Finding a good Van Halen summer song is about as difficult as finding sand on the beach.

The group got their start backyard parties in and around perpetually sunny Los Angeles, and remained the living embodiment of Southern California's laid-back vibes even after becoming worldwide superstars.

When original singer David Lee Roth and the Van Halen brothers were announcing their 2007 reunion tour, he explained that their set lists would be made up of “all the songs you have been hearing blasting out of the backs of pickup trucks at Burger King over the last 20 summers." Although the group's subject matter got a bit more serious with age and the arrival of second singer Sammy Hagar, they never wandered too far from a sunny shore.

Here's our chronological list of Van Halen's 20 Best Summer Songs:

"Ice Cream Man"
From: Van Halen (1978)

David Lee Roth cruises down the block offering up heat-beating treats on Van Halen's cover of Chicago bluesman John Brim's "Ice Cream Man." That's Roth, not Eddie Van Halen, on acoustic guitar at the start of the song, too.

 

"Feel Your Love Tonight"
From: Van Halen (1978)

After first apologizing for pushing things "a little too far" in the back seat of his car, Roth pivots and tries to convince his romantic partner to make the most of the night, with help from his bandmates' gorgeous backing vocals.

 

"Dance the Night Away"
From: Van Halen II (1979)

On the first single from their second album, Van Halen toned down the pyrotechnics in favor of showing off their pop smarts and ability to create more sophisticated moods on the Latin-tinged, slightly wistful "Dance the Night Away."

 

"Bottoms Up!"
From: Van Halen II (1979)

...then again, you can't spend the whole night being deep and wistful, especially when there's a round of shots to be conquered.

 

"Beautiful Girls"
From: Van Halen II (1979)

The second single from Van Halen II finds the group taking their fans along on a beach front vacation complete with sun, sand, drinks and Roth getting shot down in flames.

 

"Could This Be Magic?"
From: Women and Children First (1980)

With Eddie Van Halen playing slide guitar and David Lee Roth on acoustic, Van Halen invited the outdoors into the recording session for this unkempt but gentle summer song, opening the studio windows and allowing a passing rainstorm to enhance the ambiance.

 

"Secrets"
From: Diver Down (1982)

With its breezy overall tone and abundance of cover songs, Diver Down is unquestionably the Van Halen album most suited for a summer family picnic. This gorgeous ballad features some of David Lee Roth's most poetic lyrics.

 

"Dancing in the Street"
From: Diver Down (1982)

Van Halen's peppy, synth-driven cover of Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street" is a lot of fun - if you don't think about the fact that it helped break up the band. Eddie Van Halen hated that his keyboard riff, which he intended to use on an original song, was co-opted for the cover. This led him to build his own recording studio and take more control over the recording of the band's next album, 1984. This left Roth feeling left out of the creative process, and things devolved from there...

 

"Little Guitars"
From: Diver Down (1982)

The surprising chart success of what was supposed to be Van Halen's time-buying stand-alone single cover version of Roy Orbison's "(Oh) Pretty Woman" meant the band were suddenly pressured by their label to record a new album in just two weeks. Eddie Van Halen hated this plan, and the five covers the band included on the album. But Diver Down also included one of his most unique and original guitar compositions in "Little Guitars," which concludes with 20 breathtaking seconds of his unaccompanied musical genius.

 

"Top Jimmy"
From: 1984 (1984)

While Roth pays loving tribute to L.A. underground rock legends Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs, Eddie Van Halen keeps his guitar tones cleaner and smoother than usual on one of 1984's more underrated album tracks.

 

"Jump"
From: 1984 (1984)

Three years after Eddie Van Halen's "Jump" keyboard riff was originally rejected by his bandmates, who wanted him to stay focused on guitar heroics, the song not only became the group's first and only chart-topping single it helped launch the pop-metal craze. Four of the band's next six singles would prominently feature keyboards.

 

Read More: All David Lee Roth-Era Van Halen Songs Ranked

"Panama"
From: 1984 (1984)

According to legend, after David Lee Roth was accused by a reporter of only writing about women, partying and fast cars, he realized that he had actually never written about the latter. Ironically, soon after correcting this oversight he was replaced as Van Halen's lead singer by the car-obsessed Sammy Hagar, author of "Trans Am" and "I Can't Drive 55."

 

"Summer Nights"
From: 5150 (1986)

Does this one really need explanation? Fun fact: "Summer Nights" is the first song Van Halen recorded with Sammy Hagar. "We started playing, and the engineer Donn Landee recorded everything we did," the singer recalled in his book Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock. "I made up the first line on the spot: 'Summer nights and my radio.' It just popped into my head the first time I heard that riff."

 

"Best of Both Worlds"
From: 5150 (1986)

For all the success and acclaim garnered by hit singles such as "Why Can't This Be Love" and "Dreams" - both of which could easily also be on this list - no song demonstrates the amazing potential of the Sammy Hagar-fronted Van Halen better than "Best of Both Worlds." The alternating soft and loud variations on the main guitar theme are a highlight of Eddie Van Halen's career, and Hagar rises to the occasion with some of the most evocative and inspirational lyrics he ever put to paper.

 

"Cabo Wabo"
From: OU812 (1988)

With lyrics inspired by a drunk person Sammy Hagar saw wobbling down the beach in his beloved beach town of Cabo San Lucas, "Cabo Wabo" found the singer and Eddie Van Halen doing their best Robert Plant / Jimmy Page impression on this seven minute-long guitar epic.

 

"Feels So Good"
From: OU812 (1988)

It's going to seem like I'm damning this song with faint praise, but on "Feels So Good" it sounds like Van Halen took over the instruments being used by the cover band at a beach resort. It might be the most by-the-numbers pop-rock song the band ever recorded but damn does it work well, largely because Sammy Hagar absolutely nails the vocal.

 

"Finish What You Started"
From: OU812 (1988)

The new-look Van Halen spent a lot of their second album hopping from genre to genre, as if they were testing out exactly what this new machine they had built could do. They broke out the cowboy hats for the country-inspired blue balls lament, with Eddie Van Halen turning in some truly inspired chicken picking during his solo.

 

"Top of the World"
From: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)

Van Halen barreled through much of their third Sammy Hagar album as if they had a chip on their shoulder, eager to prove they could still rock as hard as they used to after years of keyboard-based hits. They let up on the gas just enough to let their natural pop smarts in on "Top of the World," which begins with the guitar riff from the outro of "Jump."

 

"Once"
From: Van Halen III (1998)

Van Halen III, the group's only album with third lead singer Gary Cherone, is more frustrating than bad. It's got plenty of cool riffs and hooks, but somehow they don't seem to be edited or assembled correctly. The atmospheric "Once" is a nice exception, casting a mood perfect for a hazy summer sunset.

 

"Stay Frosty"
From: A Different Kind of Truth (2012)

Although it didn't set the world on fire like their original six albums, true Van Halen fans will always be thankful that David Lee Roth and the Van Halen brothers were able to reunite for one final studio album together. 2012's A Different Kind of Truth contains at least five or six stone-cold classics, and this spiritual sequel to "Ice Cream Man" is one of them, offering a perfect bookend to their career even if it happened far too soon for anybody's liking.

 

Van Halen Lineup Changes

Three different singers and two different bassists joined the Van Halen brothers over the years.

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