WKRP in Cincinnati was the first TV show to feature the music of Van Halen
The sitcom helped introduce the music of Eddie Van Halen to American ears.
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When WKRP in Cincinnati dropped the needle on "Atomic Punk" in October 1978, the debut album Van Halen was merely months old. The track was the B-side to the band's first single, a cover of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me," released in January 1978. So, really, "Atomic Punk" was the first piece of original music released by Van Halen. It was the first time headbangers heard the jaw-dropping guitar skills of Eddie Van Halen.
WKRP featured "Atomic Punk" in its fifth episode, the hilarious stand-out "Hold Up," when Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) does a remote at a stereo shop that gets robbed. Today, most of the rock 'n' roll music originally heard on the sitcom has been stripped out and replaced with generic tunes. That's the downside of music licensing and artists' rights.
The sound of Eddie Van Halen shredding at 8 p.m. on CBS on a Monday evening would have been rather shocking. "Atomic Punk" is perhaps the heaviest song on Van Halen.
At the time of death at the age of 65, Eddie Van Halen had accrued 105 soundtrack credits on his IMDb page. But Van Halen's music was rarely heard in primetime television. WKRP, however, was no stranger to pushing new rock acts.
Speaking of Van Halen, the sitcom also showcased a poster of Sammy Hagar in his pre-Van Halen days on the studio walls. Take a look.
Of course, Eddie Van Halen would have a closer tie to Seventies sitcom history. He married Valerie Bertinelli, star of One Day at a Time, in 1981. The couple would divorce in 2007.
But, undoubtedly, WKRP served as the first introduction to Van Halen for thousands of teens.