Diamonds Are Forever

Anyone trying to steal the spotlight from David Lee Roth is asking for an ass-kicking.

WW: Is it satisfying to you that there are still people out there who treat the day you left Van Halen like some kind of tragic anniversary?

DLR: It's not even an anniversary. It's a steadfast refusal to let that band or the memory of it fade, just like we treat Hendrix or the guy in the Doors. It transcends simple melody, and it transcends lyric writing. It becomes part of your history -- and that never ages, does it? Think of your first girlfriend. Think of your first car crash. Think of the first time you drank too much beer and barfed. It's all like it just happened yesterday, isn't it? And as soon as you hear the soundtrack that happened along with all of those colorful and important events, you're right back there. As soon as you hear the beginning of any of the twenty songs I play back to back, during every single one of them you're going to be kneeing and elbowing strangers next to you and saying, "Oh, my God, I graduated to this!" or "Oh, my God, I flunked out to this!" I get cards and letters constantly: "Dear Dave, I got sent to jail because of this." "Dear Dave, your music got me through jail." "Dear Dave, I'm still in jail." And on and on. People have pinned the most singularly important events of their lives to music like mine and Sam's. Well, I'm not familiar with Sam's catalogue, but I'm familiar with mine, and it's definitely true about me.

WW: Is that the legacy of your career that means the most to you?

David Lee Roth, a black man trapped inside a Jewish man's body, has got the hots again.
David Lee Roth, a black man trapped inside a Jewish man's body, has got the hots again.
David Lee Roth, a black man trapped inside a Jewish man's body, has got the hots again.
David Lee Roth, a black man trapped inside a Jewish man's body, has got the hots again.

DLR: No, my favorite legacy is the last three weeks, when I've been receiving cards and letters from my home base at the Mojo Dojo from all kinds of ex-girlfriends: "Dear Dave, I'll be attending St. Louis. By the way, I'm married now -- but don't worry." I kid you not!

WW: Do you have them lined up all along the tour?

DLR: They're lining themselves up! It's all over but the winning, coach!

WW: It's been a few years since you've seen a lot of these women. Do you think you can handle that much action?

DLR: That may be the single stupidest question I've ever heard.

WW: Sorry about that.

DLR: You should be.

WW: I think a lot of critics are sorry, too -- sorry they didn't give Van Halen its due, way back when. Does it please you when you hear them admit that, or does it just prove they're as out of touch now as they were then?

DLR: I think we attach popular music to who we are or who we think we are. For most folks, it's the soundtrack that goes with their community that's the most important. Like, if you wear a cowboy hat and drive a pickup truck, then country-Western is your vibe -- but if you have a tongue bolt and pink hair and your pant cuffs trail a block and a half behind you and you live below 14th Street, chances are you aren't going to want your friends to find you listening to country unless you pass it off as kitsch. But even though I've always lived next door, I've never been the boy next door -- and I've never paid attention to boundaries. I was one of the first to publicly proclaim, in Metal Edge magazine, that I listen to dance music constantly. That's blasphemy! That sends you to the seventh level of hell in many people's minds. So it's no surprise that the critics didn't understand what I was doing. But I didn't change then, and I'm not changing now. Who am I today? Same guy I've always been -- somewhere between Groucho and Kurosawa. Call me Grouchy Tiger.

WW: Was one of the reasons you left Van Halen because it became too limiting for you?

DLR: Van Halen music was changing. Van Halen music when I was the quarterback was belligerently enthusiastic and enthusiastically belligerent. And in the mid-'80s you heard the music swing in a very different direction. I was "Hot for Teacher" and when they took on another singer, it was "Why Can't This Be Love?" You see the difference, right? But I'm an antagonist, not a bully. I love to mix it up but not with anybody smaller than me, and certainly not with somebody who can't give a little back -- because I know people are watching, and it's all for entertainment value anyway. The Van Halens are not doing well medically and spiritually, so I'm going to leave off of them. I hope they do great, and I look forward to a reunion tour. I'm a no-notice lead vocalist, babe. You don't have to call me -- just send a car.

WW: That should be good news to the folks behind the "Fan Halen" Web site (www.globalagora.com/VanHalen.htm). They're trying to whip up a reunion petition campaign, and they say, "Your fans don't care who's getting along with who. We just want to rock." Is that the bottom line with you, too?

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