On Tuesday, Van Halen premiered “Tattoo,” the first single from their comeback album with David Lee Roth, A Different Kind of Truth. And almost as soon as they did, longtime fans couldn’t help but notice that the song sounded, well, a little familiar.
In fact, the “new” song might be a re-worked version of “Down in Flames,” a track Van Halen played live in the 1970s but never actually put on an album. And listening to the two side by side, you can’t help but think those fans are right. From the chords to the chorus, “Tattoo” bears a striking similarity to the old song.
Then again, it’s not as if this is a shocking development. At their Café Wha? show last week, Van Halen debuted another “new” song, “She’s the Woman,” which actually began life as a demo recorded in the ’70s. And in an interview last year with Rolling Stone, former frontman Sammy Hagar claimed that Truth would be made up of “old outtakes,” adding: “From what I heard, they aren’t working with new material. Ed and Dave didn’t actually write new songs. They just took old stuff from previous sessions, and then maybe Dave had to go in and add vocals because they just had scat vocals or even no vocal part at all.”
While we can’t vouch for the entire album, based on “Tattoo” and “Woman,” it would appear Hagar was spot-on. Of course, as several Van Halen fans pointed out, the band have reused demos and portions of other songs in the past (their 1991 song “Top of the World” famously uses a guitar riff taken from their massive 1984 hit “Jump,” to name one example), and guitarist Eddie Van Halen reportedly has a huge back catalog of riffs to draw from. Also, as many Halen-ites stated, the band did write both songs, so they can basically do whatever they want with them. Most fans also let it be known that, frankly, they’re happy the reunited Van Halen isn’t messing with their tried-and-true formula for the new album. After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
A spokesperson for Van Halen did not respond to MTV News’ request for comment on the matter by press time.