Recreating Van Halen’s Iconic First Album at Sunset Sound with Teenage Musicians

Van Halen’s first iconic album took just 7 months from it’s release to become certified platinum and has since sold over 10 million copies. The album was made at Sunset Sound Studio One in 1977, was released in 1978 and took the band just 3 weeks to record.  Every song was recorded live, with minimal overdubs.  It was the goal of the recording engineer Don Landee to capture their raw live performance on the recording.  According to Landee, “Running with the Devil” and “Jamie’s Cryin” were done in one take.

We pulled the tracking sheets from the Sunset Sound archives, used the same microphones, placed the Los Rios Rock School/Teacher Zone students and their instruments in the room as closely as we could replicate, and had them record the entire album in one day. 

Right before finishing the album recording, the very last thing that we did was to record the car horn sound that folklore [and Sunset Sound’s studio manager] tells us you can hear at the beginning of “Running with the Devil”  It was 2am in the parking lot when we recorded it the same way the band did [later reversing just it like the original].  To record the car horn, we used an AKG 414 outside, ran a long cable back into the studio, surrounded the mic with several cars, and at the count of 3 everyone blew their horns! It was an amazing way to finish up this project and get a fun insight into what it was like to make the original record.

Check out this video of the Los Rios Rock School students recording the opening track from Van Halen 1, “Running with the Devil.”

P.S. At the beginning of the video we have a shot of us capturing the recording those car horns!

  • Vocals:  Dylan Dusablon
  • Backup Vocals: Sophie Martin
  • Backup Vocals: Drew Gordinier
  • Guitar Lead: Will Weiss
  • Guitar Rhythm: Conner Altwein
  • Bass:  Ryan Poppenhagen
  • Drums: Thomas Lowrey
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I also need to tell you that we are having an amazing deal on every course we have ever released for sale in our Everything Bundle,  going on right now through labor day.  You can get them all for $297 and save over $1300 off of the normal price.  But, it’s only for this weekend, and we are limiting it by only selling 79 copies! Get it, before it’s gone!

Have a marvellous time recording and mixing,