David Lee Roth’s preferred method of warming up his larynx in the recording studio or the dressing room is singing along with the O’Jays’ hit “Love Train,” and bless him, he does a credible job. The careers of lesser talents have been irreparably wrecked by lines like “All of you brothers over in Africa,” not a welcome series of words in a white pop star’s mouth; it doesn’t take much imagination to see how things could go terribly, terribly wrong. But somehow, with the alchemical mixture of guilelessness and chutzpah that makes a David Lee Roth performance so wondrous to behold, he pulls it off. Nor is it a fluke. Below, like an expert skipper, DLR pilots the S.S. Fair Warning by the tune’s parlous shoals no fewer than 50 times.
Six years ago, around the time Van Halen released their first new LP with Roth singing since 1984, the singer presented this gift to the fans: a two-and-a-half-hour video of his “Love Train” warmup routine called 50 Rides on the Love Train. On screen, Roth dances, manically, to “Love Train,” in full, on 50 separate occasions; on the soundtrack, he sings along with the O’Jays’ hymn to a comity of peoples 50 different times. Each version is the same, and each version is different. If you start to feel like you’re going insane around, say, the one-hour mark, focus on the counter in the bottom right corner of the frame and breathe deeply.
For me, 50 Rides on the Love Train completes the trilogy begun with 1986’s triple-LP radio show David Lee Roth’s 4th of July Bar-B-Que and continued on 2002’s vidstravaganza No Holds Bar-B-Que. I hope it helps you reach closure, too.
H/T Jessica Espeleta