Sunday Old School: David Lee Roth

Six chart topping albums as one of the biggest bands in the world (Van Halen), a messy break-up, and a rumored reunion? NO, that is a different story. Today, a look at the paramedic, talk-radio host, and one of the biggest personalities from eighties rock and roll. This is the story of David Lee Roth, the solo artist years.

The founder of the “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you good you look” club, solo Dave begins before his years with Van Halen officially ended, when he released Crazy from The Heat. Most notably the EP contained two covers, “California Girls” and “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody”, both would generate moderate success due to Roth’s humorous videos that included Dave in a fat suit, extremely beautiful women, and either monkeys or little people, or in some cases both.

After the famous split Dave teamed up with guitarist Steve Vai, bassist Billy Sheehan, Jesse Harms on keyboards, and drummer Gregg Bissonette for what would be his first initial solo record, Eat’em and Smile. No one needed a hit more than Diamond Dave, and he didn’t disappoint. The lead single, “Yankee Rose” was a rocker accompanied by a video with the famous line: “I’ll take a glazed doughnut and a bottle of anything, to go.” The videos for “Yankee Rose” and “Goin’ Crazy” may be the definitive height of the spandex era thanks to Roth’s numerous costume changes, most incorporating spandex with thongs worn on the outside. Eat’em and Smile was a well balanced album with rockers like “Shy Boy” as well as the “slow it down and show Dave’s seductive side” with “Ladies Nite in Buffalo?”. There’s even a cover of “That’s Life”, displaying Roth’s show biz nature, a side only he has been able to portray without coming off too corny, or cheesy, or both.

It was 1988 when David Lee Roth would release his second full length album titled Skyscraper. The album (Brett Tuggle joined on keyboards) was more “pop” than his first, including the hit “Just Like Paradise”, a drive-with-the-top-down-radio-friendly ditty with a video showing Dave inside a boxing ring as well as flying through the crowd on top of a surfboard. It was already somewhat clear, but for me, this is the album that solidified the circus act Roth’s performances had become. For many, your act characterized as a circus act would symbolize a downfall, but for David Lee Roth, this was a positive. Billy Sheehan split and was replaced by Matt Bissonette on bass during the Skyscraper tour.

It was 1991, the height of glam/hard rock when David Lee Roth released his third full album, A Little Ain’t Enough. This album featured Todd Jenson on bass with Peter Lewis, Steve Hunter, Joe Holmes, and Jason Becker all contributing guitar on the album and/or supporting tour. This album was far heavier than the previous and may be from first to last track, Roth’s most magnificent. Starting off with the rocking title track through a made-for-David Lee Roth-closer titled “Showtime”; the album delivers heavy guitars with great sounding vocals accompanied by gritty lyrics of sex, power, and more sex.

A Little Ain’t Enough didn’t generate the sales of his first two albums due to the lack of major ballad (“Sensible Shoes” just didn’t get the ladies wet) and straight up rock sound, but it did put Roth in that rare group of bands able to put out three consecutive great albums in the glam/hard rock genre. Looking back Eat’em and Smile, Skyscraper, and A Little Ain’t Enough hold their own as an incredible three-album run.

In 1994, with Ron Wikso on drums, James Hunting on bass, and Terry Kilgore and Rocket Ritchotte on guitar, Roth released, Your Filthy Little Mouth, an album that garnered critical success, but went nowhere because in 1994 flannel didn’t match with spandex and thongs. The album titled DLR Band was released in 1998, a time that featured Mike Hartman, John Lowery, and Steve Hunter playing guitar at various times, B’urbon Bob aka Bob Marlette on bass, Ray Luzier on drums, and Patrick Howard on keyboards. This is one of those albums that on paper works with song titles: “Slam Dunk”, “Lose the Dress (Keep the Shoes)”, “King of The Hill”, “Right Tool for the Job”, and “Weekend with the Babysitter”. Apparently Roth also felt this, refusing to tour to support the album. In 2003 Roth released Diamond Dave, a collection of covers that is best not to discuss.

Between albums David Lee Roth took time out for medical training in order to become a paramedic, was a Vegas lounge singer, wrote an autobiography titled “Crazy From The Heat”, was elected (as part of Van Halen) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (did not show), played with the Boston Pops, hosted a radio show, released some of his paintings and other artwork, and appeared in an episode of The Sopranos where he played in a card game with Tony.

David Lee Roth is undeniably an original. They broke the mold and the others that have tried to copy, have been unsuccessful. A true inspiration too many of the eighties top rock stars; there would be no Vince Neil, no Bret Michaels without David Lee Roth. He is the definition of an artist and an entertainer. Many associate Roth with that band of brothers, but Diamond Dave proved as a solo artist he has always been able to shine on his own.

“Yankee Rose”

“Just Like Paradise”

“California Girls” (with intro)

“Shyboy”

“Bump and Grind” (with intro)

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David S. Grant (aka Rockstar_Scribbler) is the author of several books including Rock Stars, Happy Hour, and Corporate Porn. For more information please go to www.rockstarbooks.net or www.davidsgrant.com. You can also follow David on Twitter @david_S_grant.

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