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Share via Email Van Halen in on roller skates in front of a mural of the planets. David is in the stylish red jumpsuit. Namely: why did I have to watch a video of him putting his sheepdog though its paces before I was allowed to speak to him?
It's hard to tell why — because Roth's answers are circumlocutory, filled with metaphor and grandly entertaining — but my guess is it's to illustrate how his life has returned to its beginnings. Just down the street is Indiana University where my pop went to school — he later became a doctor. But while he was just starting college when I was born we lived in a little house at the edge of a farmer's property and I grew up chasing muskrats and collaring dogs.
Full circle in another sense, too, for next week's release of the new Van Halen album, A Different Kind of Truth, marks the first recordings Roth has made with the band since departing amid a cloud of bitterness in , when he was replaced by his arch-enemy Sammy Hagar as far back as the 70s, Hagar was calling Roth a "faggot", Roth responding by saying Hagar had "a social problem". Though Indiana-born, Roth was hardly your typical farmboy. He was never much of a student, bouncing around schools — for disciplinary reasons; he's evidently ferociously bright, even if he often chooses not to show the world — until he moved to Pasadena, California, as a teenager, where he enrolled at Pasadena City College and met the man with whom his life would become entwined, a young guitarist called Eddie Van Halen.
For seven years — from the release of their debut album , until Roth's departure as frontman in — Van Halen were a living, breathing cartoon of the rock'n'roll lifestyle. They celebrated sex and drugs and drink. Then they celebrated them some more. If Sunset Strip in the s had been the party, Van Halen, a decade later, were the after-party. And the world lapped it up: the Roth-era Van Halen sold 35m albums, despite their sometimes variable quality.
There were masterpieces — their debut, a shock as seismic as punk, and Roth's final album with the group, the one that gave us Jump and the marvellously goofy Hot For Teacher with its apocalyptic drum intro — and there was the tossed-off, minute long Diver Down, from , heavy on covers and instrumentals.