The Mixed Meanings Behind One of Van Halen’s Final Hurrahs Together: “Jump”

1984, the album and the year, marked the end of an era for Van Halen. It was the final album featuring all four original members—David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, and Alex Van Halen —together on a Van Halen album when Roth left a year later.

Videos by American Songwriter

Though Roth later reunited with the band in the 2000s and appeared on the 2012 Van Halen album A Different Kind of Truth (without Anthony), 1984 marked the last time the original lineup was a unit — and for one of the most heightened moments in their career. 

[RELATED: The Meaning Behind the Van Halen Hit “Panama” May Not Be What You Think]

Perhaps strategically released on January 9, 1984 (1/9/84), the album was Van Halen’s biggest, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard 200, where it remained for three weeks. It also birthed their top 20 hits like “I’ll Wait,” “Panama” “Hot for the Teacher” and the band’s first No. 1 “Jump.” 

A Stripper and “Jumper”

Roth was known for telling some tall tales behind the meaning of “Jump.” He said he wrote the song while driving around Los Angeles in his vintage 1951 Mercury convertible.

As far as what the song was about, Roth has linked “Jump” to a stripper. He also said the song was inspired by a news story he saw about a man who was trying to jump off a building.  

Reading deeper into the lyrics, “Jump” is a song about perseverance and going for it —might as well jump — in the most difficult of times.

I get up and nothin’ gets me down
You got it tough, I’ve seen the toughest around
And I know, baby, just how you feel
You got to ro-o-oll with the punches and get to what’s real

Ah, can’t you see me standin’ here?
I got my back against the record machine
I ain’t the worst that you’ve seen
Ah, can’t you see what I mean?

Ah, might as well jump

Synth > Guitar

The album was also the first one Van Halen recorded at Eddie’s newly crafted 5150 studio, and for “Jump,” Eddie Van Halen also opted to play an Oberheim OB-Xa synthesizer over his usual guitar for most of the main parts of the song.

Roth wasn’t too keen on the choice since it was such a departure for the band, and in the end, many of the core guitar parts were replaced by synth.

Daryl Hall and John Oates

Daryl Hall said that the synth on “Jump” was directly inspired by the 1980 Hall & Oates song “Kiss On My List.”

“[Eddie] Van Halen told me that he copied the synth part from ‘Kiss on My List’ and used it in ‘Jump,’” said Hall. “I don’t have a problem with that at all.”

Roth’s Departure

Even though “Jump” was a peak in the band’s career at that point, the video also became a point of tension between them and Roth, who left the band in 1985 and was replaced by Sammy Hagar a year later.

[RELATED: The Meaning Behind Van Halen’s ‘Hot For Teacher’]

Directed by Roth and Pete Angelus, the lower-budget video for “Jump’ was produced by Robert Lombard, who wanted to show a lighter side of the band and filmed them jumping around on stage. Roth initially wanted scenes of him in more hedonistic activities cut into the video, which were later scrapped with some scenes later used in the “Panama” video.

“I didn’t shoot them together until the end of the day,” said Lombard in the 2011 Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum-penned book, I Want My MTV. “I was trying to keep the peace because I felt tension amongst them. David thought he was bigger than the rest of them.”

Best of ’84

Despite the tumult around “Jump,” the song also earned the band a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal and was listed by The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum as one of the “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.”

Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

50 Years Later, Here Are the Top 5 Songs on the Eagles’ ‘Desperado’ Album