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Roth Singing Break-in Blues

Diamond Dave eats intruder and smiles about it

Three a.m. last Saturday morning, David Lee Roth awoke to “branches
breaking, sticks cracking and a thud that sounded like a bowling
ball dropping fifteen feet” coming from the lawn outside his house
in Pasadena.

“It’s all doctors and lawyers in my neighborhood and very
quiet,” the former Van Halen frontman explains. “I’m the only
Indian chief on the block. I thought it might be some kids doing
what I would have done at sixteen: ‘Hey, I think the bassist from
Led Zeppelin lives there. Let’s go see if we can get a look at
him.'”

Roth crawled out of bed on his stomach and right up to the
window to check it out. He didn’t see a group of drunk high
schoolers, but a man creeping up to the house. “He got right up in
front of me,” the singer says, “and very quietly, I said, ‘Can I
help you?’ and he flipped out.”

The man ran around to the other side of the house, as Roth knew
he would. “I grabbed my shotgun and was there waiting for him,” he
says. “I yelled at him the standard gun-school stuff — ‘Get down
on the ground. The police are on their way’– and he stayed right
where he was, lying down and mumbling into the sprinkler
system.”

Of course, the intruder had a good reason to comply. “The
shotgun makes the most noise when you rack it,” Roth says. “It
makes the most sinister, convincing sound, especially when
someone’s somewhere they’re not supposed to be doing something
they’re not supposed to do.”

That’s just knowledge any bluesman who’s known his share of
hellhounds has a good handle on. Roth’s covering some of his
favorites, including Elmore James, Jimi Hendrix and Savoy Brown on
his upcoming Diamond Dave, due this summer. “This is where
I went to school,” Roth says. “I grew up specifically imitating
these songs. If you wanted to sing low, you copied Hendrix. If you
wanted to growl you copied Jim Morrison [the Doors’ “Soul Kitchen”
is also on the record]. I’ve done every one of these songs 1,000
times in front of the mirror.”

In the case of “Ice Cream Man,” a John Brim original popularized
by Elmore James that Van Halen also covered on Diver Down,
that’s probably literally true. “I just updated it,” Roth says.
“Sinatra and those Rat Pack guys used to revisit their own stuff
all the time.”

In This Article: Van Halen

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