It almost happened!
If you are a child of the 80s, you must recall one of the messiest rock band breakups ever when David Lee Roth walked away from his vocalist duties for Van Halen. Things got hairy between Roth and Eddie Van Halen after the decision was made in 1983 to record their sixth studio record, 1984, at Eddie’s new studio, 5150. Even though the album produced a few monster hits, Roth couldn’t shake the feeling recording 1984 at 5150 gave Eddie too much creative control over the band. And he wasn’t necessarily wrong. Here’s Eddie talking about the decision to move VH’s base of recording operations to his home studio:
“The bottom line is I wanted more control. I was always butting heads with Ted Templeman about what makes a good record. My philosophy has always been I’d rather bomb with my own music than make it with other people’s music.”
This wouldn’t be the first time things got intense between DLR, Eddie, his brother Alex, and bassist Michael Anthony. To help promote Women and Children First, the band’s label Warner Brothers engaged one of the art world’s biggest icons, Helmut Newton, to take photos of the band. Roth was an enthusiastic fan of Newton, but allegedly the rest of the group hadn’t heard of him and were unimpressed. Which was fine, as it turns out Newton didn’t vibe with the Van Halen brothers during the photo shoot at Dave’s house in 1979. Following the shoot, an all-out war in the VH camp started with accusations coming from the brothers claiming Roth was trying to be the “center of attention.” Warner Brothers would end up bringing in photographer Norman Seeff to shoot more images of the band in an effort to keep the peace. Two of Seeff’s photos were used for the cover and back of Women and Children First, and have since become iconic. As a compromise, Newton’s photo of a shirtless David Lee Roth in chains was included as a mini-poster inside the album.
Photos taken by Norman Seeff used for the 1980 album ‘Women and Children First.’
Rock historians have said this incident was the beginning of the band’s demise after relations between Roth and the band became super tense during the grueling seven-month tour in support of 1984. Roth wanted to do things—like acting—without VH but hoped Eddie Van Halen would do the soundtrack for upcoming film he was planning. At some point, Roth pointedly asked Eddie to do the score, a request Eddie declined. Roth responded by saying he couldn’t “work” with the band for a while, adding that once he was done with his movie, they would “get back together.” In August of 1985, Eddie Van Halen told Rolling Stone “the band (Van Halen) as you know it is over.”
Now, let’s get to Roth’s concept for his film, which was inspired by the material he was writing and recording at the time for a 1985 EP and the 1986 album Eat ‘em and Smile. In his 1997 autobiography Crazy from the Heat, Dave dished the details on the film and also shared part of the 90-page script. In essence, Roth’s screenplay (rumored to be in part a musical) was based on a rock star named Dave (because of course, it was), who travels to the mysterious Dongo Island where he gets into all kinds of kooky capers with his manager Bernie, while surrounded by bikini-clad women. Sounds about right, right? Anyway, according to Dave as it relates to his movie deal with CBS, storyboards and costumes were complete, and a full cast assembled. Unfortunately, things were changing at CBS, and they decided to pull the plug on Roth’s film debut, and eight other films. Roth sued CBS and walked away with a hefty fee in hand. So without further adieu, here’s a bit of dialog from Crazy From the Heat‘s screenplay by the character Dave, on love. You can read what appears to be most, or all, of the screenplay here:
“Love is overrated. I was in love once. Know what I found out? Love means having to say you’re sorry every five minutes. Love is playing with yourself while someone is lying next to you, passed out. I’ll tell ya — don’t worry about women. Overall, I go along with the guy who said, go out and buy some poor sinner a drink and wink at a homely girl. You gotta sail through life with a smile on your mug and a song in your heart.”
Awww. During this point in Dave’s solo career, Van Halen had put out their first record with new vocalist Sammy Hagar. Hagar quickly started throwing hate toward Dave calling him the “enemy of all enemies,” and “fake and contrived.” The band was also pissed at Templeman for working with Roth on Eat ‘Em and Smile. This would lead to all kinds of entertaining verbal volleys between the group and Roth for years. Below, I’ve posted some footage of Dave at a press conference in Toronto in 1986 letting loose on his former bandmates while wearing a fashionable beret.
David Lee Roth letting his former Van Halen bandmates know how he feels in 1986.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Light Up The Sky: A treasure trove of live Van Halen recordings from the late ‘70s appears online
The Nightmare Before Halloween: Insane early Van Halen set from 1977
Van Halen cover Bowie and KC & The Sunshine Band (while judging a dance contest!) in the 70s
Van Halen wanted to crush a Volkswagen Beetle with a tank in 1979… just to piss off Aerosmith