Mean Street

Album: Fair Warning (1981)
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Songfacts®:

  • David Lee Roth grew up in New Castle, Indiana, where the streets were certainly not mean, but he made his way to Los Angeles, which likely inspired his lyric about toughing it out in a desperate part of town. That's where Van Halen made their rise.

    Another Hollywood transplant from Indiana is Axl Rose, whose "Welcome To The Jungle" lyric for Guns N' Roses was inspired by the seedy areas of that town.
  • "Mean Street" is the first track on Fair Warning, Van Halen's fourth album. It came at a very creative time for the band when they were in a groove, creating an album a year with producer Ted Templeman. The song is quintessential Van Halen, opening with Eddie Van Halen doing some tapping on his fretboard - a sound he innovated. It also has the harmony vocals of Michael Anthony, a monster guitar riff from Eddie, and an interlude where David Lee Roth gets to change gears. It's this section where he evokes the name of the album:

    Somebody said "Fair warning"
    Lord, strike that poor boy down
  • "Mean Street" wasn't released as a single but became one of Van Halen's most popular album cuts and one of their live favorites. When they toured in 2012, Wolfgang Van Halen got to do some guitar dueling with his dad.

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