The album’s title came from lead singer Sammy Hagar, who wanted to push the issue of censorship with naming Van Halen’s album with a vulgarity, stating, “That’s when censorship was a big issue. I wanted to name the album just Fuck.” Hagar eventually backed away from the outright vulgarity after he was told by his friend, former world lightweight boxing champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, that the word “fuck” was an acronym for the phrase “for unlawful carnal knowledge” (though this is a false etymology).Their tour promoting the album was unofficially named F.U.C.K. ‘n’ Live. Prior to recording, the term “for unlawful carnal knowledge” was first used by the band Coven as a track on their album Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls in 1969.
Van Halen started work on the album in March 1990 and finished in April 1991 (just two months before its release). The album itself was marketed as the “return” to Van Halen’s hard rock roots, with most songs being guitar driven, and the synth sounds being replaced by pianos. This can be prominently heard on “Right Now”, the most popular song from the album and likely from the “Van Hagar era”. The band also reconciled with producer Ted Templeman who produced earlier Van Halen albums to return to work on the album. According to Eddie Van Halen, this happened because singer Sammy Hagar did not want to work with Andy Johns and Templeman “let him get away with everything”. The year-long production led to the labored sound.
This was the first album that Eddie recorded without his trademark Marshall Super Lead serving as the primary amplifier. The Marshall was fading, so Eddie went with his 1989 Soldano SLO-100 to record the album primarily, though the Marshall was used sparingly. A prototype for what would become the Peavey 5150 series of custom amplifiers was also used. Peavey’s release of the 5150 series coincided with the release of the album.
“Poundcake” featured the sound of a battery operated power drill, which Eddie held to the pickups of his guitar and revved, creating the intro. The song “Top of the World” features a riff that was first heard during the outro of the 1984-era hit “Jump”. For this reason, “Top of the World” is frequently played directly after “Jump” and appears immediately after it on the Best of Both Worlds compilation. The instrumental “316” is named for the March 16 birthday of Eddie’s son Wolfgang, who is currently Van Halen’s bass player, although the song predates his birth (as part of it was used by Eddie at the beginning of his guitar solo on tour, as seen on “Live Without a Net”, and was originally written for 5150).
1 Poundcake (Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Alex Van Halen) 5:17
2 Judgement Day (Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Alex Van Halen) 4:36
3 Spanked (Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Alex Van Halen) 4:48
4 Runaround (Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Alex Van Halen) 4:15
5 Pleasure Dome (Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Alex Van Halen) 6:55
6 In ‘N’ Out (Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Alex Van Halen) 6:00
7 Man On A Mission (Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Alex Van Halen) 5:01
8 The Dream Is Over (Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Alex Van Halen) 3:54
9 Right Now (Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Alex Van Halen) 5:17
10 316 (Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Alex Van Halen) 1:26
11 Top Of The World (Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Alex Van Halen) 3:50
|Drums||Alex Van Halen|
|Guitar||Eddie van Halen|
|Keyboards||Eddie van Halen|
|Piano||Eddie van Halen|
11 Top Of The World
|Background Vocals||Steve Lukather|
Producer – Andy Johns, Ted Templeman, Van Halen
Engineer – Andy Johns, Lee Herschberg, Michael Scott
Engineer (Second) – Ken Deane
Mixed By – Andy Johns, Michael Scott, Ted Templeman
Recorded By – Andy Johns
Art Direction – Jeri Heiden
Photography By (Cover) – Glen Wexler
Photography By (Dust Sleeve) – David Seltzer
Recorded at “5150”