Hear Van Halen’s Druggy Parody of Nicolette Larson’s ‘Lotta Love’
Nicolette Larson scored a huge hit with her version of “Lotta Love,” but she never could have imagined it would receive a druggy makeover courtesy of Van Halen.
Larson initially earned attention while singing backup to Neil Young, specifically on his 1977 LP American Stars ‘n Bars. It was Young who originally penned "Lotta Love," which was included in a sparsely arranged version on his 1978 LP Comes a Time.
How the song ended up in Larson’s hands is a topic of debate. She claimed “Lotta Love” was gifted to her by Young, while Linda Ronstadt - who also sang backup for Young at the time - said it was her idea to have Larson record it.
Regardless of the exact circumstances, Larson decided to lay down a breezy rendition of “Lotta Love” for her 1978 debut solo album, Nicolette. The LP was produced by Ted Templeman, Van Halen’s longtime cohort. Eddie Van Halen also made an uncredited appearance on the album, delivering guitar on the song "Can't Get Away From You."
Templeman and his engineer, Donn Landee, were simultaneously working on Larson’s release while also prepping Van Halen’s demo tape for Warner Bros. Records.
“Ted and I were working on Nicolette Larson’s album,” Landee recalled during a conversation with author Greg Renoff. “I let [Van Halen] hear the tape, and David [Lee Roth] said, ‘Hey, can I have a copy of that? We want to try something.’” Roth’s idea was to rewrite the song’s lyrics, changing the tones of peace and love to one of hard partying. The new version was called “It's Gonna Take a Lotta Drugs.”
“So, David and Mike [Anthony] did ‘Gonna Take a Lotta Drugs’ [on] that tape," said Landee. "When we played it back, David and Mike said, “Do you think Ted’s gonna get mad about this?”
“I had been gone from the studio,” Templeman recalled. “I had a meeting or something. So the guys went in there and wrote this song: “It’s gonna take a lotta drugs to get us through the night!” Donn put them on Nicolette’s [backing] track. They loved that. I came back, and they were all nervous. But when Donn played it, I fucking cracked up.”
"Lotta Love" would become Larson's biggest hit, peaking at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1979. Van Halen's version was never officially released, but you can listen to it below.