In Praise of David Lee Roth – by Greg Puciato

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In 1985, Van Halen’s high-kicking motormouth frontman David Lee Roth released an EP of standards titled ‘Crazy From The Heat’.

The four-track collection featured strutting covers of The Edgar Winter Group’s Easy Street, The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Coconut Grove and Louis Prima’s medley of Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody. His take on Beach Boys’ California Girls reached Number Three in the Billboard Hot 100.

The release came during Van Halen’s 1984 world tour and tensions in the camp were at an all-time high. Roth would leave in the months following the EP’s release and would go on to assemble a crack team of virtuoso musicians, including guitarist Steve Vai, bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Gregg Bissonette.

His larger than life persona, memorably captured on a string of MTV staples such as Yankee Rose and Just Like Paradise, captivated a new generation of rock fans. The Dillinger Escape Plan’s very own fire breathing vocalist Greg Puciato – then aged five – was one such person. His tribute to one of rock’s biggest icons continues below…

Greg Puciato

Greg Puciato
(Image: © Nigel Crane/Getty)

Writes Greg: “Who hasn’t seen David Lee Roth doing the splits, in slow motion, over an entire drum kit? Who hasn’t seen him do a mid-air roundhouse kick with a trail of ribbons flowing behind him? David Lee Roth. The singer. The acrobat. The cheerleader. The constant performer. Gasoline. Testosterone. Rock and roll personified. Mythical. The golden god. The male rock sex symbol who inspired every frontman of 80’s hair metal. Crawling toward you onstage. Eyes piercing into you. Fully aware of his raw animal magnetism. ‘Boopity bop!’ ‘Wooh!’ ‘Haaaaaauuuuggghhh-yeeeeaeah!’ What the fuck were those sounds? Were those lyrics? Now he’s doing a soft-shoe with a skipper’s cap on his head. I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of coffee involved here. What the fuck is happening?

“I remember sitting on the floor with my eyes glued to the television in my parents’ living room. I was around five-years-old and MTV was my childhood fascination. I remember seeing a happy looking guy making crazy sounds with a guitar, while a half-man/half-lion was leaping around the stage. Where is this place… Panama? How can I get there? Why should I Jump? How can I jump like that? Is that what school is going to be like?

“There are singers who are great. There are performers who are great. But a combination of the two makes a great rock frontman. There’s various attributes, like voice, stage presence, lyrics, message and personality. But the ones who become mythical…those are the ones who not only have everything, but manage to be blindingly unique – to put things together in a way that you’ve never seen before.

“I’ve never seen Van Halen. Regardless of if I do or don’t, I’ll never see what people got to see from 1978 to 1984. And nobody else will ever see its like again. Either way, my inner five-year-old is still transfixed.”