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 is a tawdry affair.
It is 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 controversial.
Speaking about the video in Creem, David Lee Roth said: "What you have is the most overblown, over-the-top home movie ever made. We did it rather like a surrealistic art project, like where they paint the picture and come back three days later and try to figure out what they meant."
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.
Karen from Manchester, NhI 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.
Richard from Kingston, OnThe 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.
David from Mayagüez, Puerto RicoActually, 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.
Chris from Fort Worth , TxActually 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.
Keith from San Anselmo, CaClassic rock radio stations often play "Intruder", the track before "Pretty Woman" on the "Diver Down" album, as an introduction to "Pretty Woman"
Ira from Ft. Mac, CanadaEdward 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".
Kyle from Anna, OhSorry 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!!!
John from Millersville, MdI don't like this cover at all. The vocals seem strained...it just comes nowhere near to Orbison.
Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScVan Halen's cover is certainly very unique, and very good, but I still like the original better.
Kent Lyle from Palo Alto, CaThe 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".
Tom from Trowbridge, EnglandVan Halen's best cover and probably one of the best covers ever. The way Eddie's guitar rings throughout is fantastic!
Brett from Edmonton, CanadaThe 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"
Fred from Summit, NeOrbison 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.