Tag Archives: David Lee Roth

Reading Red

So why does a guy who abhors gossip shows read rock bios?

I don’t know, but I do. I’m not talking about the ghoul books, where hacks write detached tomes about Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger without ever getting close to the subject or the inner circle. There are writers who make a career out of that, although their creative output wouldn’t fill a thimble. You know who they are, because their dust jackets brag about how many they’ve written. If you know anything about rock’n’roll and grew up listening to the artists, you already know more than you’ll ever get out of these pulp pissants – the equivalent of stones skipping across the surface of a pond.

But hey, it’s America – they’re free to write ’em and you’re free to read ’em.

I’ve actually become more of a documentary fan as I’ve gotten older, everything from social issues to films to music. The recent deluxe package of Bridge Over Troubled Water included a fascinating piece about the making of the album; it started airing on Palladia this weekend. I almost didn’t recognize Art Garfunkel, but he and Paul Simon were interviewed at length along with several key collaborators. I know that album backwards and forwards and the title song still gives me goosebumps (one of the greatest vocals, ever), but I came away learning something. More on that tomorrow.

I’ve been working like a fiend, 12+ hour days, and this weekend I knew I had to decompress, at least for a day or two. I’ve always been a voracious reader, a book a day from my teen years through my mid-twenties. When I do have the time I still enjoy reading, whether next to the fireplace on a miserable winter’s night, laying on the beach on vacation or just sitting in an Adirondack chair outside my house. Summer is short and sweet in upstate New York, so with the sun high in the sky and cocktail in hand, I grabbed Sammy Hagar’s bio Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock.

Video: Montrose:Bad Motor Scooter

I’ve never been a huge fan of Sammy’s solo material, but that first Montrose album was and is an absolute killer, and his first solo record had a few stellar tracks as well. Being a bit older, I grew tired of Van Halen rather quickly, but two of the best songs they ever did – “Why Can’t This Be Love” and “Finish What You Started” – were with Sam in the band. And although the musicians in Chickenfoot are all first-rate, it just doesn’t stick with me musically. Frankly, his smaller band (whether Waboritas or Wabos) sounds looser and more fun.

Red is a pretty quick read – dysfunctional childhood, outsider with ambition, chance meetings, a little magic, and a combination of solo success mixed with playing alongside one of the most innovative guitarists in history and one of the most psychotic, self-destructive people around. And those last two people are the same guy.

Hagar doesn’t pull many punches here – he’s pretty open about his own missteps and regrets – and with few exceptions (Michael Anthony, original manager Ed Leffler) the usual suspects have the stink of the business upon them. Irving Azoff is skilled but two-faced, Ronnie Montrose is brilliant but self-directed, Eddie Van Halen can be a charming and apologetic cat but is also criminally insane. David Lee Roth is a self-serving dick. The only relationship I couldn’t figure out was Alex Van Halen; Hagar alternates between saying they are so tight they call each other on birthdays, and that Alex conspires with Eddie to screw him over at every turn. I think something went amiss in the editing.

Video: Van Halen: “Why Can’t This Be Love

I went into the book looking for the insider’s view on what really went down in the Van Halen circus, but frankly I didn’t learn a thing. What I did discover – and it was never said overtly – was that Hagar has been smart enough to reach out to successful people for advice, and then take it. Like Jimmy Buffet, he modeled his lifestyle into an enterprise that will keep him independently wealthy for the rest of his life, which gives him the freedom to play music for fun rather than necessity. Between cantinas and his Cabo Wabo tequila business – eventually sold to a majority owner who made his percentage worth more than it was when he ran it himself – Hagar is a free man.

So since he didn’t write the book for money, was it to set the record straight about the bands he had been in? To declare that the low-scale concerts and smaller albums are by design? To distance himself from the myriad of casualties he’s been associated with and celebrate family and casual living? Frankly, I’m not certain. The book doesn’t even really end, it just…stops. I think he wants his fans to believe that he’s at heart a decent guy who supports charities, who takes care of people (the Wabos are paid year-round even though they play infrequently), who has gotten to the top through hard work and dedication. I would imagine his fans already know that.

So while the book was a quick read – conversationally written, very pleasant – it was an afternoon’s diversion rather than a deep-dive. I did come away liking the guy and respecting his drive, and although I remain ambivalent about the majority of his catalogue, there are several classic songs of his that have endured well over time. If I ever meet him and he wants to do a shot of Cabo Wabo, it would probably be a good time (I did learn that Sammy brings the party with him). But sadly, maybe that Van Halen story will never be known.

Unless…I wonder if Michael Anthony is interested in writing a book?

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Sex Pistol Radio

Never Mind the Bollocks, here’s Jonesy’s Jukebox!

Steve Jones, Sex Pistols guitarist, launches a new radio show on the legendary KROQ this Sunday, October 10th, and terrestrial radio just got cooler. One of my big gripes with radio today is tightly formatted playlists and national programming at the expense of regional breakouts.

There was a time when radio jocks really had to know their music, and their love of it bled through the radio speakers. Over time that seemed to die, giving way to morning zoo shows and formulaic he/she pairings; the real rock lovers were either banished to night and weekend slots or settled for weekly themed shows…or left the dial altogether.

Radio has had its share of rockers-turned jocks over the years; probably the most successful has been Little Steven with his Underground Garage empire. And while some have imploded rather quickly (David Lee Roth) others have proven to be quite entertaining. Nights With Alice Cooper showed that while Vince isn’t golfing, he’s got a wealth of anecdotes and great taste in music. And who would have imagined that Bob Dylan would not only sit down at a microphone, but prove to be so subtly hilarious?

Of course with the podcast explosion, all this might go the way of the dinosaur. But as long as rock dinosaurs roam the earth, we need someone on the other side of the dial who is in it for the right reasons. I have no doubt that Steve Jones will play some raucous, ass-kicking rock and roll, but the thing that excites me the most is the open call for bands to submit music directly to the show for airplay consideration. Jonesy’s Jukebox will feature an irreverent mix of new music from iconic artists, developing talent, and eclectic cuts from his personal music collection.

“Sunday nights on KROQ has historically been the home to groundbreaking programming beginning with the legendary Rodney Bingenheimer over 30 years ago. In fact, Rodney was one of the first DJ’s in America to play the Sex Pistols” said Kevin Weatherly,Senior Vice President, Programming, CBS RADIO and Program Director for 106.7 KROQ FM. “Steve is punk rock royalty and a proven tastemaker. I’m thrilled that Jonesy’s Jukebox can now be heardalongside KROQ Locals Only, Loveline and Rodney on the Roq.”

To submit music to be considered for inclusion on Jonesy’s Jukebox, please send band CD/Bio to:

Steve Jones
c/o Jonesy’s Jukebox
PO Box 790
Hollywood, CA 90027

God Save The Queen!

 

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Under The Radar: Everybody Wants Some

Me too!!!

Me too!!!

(I was organizing some tribute CDs and came across this gem and played it loud. Thought I’d dig up the original review and share it as the magazine it ran in is long dead and gone…because of its low profile, this is more of an “under the radar” item than a “blast from the past”)

The Van Halen tribute Everybody Wants Some begins and ends with two diverse yet equally stunning renditions of Eddie’s finger-tapping showpiece, “Eruption”, and in-between lie fifteen of the most diverse interpretations of music found on any tribute record. Think of “E”‘s unique take on “Jennifer Eccles” on the Hollies tribute as a benchmark. Yet somehow, amazingly, there are two songs here that could be hit singles in a better world.

You have to imagine that any project “honoring” a band with front men like Sammy Hagar and Diamond Dave can’t be all that reverential, and you’re right (well, maybe that church organ rendition of “Eruption”!) Most of these Boston area bands took a wild stab and hit the bulls eye. Trona’s “Could This Be Magic” starts off the vocal selections, kicking in with a drum riff lifted from “Ballroom Blitz” and cruising through a cowpunk rendition with a vocal that’s half  Roaring Twenties, half Minnie Mouse (hmm…same era). Hell, she’s still better than Gary was in VH3…

Jajuya’s “Jamie’s Crying” combines Santana and War’s “Spill The Wine”; “Mean Streets” by Elbow is all Dr. John and saucy bottleneck slide, and project head Captain Rock’s version of “Panama” can only be likened to Chicago, on acid, with Frank Zappa producing. That’s a compliment. Tom Leach gives “Dance The Night Away” a Poco-like twang spin, Talking To Animals takes “Everybody Wants Some” to Lounge land, and Red Time funks up “Beautiful Girls”.

Two songs here are so good they deserve to be bigger hits than the originals. Fuzzy’s dead-on Ronettes impression absolutely Spectorizes “Feel Your Love”, and the Gigolo Aunts’ “Why Can’t This Be Love” (despite being saddled with banal lyrics like “only time will tell if we can stand the test of time”) gets the “That Thing You Do” treatment, right down to the bad sixties’ harmonica.

These are two of the best songs I have heard all year! Unfortunately, the song that is getting the push is Mary Lou Lord‘s slow version of “Jump” – a great idea except Aztec Camera had a hit with the exact same arrangement over ten years ago. Call that radio station, kids! Vote for Fuzzy and the Aunts!!

Okay, so there’s no information on the band members and they printed the booklet backwards (or maybe it’s the first booklet made for southpaws). Nit picking – this album is a friggin’ riot, whether you love or loathe Van Halen (I’d bet it appeals more to the latter). One of the best tributes ever, and I’ve heard them all. Liner notes indicate there are enough tracks in the can for Volume Two – let’s hope so!

(Of course, that never happened)

Out of print, but you can pick this tribute CD up cheap and used.

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