Van Halen Without David Lee Roth: Can This Be Love? - Rolling Stone
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Van Halen Without David Lee Roth: Can This Be Love?

After the sour grapes of Roth, Van Halen finally finds happiness

Van Halen, Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony, Eddie Van Halen, Memphis Colliseum

Van Halen: (L-R) Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony and Eddie Van Halen performing at the Memphis Colliseum in Memphis, Tennessee on March 29th, 1986.

Ebet Roberts/Redferns/Getty

“No Daves Allowed.” “David Who?” “Dave Sucks.” You see them at nearly every stop on the current Van Halen tour, glant banners made by young fans, mostly out of Mom’s old white bed sheets. The kids hang them from the balcony, parade them around the arena to thunderous applause and throw them at the stage in big knotted bundles, hoping someone in the band, usually the new singer, Sammy Hagar, will unfurl them for everyone to see. Some of the banners have a huge Van Halen logo roughly executed with orange Magic Marker. Others just state the obvious: “Van Halen Kicks Ass.” But the ones that get the biggest roar have a single, unmistakable message: David Lee Roth, the former lead singer of Van Halen, is not welcome here.

As far as the 19,000 Van Halen maniacs in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena tonight are concerned, Roth — who left the band last year — will not be missed. “This sign gets some kind of award for the most information on the smallest piece of material,” bellows Hagar from the stage as he unravels his fifth banner of the evening, a modest flag the size of a tablecloth, crammed with the Van Halen logo, the names of all four band members and a few dozen fans’ signatures. “It says basically that Detroit loves the idea that I’m in this band.” Guitarist Eddie Van Halen peers at the banner over Hagar’s left shoulder, breaks into a wide, loopy smile and nods his head in agreement.

There’s a lot to love about the idea of Sammy Hagar fronting America’s top whomp-rock band. A veteran of fourteen years on the road, the thirty-eight-year-old Hagar has everything it takes to make these Detroit rock & roll animals go berserk. Like Roth, he’s a master of sexist slapstick. He’s never too busy to stop and smell the lacy bras and candy-colored panties constantly being thrown onstage, and tonight he yells “fuck,” “shit” or some macho locker-room variation thereof no less than forty-two times during the band’s two-and-a-half-hour set.

Hagar is also one hell of a yeller, ripping into old Van Halen standbys (“Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love,” “Panama”) and such megametal cuts as “Good Enough” and “Get Up” from the band’s recent Number One LP, 5150, with equal banzai gusto. And the way he works the room, you’d think Hagar drank rocket fuel for breakfast. He’s constantly doing high jumps from Alex Van Halen’s drum riser; he sings his own 1985 solo hit “I Can’t Drive 55” from a lighting rig about fifty feet above the stage (without a net); and he vigorously slaps and shakes every hand in the front-row crush in a show of party-rock solidarity. When he’s not pressing the flesh down in front, Hagar is giving Eddie Van Halen big bear hugs or taking brotherly swigs from bassist Michael Anthony’s Jack Daniel’s bottle. He is clearly a man who loves his work and his co-workers.

And he does it all without taking any swipes at his predecessor. Well, almost. Three nights later in Pittsburgh, Hagar brings a hefty, freckle-faced kid onstage to sing Van Halen’s biggest hit to date, the 1984 Number One smash “Jump.” The kid is good, too, belting out the words with conviction if not a whole lot of melody. Finally, Hagar ushers him offstage to a standing ovation and turns to a video camera in the photo pit that is recording all the action. “See that, Dave?” he shouts at the camera, furiously poking his finger at the lens. “That guy sings the song better than you!”

Hagar, who admits his mouth sometimes moves faster than his brain when he’s onstage, made a crack like that once before on this tour. According to Eddie, “When he brought the guy up to sing ‘Jump,’ he said, ‘That was actually better than the other guy.’ ” After the show, the rest of the band gave Hagar a friendly little lecture about needling Roth onstage. “We all said, ‘Come on, you don’t have to go that far.’ “

David Lee Roth and the four members of the new 5150-model Van Halen have been trading insults and accusations in the press since last summer when Eddie Van Halen publicly bid Roth goodbye and good riddance in Rolling Stone with the memorable line: “Twelve years of my life, putting up with his bullshit.” Roth, a master of verbal volleyball, returned Eddie’s serve, describing the band’s complaints about his overbearing ego, dictatorial manner and tiresome showbiz jive as “mindless word-drool.”

He has also taken a few well-aimed shots at his replacement, although the two singers have never met in person. Roth was quoted in the heavy-metal magazine Circus as saying, “Every night, Sammy Hagar’s gotta sing ‘Jump,’ and I will never sing a Sammy Hagar song.” (Infact, Hagar rarely sings “Jump” onstage; as in Pittsburgh, he brings up a special guest, usually a fan or local celebrity, to do the honors most nights.)

The torrent of abuse from both sides has taken its toll. Eddie, sipping a breakfast bottle of Heineken in a Pittsburgh hotel room and stubbing out his first cigarette of the morning, winces slightly when Roth’s name comes up. “I said a few things in anger, you know, that I should apologize for,” he admits a bit sheepishly. But Eddie insists he was truly distressed by Roth’s departure. “I cried, I was bummed,” he says bluntly. “I slagged him in the press because I was pissed and I was hurt. The thing was, Dave is a very creative guy and working with him was no problem. It was living with the guy.

“And that’s what I meant by all the years of putting up with his bullshit. I didn’t mean musically. But, boy, it just freaked me out. He left us hanging.”

Eddie’s bitterness about Roth, as well as that of his older brother, Alex, and Michael Anthony, suggests the four founding members of Van Halen fought it out longer and harder than most bands — and, miraculously, were able to keep a lid on it for more than five years. Even Ted Templeman, who produced all of the band’s albums with Roth, seems very surprised by the venomous character of the charges and countercharges flying back and forth between Roth and the other members of Van Halen. “I never saw any of that,” he claims. “I would say, ‘Guys, we were in there for seven years, we never had any fights — what was it?’ They said, ‘Hey, we used to fight it all out in the basement before we got with you.’ So I said, ‘What the fuck’s the matter? So does everyone else.’ “

Roth, who is scheduled to release his Templeman-pro-Can this be love? duced debut solo LP over the July 4th weekend, declined to comment for this story on the statements made about him by his former band mates. But the composite portrait of Diamond Dave by Anthony and the Van Halen brothers is not very complimentary. The way they draw it, somewhere along the line from the band’s hardwon conquest of the Southern California club circuit in the mid-Seventies to the multiplatinum success of 1984, David Lee Roth came to believe that Van Halen was a vehicle for his personal success and that his rightful place was in the driver’s seat.

“When our first record came out,” Eddie says, “it was Dave’s idea to make everyone in the band seem younger than we really were. I was twenty-three, not twenty-one. He was the one who wanted to be in his twenties forever. So when Dave says in his interviews, ‘Eddie, c’mon, grow up, you’re thirty-one,’ hey, it was his idea to lie about our ages in the first place.”

Eddie claims Roth often acted like a drill sergeant on the road. “Sometimes I’d stay up till six o’clock in the morning in the hotel room writing, because we’d tour so long that I had to write on the road. He was always into roller skating and jogging. Hey, that’s fine. But he would bang on everybody’s door at eight, nine in the morning, going, ‘Come on, get your ass out of bed, come roller skating.’ I’m going, ‘Fuck you, man, I just got to sleep.’ And he’s saying, ‘Well, man, you live wrong.’

“We were very, very different people, and he demanded, almost, that everyone live his way.”

Roth also played generalissimo in musical matters. According to Eddie, as far back as 1980 Roth made a big stink about the guitarist’s desire to use keyboards on Van Halen records and in concert. “He’d go, ‘Hey, man, you’re a guitar hero — nobody wants to see your dead ass playing keyboards.'” Eddie notes that the stomping Godzilla guitar sound on “And the Cradle Will Rock …” from the Women and Children First LP was actually a Wurlitzer electric piano played through a stack of Marshall amps. “That was okay with Dave,” he snickers. “It didn’t sound like a keyboard.”

Another bone of contention was Eddie’s highly publicized 1981 marriage to actress Valerie Bertinelli. The guitarist says that the relationship irritated Roth because it compromised the band’s image as a nonstop booze-and-babes party train. “I remember once he said, ‘Tell your old lady not to come to Detroit, because we’re doing a Life magazine interview,'” Eddie recalls. “He was afraid they were going to corner her and ask her some real things. So she ended up not coming to the show. I put up with it. But it hurt my wife. How do you think she felt? She was a newcomer, and not to be accepted in that way hurt her.”

Roth’s cocky stage act was no pose either, the band members complain. “It was like he was onstage all the time,” grumbles Michael Anthony. “He’d come to rehearsal and [we’d have to say]: ‘Okay, you can take the mask off now. You’re with the guys in the band.’

“I would dread having to do a photo session with the guy because I worried about how Roth would think I looked when I got there. I know Edward and Alex felt the same way, because Roth’s saying, ‘You gotta dress this way. Go and buy some clothes. Why are you wearing that?'”

The tensions leading up to the split in 1985 were nothing new. Eddie says he wanted to quit the band back in 1980 but was persuaded by his brother to stick it out. By the 1984 U.S. tour, intraband relations were so bad that Eddie preferred the solitary comfort of his guitar-tuning room backstage to being in the same dressing room with the perfectly unflappable Roth, who was attended in comic-regal fashion by two midget bodyguards. Eddie later discovered that the stress accumulated during the period leading up to the split gave him a king-size ulcer.

No one in the band denies that Roth was a valuable component of Van Halen — a strong lyricist, an undeniably charismatic frontman and an ace manipulator of the rock media. “He’s the kind of guy,” Eddie says in genuine admiration, “who walks into a party, finds a light bulb, and suddenly he’ll be standing underneath it.” But the last straw for the rest of the band was Roth’s concentration on his 1985 solo EP, Crazy from the Heat, and the now defunct feature-film spinoff of the same name in which he planned to make his starring motion-picture debut.

Ted Templeman, who produced Crazy from the Heat, says that for Roth, making the Van Halen follow-up to 1984 was a “number-one priority. All the time we were doing that EP, he kept saying, ‘Whatever you do, Teddy, don’t put any fucking guitars on there. I don’t want this to get in the way of Van Halen.'”

Eddie remembers it differently. “He wasn’t showing up for rehearsal. He’d call me and say, ‘Oh, I don’t feel so good today, man — tell the guys I don’t think I’ll be making it.’ And he’d be at the office, doing interviews for his solo thing. After a couple weeks of that, I just laid it on the line. I said, ‘What’s going on here? Do you want to do a record or not?’ …

“And he said no. He wanted to make his movie — and he actually asked if I’d write the music for it.”

“When a person decides he wants to do something else, so be it,” declares Alex Van Halen heatedly. “The only beef we had was it was done in an underhanded way. Had he said it straight across the board, he wouldn’t have wasted five months of our time.

“If the man wants to make a movie, okay. Then go ahead and do so. But don’t fucking yin-yang us around!”

Eddie was the last member of the band to speak with Roth. He went to the singer’s twenty-room mansion in Pasadena, California, to settle matters once and for all. According to Eddie, Roth told him, “I can’t work with you guys anymore. I want to do my movie. Maybe when I’m done, we’ll get back together.”

“I ain’t waiting on your ass,” Eddie replied. And that was it. David Lee Roth and Van Halen, the monster rock action squad that ruled the charts and the airwaves for seven years with great tunes and good humor, went their separate ways. As he turned to leave, Eddie looked at his former singer and simply said, “See you later. Good luck.”

In the weeks immediately following the split, Lady Luck appeared to prefer Roth’s company. At the time, he was coming off two big hits from his EP, kitschy remakes of “California Girls” and “Just a Gigolo”/”I Ain’t Got Nobody.” His movie deal with Columbia Pictures was also moving ahead. Van Halen, on the other hand, had no singer and no foreseeable future. On top of that, Lenny Waronker, president of the group’s record company, Warner Bros., was seriously concerned that without Roth at center stage the band wouldn’t even be justified in using its name.

“I went up and had a meeting with Eddie about this, and I was pretty adamant,” Waronker explains. “Usually when a band of this magnitude breaks up, it’s very difficult to continue, and I felt it wouldn’t be the same band. The name really wasn’t the issue. I felt it was better to start something else with somebody else singing. In essence, it was the record company saying, ‘You’re great — don’t use the name to capitalize on.’ We believed whatever configuration the band had would be fine with another singer.

“It was a weird vote of confidence,” Waronker adds. “At least, that’s the way we thought. I don’t think that’s what Eddie thought.”

For a time, Eddie didn’t know what to think. His first impulse after Roth’s departure was to make an all-star record, replacing Roth with a collection of various singers, using a different voice on every song. Eddie drew up a list of his favorite vocalists — Joe Cocker, Phil Collins, Patty Smyth — and actually got as far as contacting Pete Townshend about joining the project.

But the idea, according to Alex, was quickly shelved. “Ed and I are no different than we were when we were sixteen years old. We still sit out in Eddie’s driveway and drink beer. And over a beer, we sat there talking, and said, ‘Hey, let’s keep this’ — the band, Van Halen. An all-star record would have been interesting, I guess. But we decided to make this a band.”

That’s where Claudio Zampolli comes in. Zampolli has a lucrative business in Van Nuys, California, servicing the foreign sports cars of the stars, among them Eddie Van Halen’s small fleet of Lamborghinis. Another one of Zampolli’s big-time rock-star customers happens to be Ferrari lover Sammy Hagar. One day late last August, Eddie was at the shop shooting the breeze with Zampolli when the latter happened to mention Hagar’s name. “All of a sudden, it just popped in my head,” Eddie says, still a bit awe-struck by the simplicity of it. “I went, ‘Hey, why not call Sammy?'” Why not indeed? In the mid-Seventies, Eddie had been a big fan of Hagar’s singing and songwriting with the Bay Area crunch-rock band Montrose. The two had met twice before when their respective groups shared the bill at heavy-metal stadium spectaculars in Anaheim and Oklahoma. They also shared a producer in Templeman, who worked on Montrose’s 1973 debut album, as well as Hagar’s 1985 platinum LP, VOA.

Zampolli gave Eddie the phone number at Hagar’s home in Marin Country, and Eddie dialed it right from the shop. Ironically, Hagar had already heard about the Roth-Van Halen battle of wills from Templeman. He also had this clairvoyant buzz that Eddie wasn’t just calling to talk about the weather.

“I had a gut feeling that it was going to happen,” he remembers. “I told Betsy, my wife, ‘These guys are going to hit on me to join this band.’ When Eddie called, I got butterflies in my stomach the second he said hi.”

A couple of days later, Hagar joined the three members of Van Halen for a little jam session at 5150, the twenty-four-track recording studio Eddie built over the racquetball court in the back yard of his Los Angeles home. (The studio is named after the Los Angeles police code for “escaped mental patient”). Eddie pulled out a half-finished number called “Summer Nights,” and the band kicked in. Hagar improvised some words, let ‘er rip, and as Eddie describes it, “Our jaws just dropped. After twenty minutes, we all hugged and kissed and said, ‘Fuckin’ A, here we go.'”

As far as sammy Hagar’s Record Company, Geffen, was concerned, the singer was a bit overqualified for the Van Halen job. He was already a successful solo artist and had finally cracked the million-sellers’ club with VOA, his third album for the label. He also had three more albums to go in his Geffen deal. The company, finally enjoying the big platinum payback with Hagar, was not about to let him go skipping off to another act on another label without a fight.

While Hagar and the band jammed merrily away in 5150, Geffen and Warner Bros. tried to hack out a compromise deal that would allow Hagar to sign with Warner Bros. as a member of Van Halen. “It was predictably difficult,” Lenny Waronker affirms. “I know that I would have been troubled if one of our leading sellers wanted to get up and be in another band on another label. It was complex and hard because it wasn’t a matter of right or wrong but what was fair. “I remember telling the guys at one point it didn’t look good, that this is a tough negotiation and forget about it, don’t put a time limit on it. But they did put a time limit on it. They wanted to know.”

The group also had a few contingency plans. “At one point, for about five minutes, they were going to come and do my albums,” says Hagar, chuckling. “We were just going to be Sammy Hagar.” Hagar also considered fulfilling his solo contract by giving Geffen one more album of new material, a best-of package and a live LP. In the meantime, the Hagarized Van Halen would hit the road with new material, doing small halls until Hagar’s Geffen deal expired.

“We had all these harebrained ideas,” Hagar admits. “We should have known the record companies would work it out. But we were so anxious to get started.”

Geffen and Warner Bros. eventually came to terms. Hagar owes Geffen one more solo album, and the label also gets a percentage of 5150, according to Ed Leffler, who now manages Van Halen and has handled Hagar’s affairs for the past nine years. (Van Halen’s former manager, Noel Monk, left the group’s employ following the 1984 tour, after he and the band could not agree on a renegotiated management contract.) In the meantime, the recording of what ultimately became 5150 was already in progress. The band was laying down basic tracks at 5150, essentially producing themselves with Van Halen’s longtime engineer, Donn Landee.

At the request of Warner Bros., the group considered several outside producers, among them Nile Rodgers, Rupert Hine and, for a fleeting moment, Quincy Jones. Ted Templeman, the band’s initial choice, was already committed to producing the soundtrack for David Lee Roth’s movie. Then Sammy Hagar suggested Foreigner’s Mick Jones, an old pal of his from numerous arena tours in the mid-Seventies when Hagar was in Montrose and Jones was playing guitar with the reformed Spooky Tooth. Jones still had a couple of months to go on Foreigner’s ’85 tour, but by late November he was at 5150 fine-tuning the tracks the band had already cut and mixing the final product.

Commercially, 5150 is sweet victory indeed, the first Van Halen album to go to Number One. What’s more, the album zipped straight to the top without the promotional leverage of a video for “Why Can’t This Be Love.” “We had no time whatsoever to do a video,” Eddie explains. The band had to cancel two warm-up shows in Alaska and Hawaii because Eddie was still mixing 5150 with Donn Landee and Mick Jones between rehearsals. “The other thing,” he adds, “was I wanted people to see us for what we are live first. Then we can goof off in a video.”

Musically, 5150 is certainly the most vivid realization to date of Van Halen’s full potential. With the erotic coyote yowl of Eddie Van Halen’s guitar, the deliciously crude “Good Enough” (“Throw it down and roll it over once or twice/Then chow down/She’s good enough, good enough to huh!”) ranks right up there with great Roth-era slap & tickle like “Everybody Wants Some!!” and “Hot for Teacher.” And Hagar’s ability to carry a ballad, like “Love Walks In” or the arcing chorus of “Dreams,” has freed Eddie as a writer to indulge more in heavy melody, to build stronger, more lasting choruses instead of just blasting his best hooks with formulaic hard-rock dynamite.

“Frankly, I think they did a better job without me,” says Templeman. “They made a pop record. They picked up a new audience that they didn’t have before.”

In Van Halen’s previous incarnation, worldwide success and fierce pride on both sides literally drove Roth and the rest of the band apart; this time around, the uncertainty of the group’s business situation and the lingering bitterness over Roth actually drove the members of Van Halen into Hagar’s arms. “Sammy’s got a very up attitude about everything,” says Mick Jones. “He’s extremely positive, and that shook everybody out of the doldrums. He has a bag of attitudes that he goes through each morning before he comes in, and they’re usually pretty good ones.”

“I don’t know what it is about that guy, but he puts a smile on your face,” Alex agrees. “You could be having the worst day of your life, but you walk in and there’s Sammy. And it just makes my day.”

“Yeah, I’m a happy guy, and I refuse to ever be bummed out,” says Hagar, whose friendship with Eddie has blossomed to the point where he recently bought a house in Los Angeles two doors down from Eddie’s. “I like being happy, and these guys have been unhappy for a long time. They’re used to coming in, everybody trying to hold each other back. It was a real mess toward the end. A lot of people might say, ‘Well, isn’t conflict what makes great bands?’ No. That’s what ruins great bands.”

“Everybody assumes that I did this for money,” Sammy Hagar says, laughing hysterically, throwing back his head and running a hand through his tangled mass of sun-bleached curls. In fact, Hagar and Leffler claim that because of Van Halen’s huge road expenses and the need to split the money four ways now, Hagar will not make as much this year with Van Halen as he did in 1985 as a solo artist.

“I’m doing this for other reasons,” Hagar continues. “I do things strictly for excitement at this stage and for inspiration and motivation. You look for things to push you on and push you farther, and that’s what it was here.”

Born the son of a boxer in Salinas, California, near Monterey, the youngest of four children, Hagar didn’t pick up the guitar until he was eighteen. But, he says, “I was always a party hound. I’d always be singing with the radio, and my buddies would be telling me, ‘You sing great, man — you’re going to be famous.’ “

It wasn’t quite that easy. The first Montrose album has been cited by many heavy-metal aficionados as one of the best LPs of the decade, and Ted Templeman claims that even Van Halen modeled itself after the group. Yet Montrose barely scraped the bottom of Billboard’s Top 200, and when Hagar left the band to go solo in 1975, sales of his subsequent releases — such as Nine on a Ten Scale and the live All Night Long — generally fizzled out at the 250,000 mark.

A Rick Springfield cover of “I’ve Done Everything for You,” a song from All Night Long, hit the Top Ten in 1981, and Hagar contributed tunes to the soundtracks of The Rose and Footloose. But it was through relentless touring with the likes of Boston, ELO and Foghat that Hagar built his devoted arena audience. He developed a reputation for manic, unpredictable behavior — trying on every piece of clothing thrown onstage, clowning on the sound and light rigging — and colorful, spontaneous speed raps, like the time on his last solo tour when he blabbed nonstop onstage for twenty-seven minutes.

“Things kept happening,” he explains with characteristic ebullience. “Somebody would throw something onstage, and I’d talk about it. But the people weren’t bored. I had people laughing and booing and getting mad about something. I took them through the whole gamut of emotions, which is the whole show to me.”

Hagar’s quick lip and unrepentant outspokenness frequently land him in hot water. A patriotic conservative who admires Ronald Reagan, he wrote the song “VOA” as an outraged reply to the Russians after they pulled out of the 1984 Olympics — ” ‘Fuck you, Russia’ is all I said” — and was later knocked in the rock press as a heavy-metal Rambo.

“I got to admit, I got myself fired up,” he says of “VOA.” “There’s two sides to me. I’m a fiery, hotheaded fighter, and then I’m sensitive and passionate for my fellow man. I wish everyone could just leave everyone else alone. But unfortunately the world isn’t set up that way. I live in America, and if I have to draw a line, I’ll go to bat for us. I’ll stand behind almost anything we do.”

Ironically, considering his political beliefs, Hagar got yanked off the air by the red-white-and-blue Nashville Network during the Farm Aid concert broadcast last year when he and Eddie Van Halen, who came onstage to jam with Hagar and his band, got into a little impromptu discussion about sexual organs.

“I was just joking, man,” Eddie says, cracking up. “Somebody threw a banner onstage. Sammy holds it up and goes, ‘Eddie, what does it say?’ I walked up and whispered in his ear: ‘It says you got a small dick.’ I was just joking. And he fucking says it out loud, you know, because sometimes he’s so hyped up he doesn’t know what the hell he’s saying.”

Hagar speaks in more careful, measured tones when the subject of David Lee Roth comes up. “When I first got in this band, I thought I’d like to rap with Dave and just see what he says happened. I’m hearing it from these guys, and not that I disbelieve them, but I’d just like to shake hands with Roth and say, ‘Hey, we’re two grown men, life goes on. I had a nice solo career, you’ll probably have a great one yourself.

“But I doubt he really wants to talk to me. I think he’s got more against me than I got against him.”

How does he feel about the slams Roth has given him in the press?

“The ball’s in his court, man,” Hagar declares with arrogant relish. “It’s low, it’s over in the corner, it’s got a heavy topspin on it, and it was hit with a hell of a forehand. The rock & roll special’s in his court now.”

In the Van Halen dressing room backstage at Joe Louis Arena, Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” is blasting out of a giant portable stereo system as the four band members go through their nightly preshow jiving ritual.

“The first guy who pulls his pants down to get changed, he’s the guy who becomes the butt of the jokes,” Hagar says, howling.

“We fuck with each other in a fun way,” Eddie adds.

Like the way someone always manages to sneak up on a napping Alex Van Halen, tap him on the shoulder and ask, “Al, are you asleep?” Eddie breaks into a fit of laughter, practically choking on his beer as he doubles over. “Man, I’ve never had this much fun. I swear to God.”

The giggles keep on comin’ after the band hits the Joe Louis stage. When someone in the audience tosses a used-looking pair of male jockey shorts at Hagar, Hagar sets them on fire with a cigarette lighter while Eddie gets on his knees, bends back and starts riffing in comically exaggerated Hendrix-at-Monterey style. Michael Anthony finally puts Hagar’s Fruit of the Loom bonfire out with a fire extinguisher.

“We really are the ultimate party band in a way now,” Hagar later states proudly, “because we do it together.”

“It’s kind of because of Roth that we are a better band now and better as human beings,” suggests Anthony. “You can only take so many years of living with someone like that to make you realize what you’ve been missing and what I feel we were cheating the audience out of. There were times on the ’84 tour when I didn’t even want to play that night because of having to deal with” — he hums the theme to The Tonight Show — “The Dave Roth Comedy Hour. “It’s not a Vegas act anymore. We’re an actual band again.”

Despite their diatribes, Hagar, Anthony and the two Van Halens say they really wish Roth well with his solo career. “Hey, I wish him the best,” says Eddie, who almost had a chance to express that sentiment in person when he bumped into Roth on the street in Los Angeles shortly before the Van Halen tour started.

“I saw him on the way to rehearsal. I saw this black Mercedes, I pull up to it, and I’m going, ‘Goddamn, that sure looks like Dave’s car.’ And it was. I honked and waved, and he went like this …” Eddie bends his head back slightly and stares down his nose with a look of hateful superiority.

“His classic look. It’s like he basically flipped me off. I thought he would at least wave and say hi, you know? He didn’t even roll down his window. He looked at me and drove off.”

Eddie just laughed and kept on going.


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