son, Wolfgang. Following a hiatus and reunion tour with Roth, Eddie Van Halen sadly passed away from throat cancer in 2020, marking the end of the band and its incredible journey. 

Sammy Hagar’s first album with the band, “5150,” featured the hard rock flair fans loved, while also containing some more synth-heavy tracks, “Dreams” being such a track. The second single off “5150”, Dreams reached number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100, and became a concert staple during that time. Even if fans were divided on the new direction, “Dreams,” in my eyes, still stands as one of the group’s best songs. 

The song begins with an instantly recognizable synth line, accompanied by Eddie Van Halen on the acoustic guitar. It soon transitions from acoustic to electric guitar, with the whole band joining before the first verse. Of course, Hagar’s vocals are a massive standout on this song, showing just how good of a singer he is, especially in comparison to Roth. Then, the chorus hits; Hagar belting out “We’ll get higher and higher!” is guaranteed to give you chills. The song continues with Hagar’s amazing vocals, and the synths, guitar, bass and drums performed expertly before Eddie Van Halen delivers one of his iconic solos.

A mixture of harmonics, great use of the whammy bar, and tapping gives you way to a short but incredibly sweet solo. As the song transitions to its last couple of minutes, Hagar continues to give it his all along with the band. Eddie finishes the song off with his guitar playing the synth intro from the beginning, complete with an amazing tap solo as Hagar’s vocals hit the final notes, with the line “And in the end, on dreams we will depend, cause that’s what love is made of.” The song concludes with gentle synth notes and an equally refrained acoustic harmony. 

The song, by all accounts, is an absolutely fantastic piece of music. Even if you’re more of a fan of the David Lee Roth era of the band, to me this song is just impossible to hate. From the always impeccable playing of Eddie, the amazing synth line, the great rhythm of Alex and Anthony, and of course, the soaring vocals of Hagar, this song deserves so much more attention. This song, in my opinion, is some of the band’s best work, and an absolutely killer song of the 80s.