Released: Feb. 10, 1978
Shortly after its release, Van Halen became regarded as one of rock and roll’s greatest debut albums, by both fans and critics; however, on its immediate release in February 1978 – much like Led Zeppelin’s eponymous debut – Van Halen met with mostly negative reviews from rock critics. In 1978, music critic Robert Christgau facetiously wrote, “the term [‘bar band’] becomes honorific when the music belongs in a bar. This music belongs on an aircraft carrier.” In May 1978, Rolling Stone critic Charles M. Young wrote, “Mark my words: in three years, Van Halen is going to be fat and self-indulgent and disgusting, and they’ll follow Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin right into the toilet. In the meantime, they are likely to be a big deal.”
In a retrospective review for Allmusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine said that Van Halen signified “an epochal generation shift, like [the debut albums of] Led Zeppelin, The Ramones, The Rolling Stones, or Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. The still-amazing thing about Van Halen is how it sounds like it has no fathers… Like all great originals Van Halendoesn’t seem to belong to the past and it still sounds like little else, despite generations of copycats.” In 2003, one major publication that slammed Van Halen’s debut, Rolling Stone, listed it among The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (at #415) Guitar World readers ranked it #7 on a list of the Greatest Guitar Albums of All Time.
Rolling Stone has listed this album as number 27 out of the 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time.