“Jump” is a song by American hard rock band Van Halen. It was released in December 1983 as the lead single from their album 1984. It is Van Halen’s most successful single to date, reaching number one on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song differs from earlier Van Halen songs in that it is driven by a rolling keyboard line (played on an Oberheim OB-Xa), although the song does contain a guitar solo, which was spliced together from multiple takes. David Lee Roth dedicated the song to martial artist Benny Urquidez, of whom he was a student.
The synth line was written around 1981 by Eddie Van Halen but it was refused by the other members of the band. In 1983, producer Ted Templeman asked Roth to take a listen to the unused song idea. Riding around in the back of his 1951 Mercury, with band roadie Larry Hostler driving, Roth listened repeatedly to the song. To come up with a lyric for it, he remembered seeing a television news report the night before about a man who was threatening to commit suicide by jumping off a high building. Roth thought that one of the onlookers of such a scene would probably shout “go ahead and jump”. Roth bounced this suggestion off Hostler who agreed it was good. Instead of being about a threatened suicide, the words were written as an invitation to love. Roth later told Musician magazine that Hostler was “probably the most responsible for how it came out.”
Ted Templeman recalls that “‘Jump’ was recorded at Ed’s studio. [Engineer] Donn [Landee] and Ed put the track down alone in the middle of the night. We recut it once in one take for sonic reasons. Dave wrote the lyrics that afternoon in the backseat of his Mercury convertible. We finished all vocals that afternoon and mixed it that evening”.
The song was listed by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum as one of the “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.”
Live performances of “Jump” are preceded by Eddie’s synthesizer solo “1984”. During the reunion tour with Roth, the two songs were used for the band’s encore. Roth often waved a large red flag during the synth section while the stage was still coated in dark cover lights.
According to Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates, “[Eddie] Van Halen told me that he copied the synth part from ‘Kiss on My List’ and used it in ‘Jump.’ I don’t have a problem with that at all.”
The music video for “Jump” was directed entirely by David Lee Roth himself. It is a straightforward performance clip, much like many of the hard rock videos of the time. It was nominated for three MTV Video Music Awards and won “Best Stage Performance” for the video.
The video was groundbreaking and set the standard for performance videos that directors still try to emulate. To produce such a video, the band is recorded performing the song several times from beginning to end. Then, the band members are shot doing random stage moves without the pretense of actually playing the song (note that Eddie is seen playing the guitar at times when no guitar can be heard). Some candid footage is shot with the band goofing around, and then the footage is edited into a video.
The version of the song used for the video differs slightly from the album version. During the keyboard solo prior to the final refrain, David Lee Roth is heard (and seen) yelling out. He did this during the band’s mock performance for the video’s filming, and it is believed that afterward, he overdubbed this yell especially for the video version since it is not present in the song, to begin with.
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