From Sleaze Roxx:
Unauthorized ’80’s With David S. Grant Presents: David Lee Roth (written in 2011)
Six chart topping albums as one of the biggest bands in the world (Van Halen), a messy break-up, and a rumored reunion? This 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 good you look’ club, solo Diamond 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”, and 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 with van Halen Dave teamed up with guitarist Steve Vai, bassist Billy Sheehan, keyboardist Jesse Harms, 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 Frank Sinatra’s “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. To top it all off Roth appeared on the very first episode of The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers in October of 1986.
It was 1988 when David Lee Roth would release his second full length album titled ‘Skyscraper’. Apparently between albums Dave had done a lot of rock climbing and this became either the inspiration for the album, or just an outlet for Roth to showcase his feat. 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, the act characterized as a circus would symbolize a downfall, but for David Lee Roth this was a positive. However Billy Sheehan split and was replaced by Matt Bissonette on bass during the ‘Skyscraper’ tour while Steve Vai left for Whitesnake shortly after.
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 effort and may be, from the 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 it’s 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 against any three consecutive albums put out by Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue and Ratt, and separates from some of the others who were not as consistent with their releases during the late eighties/early nineties.
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 failed to garner critical and commercial success because in 1994 flannel didn’t match with spandex and thongs — a duet with country star Travis Tritt likely didn’t help either. An album titled ‘DLR Band’ was released in 1998, and 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 like “Slam Dunk”, “Lose The Dress (Keep The Shoes)”, “King Of The Hill”, “Right Tool For the Job”, and “Weekend With The Babysitter”, but apparently Roth wasn’t that confident as he refused 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 (he 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.
Since the 2007 Van Halen reunion tour there have been rumors of new music coming from the band, the latest gossip has late 2011 as a potential release date. Other projects include Roth’s on-going paintings he has released to the public, a rumored follow-up book titled something along the lines of ‘The Tao Of David Lee Roth’, and we can only hope more random appearances by one of the greatest rock stars of all time.
David Lee Roth is undeniably an original. They broke the mold, and the others that have tried to copy him have been unsuccessful. A true inspiration to 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. Sometimes it is unclear which comes first for Diamond Dave, the artist or entertainer — and that’s what makes him fun.
About the Author:
David S. Grant is the author of several books including Rock Stars (Oak Tree Press), Corporate Porn (Silverthought Press), The Last Breakfast (Brown Paper Publishing), and Happy Hour (SynergEbooks). David lives and works in New York City. For more information go to www.rockstarbooks.net follow David S. Grant on Twitter: @david_s_grant.