Wednesday, August 27, 2008

David Lee Roth - Crazy From The Heat

In my opinion, David Lee Roth is the ultimate frontman. If only he could sing, he'd be even better. After reading the Van Halen biography, this book seemed all the more appealing. The brothers Van Halen spend a lot of time putting all the blame on their lead singers, and especially on David Lee Roth. The funny thing is that most of the time, what they blame Roth for and which they claim broke up VH mark 1, is that he wanted to do a side project - his famous or infamous covers of "California Girls" and "Just A Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody". Problem is; by then Eddie Van Halen had already recorded "Beat It" with Michael Jackson, recorded some solos for a KISS album, done some movie soundtracks for his then wife's made for TV movies, and so on. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. This, combined with the fact that Diamond Dave is an extremely extrovert, eloquent and loquacious individual, makes for an interesting and entertaining autobiography.

Which leads me to another thing; it ain't ghost written - it's pure Roth. Choice of words, mannerisms - everything is exactly like an interview with Roth, so this is the real deal. So much the better. The book is not a chronological account of the life and times of Mr. Roth - which rules, 'cause being exposed to the excruciating minutia of what his mom made for dinner and what his second grade teachers were like is something I can do without. Neither is the book a detailed description of his backstage antics - also something I can do without. Besides which - you know he did all that stuff, so there's no mystery there - the rest is a description of kinesiology and pharmacology. What this book IS however, is an awesome collection of short stories and accumulated wisdom from none other than Diamond David Lee Roth, the man, the myth, the living legend himself. Moreover, while the Van Halen book would've been reduced by at least 30% if one was to remove all the Dave-bashing, there is very little Van Halen bashing to be found here. Much props for that.

I really, really enjoyed this book. Some of his stories of life on the road sort of come out of left field, yet are really funny. Like the description of how during the most active touring they'd leave a town as soon as possible after a gig to get to the next venue in time. Which means that beside the hotel and the venue, there was no time for anything (well; almost). So after a couple of days on the road, there's the onset of road amnesia, where everything becomes a blur. One particular problem described by Dave Roth emerges when every hotel room looks exactly the same yet the room you're in now has a different architecture than the one you had last night. This becomes a problem when you wake up in the middle of the night and head for the bathroom - which ain't where you remember it was, so you keep running into walls and whatnot, as you can't locate the light switch either.

Somewhat surprisingly, Diamond Dave really lashes out at sensationalist journalism. A lot of what he writes on this topic mirrors my own opinions. Just to digress - when we lived in NC, there was a horrible explosion at a chemical factory in Wake County, with plenty of casualties and horrific, stomach-churning injuries. At that time I was spending a lot of time commuting between NC State in Raleigh, and UNC Chapel Hill to do some flashy experiments on some tiny particles coated with something which makes them do whatever. On the way, we had to drive by the hospital in Chapel Hill, and every time Joe and me would drive past that place, for several weeks, there would be hordes of these supposed journalists stacked wide and deep outside the hospital entrance, waiting for someone with horrible disfigurements to emerge, or even better, for some grieving families to come out in tears. Whenever someone would come out - typically one or two adults huddling with some kids, these vultures would swarm on them with cameras and microphones. The images would be available at the 10 PM news, and in every news pitch before that. The public has a right to know what a crying widow looks like half an hour after her husband passed away from being too close to an explosion? F*cking vultures - have some compassion and basic human dignity! The most disheartening part was that the vultures were mostly from the major, so-called serious news agencies - the local schmoes from Channel WKGB-Douche were by far in the minority.

Back to Dave. If you've read more than two rock star biographies, you'll know that all of them have apparently had the same managers, who in turn screwed them over, leaving them in debt to their record companies while they rode happily into the sunset with the band's earnings. Dave has written a chapter called Business 101, wherein he outlines precisely how the manager, accountant and lawyers screw you over. Totally awesome - this book should be required reading for any professional musician. I'm not gonna provide any spoilers here, as I'm of the vehement opinion that you should read this book - at the very least this chapter.

Best rock biography this side of "The Dirt". Buy it today!


Layne said...

Crazy from the Heat is a great book...Henry Rollins actually helped Dave to organize his thoughts for the book. If it were possible to organize Dave's thoughts.

Wilhelm said...

Yeah; I read that. Henry Rollins is another guy I'd love to read an autobiography from.