Browse by Title
A B C D E F G
H I J K L M N
O P Q R S T U
V W X Y Z #  




(Oh) Pretty Woman

by

Van Halen



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Roy Orbison first recorded this in 1964. Along with "Where Have All The Good Times Gone," "Dancing in the Street," "Big Bad Bill," and "Happy Trails," this was one of 5 covers on the album. Van Halen made an album a year from 1978-1983, and their constant touring made it difficult to write new songs.
The promo clip from this song was the first concept video Van Halen made. With MTV launching on August 1, 1981 and desperate for new Rock videos, the network convinced the band's label to make a clip for "Unchained." The band had no interest in videos, but when the producer Robert Lombard put together concert footage to make the "Unchained" clip, the band loved the results and had Lombard to the video for "(Oh) Pretty Woman," which was a tawdry affair. It was very costume intensive, with David Lee Roth dressed as Napoleon, Eddie Van Halen as a cowboy, Alex Van Halen as Tarzan, and Michael Anthony a Samurai Warrior. The band wanted to be as outrageous as possible, and Lombard obliged, enlisting two midgets and a drag queen to appear in the video, and making sure the band had access to their drugs and alcohol of choice. At the end of the video, the midgets are seen fondling the "woman," who flips her wig to reveal that she is a he. MTV aired the video sparingly, as they didn't want to scare cable companies away with anything too lascivious.
Van Halen recorded this after completing their 1981 "Invasion" tour. They put it out as a single a few months before the album was released.
This was released at a time when the band was not touring or recording. It was the first break they took since hitting the road in 1978 to support their first album, and they put this out so people wouldn't forget them.
After this came out, Sasson jeans (it was the '80s, designer jeans were cool) used the original Roy Orbison version in a TV commercial.
An a cappella version of the Dale Evans classic "Happy Trails" was released as the B-side. Van Halen wanted something easy to record so they could start their vacations.
Van Halen
Van Halen Artistfacts
More Van Halen songs
More songs that were adapted from R&B songs
More songs that were banned by MTV

Comments (13):

I totally agree with Kyle, Anna, OH; remakes shouldn't be rehashes...make it your own! Some of my favorite remakes are completely different from the originals.
- Karen, Manchester, NH
The lead-in to this song is one of the most innovative, unorthodox guitar instrumental intros I have ever heard. It's in the same class as the best of Jimi Hendrix. It demonstrates why Eddy Van Halen was considered one of the "best guitarists in the world" at that time-- other critics words... not mine. I think it is a musical milestone-- it is almost a surprise when the lead guitar actually breaks into the familiar melody of Roy Orbison's song. I believe that Eddie is in the same class as Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck-- awesome company.
- Richard, Kingston, ON
Actually, the only reason "Intruder" got recorded was because the video for the song was too long, and they needed filler music that would somehow maintain the mood. DLR forgot an entire verse while recording it. And Roy Orbison claimed his career was revived by Van Halen recording the song.
- David, Mayag├╝ez, Puerto Rico
Actually the reason they recorded so many covers in the Roth era was the fact that Roth liked doing covers. If you pick up any article from that time period his idea was there are so many great songs out there why come up with all new ones each album. I remember reading that more then one time back then. If you think about it what did he do when he was first out of VH. He recorded a 4 song ep " Crazy From The Heat". All songs were covers on that.
- Chris, fort worth , TX
Classic rock radio stations often play "Intruder", the track before "Pretty Woman" on the "Diver Down" album, as an introduction to "Pretty Woman"
- Keith, san anselmo, CA
Edward is the king. Although the band missed the second line that begins with "...cause I need you..." by only playing the progression once, while Orbison does the progression twice. The band later said "oops".
- Ira, Ft. Mac, Canada
Sorry to all the people out there who think that a heavy metal bands cover should sound exactly like another singers song. When a band takes a song to cover it and make it their own, it's supposed to sound like it's their song. Great original song, and great cover!!!
- Kyle, Anna, OH
I don't like this cover at all. The vocals seem strained...it just comes nowhere near to Orbison.
- John, Millersville, MD
Van Halen's cover is certainly very unique, and very good, but I still like the original better.
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
The lead-in to this song was a spooky guitar and synthesizer instrumental called "Intruder". Its creepiness adds an unusual dimension when combined with "Pretty Woman".
- Kent Lyle, Palo Alto, CA
Van Halen's best cover and probably one of the best covers ever. The way Eddie's guitar rings throughout is fantastic!
- Tom, Trowbridge, England
The lyrics I posted where the original ones WRITTEN by Ray Orbison. Note that it ends with "Pretty woman, walking back to me" as opposed to the one used in recordings: "Is she walking back to me? Yeah, she's walking back to me"
- Brett, Edmonton, Canada
Orbison wrote the song, which became "Oh, Pretty Woman", with Bill Dees. However he earlier wrote another song with the same title ("Pretty Woman") with Joe Melson and Ray Rush. That version of "Pretty Woman" was recorded by Curtis Byrd & the Joe-Rag Singers on the Candix label (#340) in 1962.
- Fred, Summit, NE
You have to to post comments.
Janis Ian: Married in London, but not in New YorkJanis Ian: Married in London, but not in New York
Can you be married in one country but not another? Only if you're part of a gay couple. One of the first famous singers to come out as a lesbian, Janis wrote a song about it.
Angelo Moore of FishboneAngelo Moore of Fishbone
Fishbone has always enjoyed much more acclaim than popularity. Angelo might know why.
Randy NewmanRandy Newman
Newman makes it look easy these days, but in this 1974 interview, he reveals the paranoia and pressures that made him yearn for his old 9-5 job.
Marvin GayeMarvin Gaye
Did Marvin try out with the Detroit Lions? Did he fake crazy to get out of military service? And what about the cross-dressing?