Van Halen's 1984 Release Date

This is something that is bugging me.

One of my favorite “rock trivia” questions is: In what year was Van Halen’s 1984 released? The correct answer, I’ve always believed, is 1983.

When I recently asked this question in an email correspondence, the answer I got back was “according to Wikipedia, it was released on January 9th, 1984.” Damn cheater! I told her Wiki is wrong. But I looked it up on Amazon, and they report the same thing. This does not jibe with my memory.

I was 12 years old at the time, and as the weeks counted down to its release, I could not wait to get my hands on that album. I clearly recall riding my bike down to the record store to pick it up on its release date, two days after Christmas. I also remember that while there, I ran into a friend from school (who was there for the same reason), and we had a discussion comparing our Christmas Loot. If the album had been released two weeks later, I’d have already seen him at school, and we wouldn’t have had that discussion at the record shop.

Another thing… albums have always been released on Tuesdays - at least as far back as I personally remember, here in the United States. It’s only been in recent years that this trend has been bucked, and it happens rarely. December 27th, 1983 did, in fact, fall on a Tuesday, while January 9th, 1984, was a Monday.

So what gives? It’s been 25 years, so I’ll grant that my memory could be faulty, but I really don’t think so. Does anyone else remember this album being released in late 1983?

I do, actually. In, in fact, CREEM Magazine awarded it one of the ironic 1983 awards due to the name.

I remember it as 1983 as well.

ETA, maybe the 1/9/84 date is when it entered the Billboard charts.

I remember the Jump video premiering on the MTV New Year’s Eve show, and that the album wasn’t released yet. Although I found one source listing 1983 releases.

Allmusic.com has a 1983 release year under the “Releases” heading.

No, it debuted on the Billboard chart on 1/28/84. And considering how huge Van Halen were at the time, I can’t believe it took a whole month for the album to chart.

Let me posit, without evidence, a theory: we are dealing with two release dates, here. Possibly three:

  1. The LP is released to radio stations and advance guys in late 1983
  2. The single for ‘Jump’ is similarly released in late 1983
  3. The LP itself is released to the general public in early 1984

It may have to do with distribution patterns. I saw something similar with books in that era. Release dates may have been official, but not firm. Since shipping was more haphazard (no FedEx Ground equivalent), the shipments of records trickled in to different stores in different parts of the country at different times.

Often things were sent early so that they would be available on the official date. Record stores were not really required to hold off; when they had the product, they could sell them.

So even if the record had a release date of January 28, it could have been in some record stores several weeks earlier. The stores probably would have put them on the shelves instead of having them sit in the back. They certainly would have put up information for the new Van Halen record in the story.

The Billboard rankings, though, would only begin on the official release date.

Either way, the date wasn’t tightly tied to Orwell’s novel, which started on “a bright cold day in April.”