Photo Credit: (c) Richard Upper/rockandrollgallery.com
The classic black and white photo of David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen under the McDonald’s arch has returned to its original location close to 45 years after it was originally taken.
The photo was taken at the McDonald’s in Crestwood, Missouri by Richer Upper in the winter of 1978. Soon after it was taken, however, the original building was replaced. But that building has since been replaced by a state-of-the-art McDonald’s where the photo of Dave and Ed chowing down under the golden arch is on display. The local Fox TV station covered the story:
The Original Photo Story
At the time the photo was taken, Van Halen had just hit the road as the opening act for Journey while their recently released debut single “You Really Got Me” was just starting to take off. Eddie and David had just finished being interviewed by St. Louis rock radio station KSHE FM and decided they wanted to get something to eat. They traveled about a mile down the road to the nearest McDonald’s.
Upper was a young photographer hired to travel with the band and take photos. He would go on to shoot a long list of legendary bands and artists including The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Rod Stewart & Faces, Blondie among many others. Of all the images he’s captured throughout his stellar career, it’s this quick shot of Dave and Ed under the big golden arch that’s become possibly the most recognizable of his career.
Here’s Upper’s story:
“So it’s winter, ’78, the songs out, we’re hitting these radio stations, [Dave & Eddie are] doing their interviews and so forth. We’re also hitting the distribution centers for Warner/Elektra and everybody just loves these guys, they’re so much fun and so we’re taking a break in the limousine, and we go to this McDonald’s. You can see the jackets they’re wearing, they’re both wearing the same jackets. They didn’t have enough money to get nice coats, so they went to an Army Surplus store and bought these two Army fur line jackets so they’re both green. So, I take this picture of them standing in front of this – one of the early McDonald’s with the single arch – and that becomes this photograph of these two guys just goofin’ around and it becomes hugely popular.”
Over the years Upper would remember the photo being taken in Detroit but fans online would often contact him saying it was, in fact, taken in St. Louis. That location was confirmed by John Sebben, co-founder of the St. Louis Classic Rock Preservation Society and part of Keep Live Alive Saint Louis. Sebben said the McDonalds was specifically located in Crestwood, a city in south St. Louis County, Missouri.
Here’s a short documentary on the photo by the St. Louis Classic Rock YouTube channel from 2021: