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‘Runnin’ with the Devil’ … and with Van Halen

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Michael Anthony (left), Valerie Bertinelli and Eddie Van Halen are shown while on the band's iconic "1984" tour. Michael Anthony (left), Valerie Bertinelli and Eddie Van Halen are shown while on the band's iconic "1984" tour. (photo courtesy of Noel Monk/ Dey St. Books)

Band’s former manager reveals all in shocking new book

As road manager for Van Halen during their first national tour in 1978, Noel E. Monk proved to the guys, and to Warner Bros. Records, that he had what it took to lead the fledgling Pasadena-based band to the top. Beginning in 1979, Monk became their full-time manager, an all-encompassing, life-altering position which consumed him for the next six years.

As Monk reveals in a new book, being the manager of one of the most unmanageable bands of all time provided him a front-row seat for rock’s wildest ride.

Formerly a stage manager at the 1969 Woodstock festival and later Bill Graham’s right-hand man at the Fillmore East in New York City, he was also tour manager for The Sex Pistol’s only U.S. tour. Monk shepherded Van Halen from regional popularity to eventual global domination.

For the first time, the unadulterated true story of Van Halen has been told from an insider in Monk’s new book “Runnin’ With the Devil: A Backstage Pass to the Wild Times, Loud Rock, and the Down and Dirty Truth Behind the Making of Van Halen” (HarperCollins), co-authored with Joe Layden. It’s one of the most fascinating and fast-paced rock reads of recent memory.

From Van Halen’s fledgling early days when they would play backyard barbecues for extra exposure to the drug-fueled debauchery and greed which triggered the end of the band as we knew them, Monk’s book brings the story of Edward and Alex Van Halen, David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony into focus, with shocking details that have never been shared before.

Noel E. Monk checked in with The Maine Edge to talk about his new book.

TME:  In your book, you write that you haven’t spoken with any member of the band since you parted ways in 1985. Do you know if any of them have read your book?

Monk: I don’t know if Edward can read. He’s one of the most brilliant guitar players in history but he’s not the brightest guy in the world. We never allowed him to do a radio interview. We always let him sleep through his hangovers.

David is a sharp guy and I’m sure he’s read the book. Al? I don’t know what that jerk is doing. Michael is a sweetheart and I’m sure that he and (his wife) Sue have read the book. I always wished I could have helped Michael but there was nothing I could do.

(Note: Monk is referring to the fact that Eddie, Alex and David cut bassist Michael Anthony out of band royalties in 1984, essentially making Anthony a “hired hand” instead of a full-fledged member of Van Halen).

TME: Other than the fact that Eddie wants his son (Wolfgang) in the band, why do you think Van Halen continues to shun Michael Anthony today?

Monk: That is a really good question. You’ve got Edward Van Halen – this incredible guitar player – who is talking down Michael! Michael’s a bass player and he’s a nice guy. Why does Edward have to even mention him? He is so stupid. That’s why we wouldn’t let him talk. He doesn’t think. If Al (Alex Van Halen) weren’t Edward’s brother, he would have gone before Michael. Michael’s voice was brilliant. Al never wrote a song. The only reason Al is still there is because his small wee-wee is tied to Edward’s. He’s one of the people who instigated cutting Michael out of the band.

TME: You write at length about Van Halen’s substance abuse, including the story of Eddie’s personal dealer who would fly all over the world to provide him with the highest quality cocaine on the 1984 tour. The band was at their peak but they were a mess. Did you ever consider staging an intervention? 

Monk:  You’ve got to be kidding (laughs). Like I never did drugs? I never did them to the extent that they did, but I’m no angel. All I can say is that it wouldn’t have worked. They all would have laughed at me. I would have laughed at me too. Everyone was doing it. Not just in rock and roll. Wall Street was doing it. It was everywhere, not just in rock and roll.

TME: One of the take-aways from your book that I appreciate is that, in addition to it being a page turner full of wild stories about one of the most successful bands of all time, it’s also kind of a guide for how not to operate your band or your life.

Monk: Exactly. I wrote this book not just so everyone will finally know what really happened with Van Halen, but I wrote it for everyone in the music business so they can learn what NOT to do. Trust me. If you do what they do in this book, it WILL kill you and it WILL destroy your band.

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