Longtime Van Halen producer Ted Templeman stuck to his guns about not being a fan of the band’s classic song “Jump,” though he admitted his assessment of the song was wrong.
After working on the band’s first six albums, Templeman remained close friends with guitarist Eddie Van Halen, who died from cancer on Oct. 6 at 65.
Released in late 1983, “Jump” prominently featured a synthesizer, which was controversial among fans because the band was best known for Eddie Van Halen’s searing guitar performances. But the song reached No. 1, snagged a Grammy nomination and is regarded as one of Van Halen’s best works and one of the most influential songs in rock history.
“The only falling out we ever had was over ‘Jump,’ because I didn’t – and I don’t – like it,” Templeman told Rolling Stone in a recent interview. “It’s stupid because I produced it, but the keyboards just hit me as wrong. He would call me up in the middle of the night and say, ‘Ted, you’ve got to hear this. I’m gonna come and get you.’ And he drove down in his Porsche to Century City and picked me up at three in the morning and drove me up there: ‘Listen to this.’ And they had ‘Jump’ down.”
Watch Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ Video
The producer remembered that the song “did work” and “sounded great”; the next morning, he instructed singer David Lee Roth to write lyrics. “We sat in the back of his Mercury,” he recalled. “He was writing this song, and I said, ‘That’s terrible.’ … I said, ‘That bothers me. Don’t say “jump.” It sounds like you’re encouraging somebody to commit suicide.’ He said, ‘Nah, nah. I got this thing nailed. It’s got a double entendre.’ And he did. It meant ‘Take a chance,’ but it also meant he was gonna get this girl.”
Still, Templeman “wasn’t wild” about the keyboard element. “I was wrong because it was No. 1, but I don’t even listen to it,” he said. “To me, they were a heavy metal fucking band that could do pop tunes – that’s what I liked about ’em. But that took it into another arena. It reminded me of those bands that play in arenas, and then the fucking thing ended up getting played at every arena before a game. But look, I was wrong.”
Reflecting on Eddie’s talent, the producer said: “He knew his way around music. That’s why his solos and the songs that he and Dave wrote hold up. He wrote the chord changes as a songwriter. I think his impact is that people subconsciously hear melodic solos and people are attracted by that. … I think Ed’s impact is he brought pop stuff into his music. Everybody likes that. No matter how much you like other kinds of music, if you hear a real good pop tune, it just gets you.”