David Lee Roth’s third full-length studio album, A Little Ain’t Enough, was released on this date in 1991 (Jan. 15th). It’s full of ’80s “Big Rock” sound, FUN lyrics, party attitude, and wild guitar solos.
On its 25th anniversary, we’re featuring the official music videos from the album, a couple sexy fan-made videos, a recent interview with producer Bob Rock, and insights from guitarist Jason Becker.
David Lee Roth’s third solo album “A Little Ain’t Enough” marks something of a turning point in Diamond Dave’s career, and in some ways, represents the end of an era–not just the end of David Lee Roth’s relevancy as a solo artist, but the end of an era in popular music–namely 80s pop-metal.
After the “Skyscraper” world tour, Steve Vai left Dave’s band (bassist Billy Sheehan had left prior to the tour) and Dave had to rebuild his band. Dave kept hold-overs Gregg Bissonette (drums), Matt Bissonette (bass), who had played on the “Skyscraper” tour, Brett Tuggle (keyboards) and added guitarists Jason Becker and Steve Hunter to record this album. As everyone knows, Becker was tragically diagnosed with ALS prior to the recording of the album and was unable to tour in support of it.
The band behind “A Little Ain’t Enough” was pretty stellar. It may not have had the big names of the “Eat ‘Em and Smile” lineup, but it was a good band. The Bissonette brothers provided a tight, muscular rhythm section, Becker certainly had the chops to be compared to players like EVH and Vai, and Tuggle’s playing didn’t saturate the album as it did on “Skyscraper.” Dave himself still sounds like Dave, full of charisma and in control, blissfully unaware of the storm coming out of Seattle that is headed his way.
When ALAE was released, Roth stated that it was a cross between the first Van Halen album and “Skyscraper.” While there isn’t a song like “Jamie’s Cryin'” or anything as good as what’s on Van Halen’s debut, Dave’s statement makes sense. What ALAE is, more or less, is a slick, meat-and-potatoes collection of 80s Van Halen-esque rock. The bluesy “Tell the Truth,” the country-ish “Sensible Shoes” and the excellent mid-tempo rocker “Lady Luck,” were the exceptions in what was Dave’s return to hard rock after the synth-heavy “Skyscraper.” A lot of care went into crafting and performing these songs and it shows. Dave and the band wanted to put out a ballsy rock record and take the world by storm.
The problem was, more or less, timing, rather than lack of good songs. If “A Little Ain’t Enough” had been released in ’89/’90, it may have had a better run on the charts. By 1991, however, this style of music, and Dave himself, were starting to be seen as stale. Even before the grunge era, audiences were yearning for something new. When Nirvana and Pearl Jam blew-up later in the year, Dave and all he was associated with were seen as passe.
All this is a shame, because “A Little Ain’t Enough” is a good album. No, it’s not a masterpiece, but it’s a solid, 80s style hard rock album that fans of classic Van Halen would enjoy. The title track, “Lady Luck,” “40 Below,” “Last Call,” and “Drop in the Bucket” stand as some of Dave’s best solo work. I would argue that, overall, it’s just as strong as what Van Halen were doing at the time with Sammy Hagar, with their “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” album. It’s a shame that Dave wasn’t able to survive the 90s the way his former bandmates were.
A Little Ain’t Enough producer, Bob Rock, recently told Eddie Trunk about his first meeting with David Lee Roth, and how impressed he was with guitarist Jason Becker. Listen to that short clip below.
Jason Becker (then only 21 years old!) was interviewed by Jas Obrecht just after he’d finished recording the A Little Ain’t Enough album, and just after he had gotten word that he had Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). (Obrecht, of course, was no stranger in Van Halen circles. The veteran writer gave Eddie his first magazine interview).
Jason shared some insight into his working with Dave: Here’s an excerpt from the full interview.
Can you describe the audition for Dave?
Ah, it was great! I got there and I was expecting . . . .
That was at Dave’s dad’s house?
Yeah, Dave’s house, and they’re hanging out. Dave’s eating cereal. It was great because they were just like normal people. They are about the nicest guys I have ever met – you know, the guys in the band. They just really made it easy. It was really easy. It was just a matter of going and playing.
What kind of stuff did you play?
We played “Hot for Teacher,” “Gigolo” and “Panama,” and a couple of the new tunes.
Had you woodshedded and learned all this before you went down?
Oh, yeah. It wasn’t that hard to learn, so yeah, I definitely got it down. I learned the songs the way the songs were on the records. They’d heard a tape of me before, so they knew that I had ideas and stuff. So they just wanted to make sure I could cop the vibes.
Jason, did any of the songs that you were writing make it onto the record?
Two songs I wrote, the last two on the record – “Showtime” and “Drop in the Bucket.”
I wondered about “Drop in the Bucket,” because it’s so guitar-intensive. It seems like it’d come from a guitar player.
Yeah, definitely. You know, most of the songs were written when I got in the band.
Do you have songwriting credits on other songs?
Nope. Gosh, lots of different people wrote on the record. Steve Hunter wrote quite a few tunes with the keyboard player, Brett Tuggle. You know, Dave writes the lyrics for the tunes.
Did he write the lyrics to “Showtime” and “Drop in the Bucket”?
Yeah. See, when I went in there, they had all these tunes, and they said, “If you’ve got any tunes, by all means.” And they had so many great tunes, all I wanted to do was say, “Okay, what is it missing?” and write a tune in what it was missing. Because why write another “Tell the Truth” or “A Little Ain’t Enough” when there’s already one that’s really cool? So I kind of filled in the gaps.
What were the sessions like when you went in to record?
It was really cool! It was really mellow, really easy. You know, Bob Rock’s a guitar player too. Bob Rock produced it.
“Bob Rock”? What’s his real name?
To be honest, they told me that’s his real name.
Bob Rock! [Laughs.] It’s an appropriate name. He’s a great guy, a good producer. There wasn’t really pressure. You know what’s funny? We did a demo of some of the songs before we went in, up to Vancouver to record. And a lot of the solos I did on that, I sort of winged them and made them up at the time. And I thought, “This is fine for now, but I can kick ’em up later.” But Dave fell in love with half of them, so I had to re-cop what I did. But that was cool, because they came out good. But the recording, it was just loads of fun.
What are your favorite tracks on the album?
My favorites change every day. You know – “A Little Ain’t Enough” one day, “Tell the Truth” the next day, “Drop in the Bucket” the next day. There are little parts in each song that I like. It depends on what mood I’m in.
You sure had a chance to do some fire-breathing solos on this record.
Yeah, I got a chance. I got a chance to blaze on the last couple.
Especially those. With “Drop in the Bucket,” it seems like you saved your best stuff for the last song.
Yeah, I’ve heard people tell me that. It’s kind of that way. My other records are pretty much blaze from start to finish, and I love doing that, but I wanted it to be a little more . . . . I didn’t want people to say, “Oh. Whatever.” But then again, it’s an exciting thing and I like to put it in there. But to be honest, I didn’t choose the sequence of the record, so maybe that’s what Dave wants.
Becker, now 45, is saying he might finally reveal a couple previously unreleased songs from the time he worked with David Lee Roth.
He tells Talking Metal: “There were a couple that didn’t make it. I think I might put them on my next album, but they won’t have Dave’s singing.”
On the decision not to tour with the Roth’s band back in 1991, Becker adds: “We were planning on going on tour, but when I was helping Dave, I auditioned some other players for the tour.
“I was having a hard time standing and playing. My legs would shake, so I had to sit the whole time. After that day, Dave and I talked and we decided I wouldn’t tour. He was depressed. I tried to make jokes and pick up his mood, but that didn’t really work.”
A Lil’ Ain’t Enough
Tell the Truth
Baby’s On Fire
The Dogtown Shuffle
Drop in the Bucket