Flat White

Death of a feminist

10 October 2020

4:00 PM

10 October 2020

4:00 PM

I have written before about Hot for Teacher.  The Van Halen guitar rock megahit was a touchstone for cultural norms in the 1980s at a time when the notion of something being a norm still existed rather than requiring therapy or a documentary being made about your parents 

As somebody else put it, Van Halen was America’s British Invasion except they were from Pasadena. They took everything else that The Beatles did to change popular music and turned it into something else that George Martin hadn’t thought of. 

And this week cames the news that band founder and legendary rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen has died. The genius behind Hot for Teacher and other seminal hits like Jump and the Girl from Ipanema has unstrapped the still burning Frankenstrat and gone to rock and roll heaven. Just think, if it weren’t for Van Halen we would never have had Loverboy or Foreigner. They were the band that made Eye of the Tiger possible. 

Eddie was McCartney to David Lee Roth’s Lennon. Roth’s leg kicks as innovative as anything on Revolver, his personal Strawberry Fields as his parachute panted ankle rose up to his ear and he pivoted in mid-air. Dave was the soundtrack of an aerobicized generation in his deconstructed use of the microphone stand that foreshadowed the introduction of pole dancing as an Oprah-sanctioned feminist statement for mummy bloggers on their lunch break.  The Female Eunuch realized as floor bolts and reinforced aluminium.  

And Eddie thrashing that guitar was right beside him.  

Eddie and Dave led a collective 1980s postmodern pop movement that focused on the Three Bigs — Big Hair, Big Ballads and Big Balls. Their sexuality as unkempt as their haircuts, their lifestyles as dysfunctional as Michael Jackson’s monkey Bubbles before, like Whitney he decided the children were his future. 

It’s hard to overstate Van Halen’s influence across the pop music military-industrial complex. Bands like REO Speedwagon and Genesis were mere try-hards unable to achieve these stratospheric FM-friendly heights. Some like Phil Collins pushed back, turning himself into a bald bank manager singing insipid versions of 1960s Motown hits as his protest against the fabulous Eddie and Dave big hair locks. A kind of prog-rock reject with a synthesizer and LA mortgage. Sting just took up masturbation. 

Best known for its iconic Fellini-inspired cinema verite black and white film clip, Hot for Teacher is a song that could not be made in this age of PC conformity. Binary in the sexual desires it explores and deeply heterosexual in its unfulfilled AFL-player man-child neediness, the film clip shows the apparently ‘hot’ female teacher and the affect she has on the song’s hero, the glasses and bow tie-wearing Waldo  

Indeed Waldo asks, ‘What do you think the teacher’s gonna look like this year?’ as before his eyes she transforms from bookish school teacher to sash wearing pageant queen dancing on the school desks like Drag Story Time at the Northcote library. Waldo’s journey is a powerful tale of inclusion.

In a Federal Budget week where clearly the budget isn’t gendered enough, Eddie’s death as a committed feminist is timely. But really, what is a woman these days anyway? According to the new ARL guidelines, its anyone who knows how to correctly lay a tackle. Like Waldo, the femocracy, the Mamamia editorial team and Jane Caro — who apparently still lives in Australia despite the quarantine bubble — all wonder ‘‘what do you think the budget’s gonna look like this year?’’

Hot for Teacher atomized 1980s culture with its rampant heterosexuality, bullying consumerism, sash wearing extreme capitalism and over-engineered haircuts. We should thank Van Halen for their service and go out and buy a record.  

Or as Dave sang to Eddie’s full-throttle Frankenstrat before leaving to sing old Beach Boy classics: 

I’ve got it bad, got it bad, got it bad

I’m hot for teacher


Oh, a-yes I’m hot


Vale Eddie Van Halen. 

Michael Scammell used to have Eddie Van Halen’s haircut. He writes at https://mdswords.wordpress.com and Tweets at @MichaelScammell.

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