Before Amy Winehouse, there was Van Halen. Tabloids couldn't cook up a saga more banal yet fascinating: Eddie's on the wagon; Eddie's off the wagon. Diamond Dave's back; no, he's not. Add drama about the non-brother members (Michael Anthony's out! And playing with Sammy Hagar! Who's obscenely rich from tequila!) and continual marital strife, and one almost forgets Van Halen is/was an actual band. Given the recent tour by the (mostly) reunited original lineup, Ian Christe's biography is quite timely.
Like Sound of the Beast, Christe's history of heavy metal, Everybody Wants Some is wryly lucid. The chronological presentation starts with the Van Halens' childhood as Dutch immigrants and ends just before the recent reunion tour. In between, Christe helpfully inserts timelines of the band's various eras (David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, Gary Cherone). Color photos resurrect a visual history once lost to back issues of Circus and Hit Parader (and fully revived in Neil Zlozower's book Van Halen: A Visual History). Christe ably distills myths into facts; the story behind the brown M&M's is particularly interesting.
While heavy on facts, the book is light on psychology. An unauthorized biography, it lacks the exclusive interviews of an authorized one. Thus, while Van Halen's backstage antics were probably as sordid as Mötley Crüe's, this book is nowhere near as juicy as the Crüe's autobiography, The Dirt. Still, Christe condenses secondary sources clearly and concisely. Alex and Eddie's brotherly dynamic is evident and poignant. Roth comes across as surprisingly human, Hagar perhaps too much so, and Cherone gets a respectful nod, despite Van Halen III being essentially a frisbee.
Like many Van Halen fans, Christe favors the Roth years, yet he competently makes a case for the Hagar era (one appendix is titled "Van Hagar for Dummies"). His even-handedness yields a smoothly flowing "just the facts" presentation. Everybody Wants Some is the perfect excuse to revisit Van Halen's long, varied catalogue – preferably while reading the book. You can skip Van Halen III, though.