Single Stories: Van Halen, “Jump” (as heard in Ready Player One)

Monday, April 2, 2018
van halen 1984

It remains the most popular single ever released by Van Halen, and it’s such a definitively ‘80s song that it’s used as a touchstone for the decade in Steven Spielberg’s cinematic adaptation of Ready Player One, but do you know the origins of “Jump”? If you don’t, well, don’t worry: we’re about to take care of that omission in your pop culture education.

In 1981, Eddie Van Halen penned the synth line of “Jump,” but his bandmates were sufficiently unimpressed as to opt out of doing anything with it at the time. (Whoops!) A few years later, producer Ted Templeman approached David Lee Roth and asked him to give it a listen, which he did, and he came up with lyrics while reflecting on a news story he’d seen about a man threatening to commit suicide by jumping off a building. Somewhere along the way, however, the song’s lyrics evolved away from the decidedly dark tone inherent in that premise, instead transforming it into more of a paean to love. After writing the lyrics, Eddie said, “We finished all vocals that afternoon and mixed it that evening.”

“Jump” only served to cement the existing tensions and ongoing musical differences between Eddie and Dave, unfortunately, which was confirmed when the band announced that they and longtime frontman David Lee Roth were going their separate ways. That said, there’s no denying that it was a massive commercial success: “Jump” topped the Billboard Hot 100 as well as the Mainstream Rock chart, climbed into the top 10 in the UK (it climbed to #7), and sold more than a million copies in America. 

Oh, yeah, and in 2018, it served as a defining moment of the ‘80s in a Spielberg flick. If you haven’t listening to it recently, you might as well jump…over to the Spotify playlist and give it a spin!

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