For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (also known as F.U.C.K.) is the ninth studio album by American hard rock band Van Halen, released in 1991 on Warner Bros. Records. It debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart and maintained the position for three weeks.

Title

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).[2] 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.

Recording

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".[3] The year-long production led to the labored sound.[4]

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).

Critical reception

Reviews for the album are mixed. Rolling Stone's John Milward rated it two out of five stars, explaining that it "is so stuffed with zigzagging guitars and blustery vocals that it almost forgets to rock. Eddie Van Halen, who probably has more guitars than teeth, upends such a tackle box of hooks that they only start to surface after repeated listenings. Tasteful simplicity, which is never really simple at all, would have proved a better course to follow." He concluded that the guitars "are busier, the beats are heavier, and the fun is fleeting. Van Halen has chops to burn, but For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, like its lumbering opening track and first single, 'Poundcake,' is stale."

A retrospective review by AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine was still mixed. He stated that the title "indicates the true nature of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge [...] Backing away from the diversity of OU812, the band turns in some of the most basic, straightforward rock & roll of its career." However, he also stated that it was "undeniable that [Sammy Hagar's] limited vocal power had a great deal to do with the obvious nature of most of this music." He concluded that, even though the band continued to be tight and professional, the songwriting "is, by and large, undistinguished, with the anthemic 'Right Now' standing out as the most memorable song of the batch, mainly because of its incessant chorus."

Gina Arnold of Entertainment Weekly gave the album a C and said, "It would be nice to believe that the acronym formed by the title of Van Halen's new, top-charting album was intended as a covert blow against censorship in America. Unfortunately, it's far more likely that the punny name merely indicates VH's love of the kind of bathroom talk that third graders think is funny. [...] For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge doesn't contain even one mind-numbingly catchy melody. Only 'Top of the World' and 'The Dream Is Over' come close to working up a truly fist-thrusting chorus, and the gist of the latter — 'dream another dream, this dream is over' — may well be advice that Van Halen and their fans ought to take to heart."[6] In his Consumer Guide, Robert Christgau gave the album a "dud" rating.[8]

Track listing

All tracks written by Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar and Alex Van Halen.

No.TitleLength
1."Poundcake"5:21
2."Judgement Day"4:38
3."Spanked"4:53
4."Runaround"4:20
5."Pleasure Dome"6:58
6."In 'n' Out"6:04
7."Man on a Mission"5:03
8."The Dream Is Over"3:59
9."Right Now"5:21
10."316" (instrumental)1:29
11."Top of the World"3:54
Total length:52:02

Personnel

Van Halen

Additional musicians

Production

  • Andy Johns – producer, engineer, mixing
  • Ted Templeman – producer, mixing
  • Van Halen – producers
  • Lee Herschberg – engineer
  • Michael Scott – engineer, mixing
  • Jeri Heiden – art direction
  • David Seltzer – photography
  • Glen Wexler – photography

Charts

Weekly charts

Chart (1991)Peak
position
US Billboard 200[13]1

Singles

Billboard (North America)

YearSingleChartPosition
1991"Poundcake"Album Rock Tracks[14]1
"Right Now"Album Rock Tracks[14]2
"Runaround"Album Rock Tracks[14]1
"Top of the World"Album Rock Tracks[14]1
Billboard Hot 100[15]27
1992"Man on a Mission"Album Rock Tracks[14]21
"Right Now"Billboard Hot 100[15]55
"The Dream Is Over"Album Rock Tracks[14]7

Certifications

RegionCertificationCertified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)Platinum100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[16]Silver60,000^
United States (RIAA)3× Platinum3,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Awards

Grammy Awards

YearNominated workCategoryResult
1991For Unlawful Carnal KnowledgeBest Hard Rock PerformanceWon