Runnin' With The Devil

Album: Van Halen (1978)
Charted: 52 84


  • This is the first song on the first Van Halen album. It starts with a backwards blare of car horns, which was made by a contraption Eddie Van Halen put together using a bunch of horns, a car battery, and a footswitch. They used to use it when they played at clubs.
  • Van Halen included this song on a demo Gene Simmons produced for them in 1977. After seeing them in concert, Simmons flew the band to New York, bought them clothes, and set up a recording session. They didn't get a record deal out of it, but gained valuable experience.
  • Gene Simmons had the idea for the car horns at the beginning. He had the band do this on the 1977 "House Of Pain" demo he produced for them.
  • At one point, David Lee Roth says, "Goddamn it lady, you know I ain't lyin' too ya, I'm gonna tell you one time." Roth was never eloquent, but he was occasionally introspective (see "Hang 'Em High"), and even poetic (see "Secrets"). >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Doug - Appleton, WI, for above 2
  • The song contains many of the things Van Halen became famous for: David Lee Roth's squeal, Eddie's guitar solo, and Michael Anthony's backup vocals.
  • Eddie's guitar is on the cover of the album. He pieced it together using parts of different guitars until he got the sound and feel he wanted. It is striped black and white on the album, but Eddie later painted it red.
  • This was easy for the band to record because they did not use many studio tricks. They pretty much recorded what they had been playing live for years. Later Van Halen albums became much more complicated.
  • Van Halen opened concerts for Journey and Black Sabbath after releasing this album, helping it sell over 5 million copies as more people found out about them.
  • This gets constant play on classic rock radio. It was not played a lot when it first came out because nobody had heard of Van Halen, so it was never burned out.
  • Adam Sandler pretends to play this with a devil-horned blade he uses as a guitar at the beginning of the 2001 movie Little Nicky. The song also appears in the pilot for the 1999 TV series Freaks and Geeks, and in the movies Lost & Found (1999) and Ready To Rumble (2000).
  • This bears a strong resemblance to Pink Floyd's similarly titled song "Run Like Hell," particularly in the intro (one note on the bass played over and over interrupted by a guitar with echo). Both songs were released within a year of each other, so it is probably just a coincidence. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Eric - Suffern, NY
  • This was featured in a 2016 commercial for the Acura NSX that first aired during the Super Bowl.

Comments: 28

  • Brad1970 from DallasMark from Tucson: You are putting WAY too much thought into this...and wrong thoughts, at that. Van Halen is about as Satanic as a bus load of nuns! Your words are about as moronic as the idiots in the PMRC in the 80's. Oh...and it is "HANG 'EM HIGH", not "HANG HIM HIGH".
  • Atomic Chump from Syracuse, AlbaniaI laugh when I read most of the comments here and for a number of other Van Halen songs as well. Actually, the whole Songfacts site is rife with misinformation from people who really know nothing about the band, or the song etc - and who don't even bother to take the very simple step of doing a bit of research, which is not hard to do with the internet these days. If you're crazy enough to believe that the lyric is "God damn Navy, all you lifers...blah blah" whatever the hell, you might want to look at a change in your medication. Also, WHERE the heck did you get that nonsense about Dave being a radio man in the Navy? That's B.S. I've listened to a thousand interviews with and about DLR, and can call myself a connosieur of Van Halen Knowledge (Roth era only) AND NEVER have I ever heard that or saw that information anywhere. So take a chill pill and learn from the Master. Amen.
  • Steve from Trabuco Canyon, CaI believe the first time I heard Runnin' with The Devil I was on the lower level of the George Washington Bridge in New York with my 3 bothers in the back seat, me in the front seat with my mother driving. My brothers and I were all teenagers at the time and were really getting into music. When the song came on I was in control of the radio and everyone thought the car was vibrating really loud from the metal grating on the bridge we were riding on but it was really the loud bass intro I had turned-up on the song which sounded really unique. Everybody said "turn that down, what's that" and I said "I don't know but it sounds really good". I saw them play their first tour at Memorial Hall in Kansas City where they warmed-up for Journey. They kicked ass in concert!
  • Mark from Tucson, AzI live my life like there's no tomorrow, all I have I had to steal. Now who would that be about? In the ultimate sense? It's the same person van halen sing about in Hang HIM High (not 'em), "first come, fist served (worshipped), serving it back, without love"
    "He comes from nowhere, turns on his own, late for the hanging as he's headed for the moon: Hang Him High!"

    Vision of Light, (Lucifer, etc.)
    Child of the night, (The devil)
    Passing by (temporary)

    Little known song facts, but true...
    The bands that don'r publicize it, like the crue, in many cases were big devil promoters, not only in private, but in practice...
    Today everybody and his mother in heavy music is a devil something or other, and it;s funny, now, they are all poor.... I guess suckers too... But the 80's evangelists like Aerosmith and VAn Halen, did lay some important groundwork, lol
  • Mark from Tucson, AzDidn't sell well? Van halen debut went gold in 3 months, and platinum in eight, and is Diamond status US recording. The first track, also stated the bands "religious" affiliation, which can be heard also at the end of "Light Up the Sky": The chorus, reversed to sound like a reverse cymbal is "we love... satan..." which you can hear when sampled and re-reversed is a harmony. I guess that level of success and supernatural aid do sometimes go hand in hand, lol
    Runnin' with the Devil they did, for 6 lps......not 7 - there is also a superliminal in the reverb of Eddie's guitar on Mean Street, overlaying and audible (especially on an LP) in the reverb as it fades before the song begins in full....
  • Paul from Christchurch, New ZealandI'm a massive Van Halen fan and this is definitely my all time favourite song. I will NEVER forget the first time I heard this song, or more to the point, the first time I heard that unforgettable opening line ('I live my life, like theres, no tomorrow'). I got the VH1 album off a friend and mainly just wanted to skip to 'eruption'. So we were sitting on the edge of his bed and listened to runnin with the devil all the way through. I was just BLOWN away for the rest of the day, I knew from that day forward, that's how I wanna live my life! 'Runnin with the devil'? Talk about a lifestyle declaration!!
  • Cheezomlet from Sherman, CtMy favorite song of all time!
    Makes me get speeding tickets :O
  • Mark from Worcester, MiWatching you tube of their latest tour, and is it me, or is Eddie Van Halen a man amongst boys? Roth is a shadow of his former self-I know he's older but he moves without any rhythm at all-the kid bass player is just a kid, and Alex is a good drummer but with no duende. It's really a one man show IMO.
  • Brian from Richmond , VaI love the car horns and the mean bassline in this song. It is by far my favorite Van Halen song. In high school it seemed that every party I went to this song and other songs from this album were always played.

    The power chords and the heavy riffs make this a true rock and roll classic!
  • Allie from Clarkston, MiI love this song!!!
    go to Youtube and listen to the David Lee Roth Runnin with the Devil stripped version
    He sings about 5 lines and the rest is catcalls and screaming
    really funny
  • Bill from Morrisonville, NyDuh - answered my own question - "House of Pain" off of 1984, last track. Sorry...
  • Bill from Morrisonville, NyI think I remember hearing the demo a long time ago on cassette. There is a song that comes before "Runnin'" that ends with the car horns (actually it has them playing throughout the chorus sections). The horns end the song and dovetail into "Runnin"". Anyone know the name of this "lost" song?
  • Shawn from Frostburg, MdShell in Riverdale Ga.
    No, you are wrong, and so is the top of the page. At the top of this page it say that David says in the middle of the song, "Goddam it lady, You know I an't lyin to ya, I'm only gonna tell you one more time.'

    That is NOT what it says " God Dam the Navy and all of you Lifers, I'm only gonna tell you one more time"
    David Lee Roth was in fact in the Navy and he did in fact leave the Navy under less than ideal conditions.
  • Darren from Doylestown, Paeddie van halen one of the most underated guitarists
  • Jim from Anycity, FlFrom what i have heard throughout the years, especially durring my tour in the Navy, DLR was once in the Navy as a RadioMan. He was booted out for smoking pot, and in the song running with the Devil, at about 1:32, or 1:42, he says "GodD*mn the Navy and all you lifers, I'm only gonna tell u one time".
  • Mtlb from Buffalo, NyThe opening intro has what sounds like high notes on a piano but is actually Eddie taking his pick and playing the strings above the nut near the bottom tuning pegs.
  • Mark from Worcester, MiA great song. I love the power cord feel and Roth does a real good job in all aspects on the vocals in my opinion.
  • Maggie from Optional?, OhThis is a sweet some that you can listen to over and over ant the chorus never gets old
  • Reuben from Amsterdam, NetherlandsEddie and Alex van Halen were born in The Netherlands, I believe in a town called Wijchen.
  • Dee from Dallas, TxI didn't find it mentioned here, but, I was wondering about the "slide-whistle-type" noise towards the end. It's such a hard-hitting song most the way thru and then *bam* here's this circus clown soundbyte, wtf??
  • Takashi from Tokyo, JapanLittle Nicky was a very underrated movie, no question
  • E from Vancouver, CanadaThis song was also used in the movie 'Detroit Rock City'
  • Victor from Glendora, CtKid Rock said he likes playing "Runnin' With the Devil" real loud while driving his Cadillac. Not to impress people with his loud stereo, but because he really likes this song.
  • Bob from Kelowna, CanadaThis song is great for misheard lyrics. My guitar teacher told me about this group doing a cover of this at a show one time. The vocalist didn't know the words so the guitarest wrote them out and gave them to him. It came as a surprise when he got to the lyric "No love you call real" and what was written on the sheet by the guitarest was "No love in Korea." Funny story, makes me like the song more because it almost sounds like that's what Roth sings.
  • Shell from Riverdale, Ga"..(deleted) the Navy and all you lifers, I'm only gonna tell you one time..." Heh, heh, heh. I'll have to add this one to the Mondegreen website. The lyric is, "baby, you know I ain't lyin' to ya, I'm only gon' tell you one ti-i-ime..." And don't take the amusement personally, John. I've come up with some pretty dumb mis-heard lyrics myself. And been called on it in public.
  • Shana from Pembroke, CanadaGood song, but the car horns at the beginning bug me for some
  • John from Roseburg, OrIn the second chorous of this song, on the first album, David Lee Roth says the following:

    Running with the Devil... (deleted) the Navy and all you lifers, I'm only gonna tell you one time... Running with the Devil

    On the remix (greatest hits album) this line appears, but much later in the song.

    Was David Lee Roth in the Navy before he joined the band?

  • Brett from Moore, OkThis is a great song. It was funny when, in the movie Ready To Rumble, they play the song with the nuns. Great Song!!!!
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