Overthinking David Lee Roth's 'Crazy From The Heat' EP!

Original cover shot for 'Crazy From The Heat'.
At the time of its release, January 28, 1985, it was colder than a dead witch's left cheek in Chicago, but the first time I heard David Lee Roth's "California Girls" while waiting for my Demon Dog order 'neath the Fullerton el platform I couldn't help feel a little warmer inside because, love him or hate him, Diamond Dave knew how to capture a mood.

Imagine early Van Halen with anybody else but Roth at the mic and you soon realize just how quickly the whole thing could have descended into "butt rock smell-o-rama with a side of mustache".

Roth may have been over-the-top, but his motivation was always coming from the right place. That Eddie found him too much of a spotlight hog just goes to show you how skewed the roles were in EVH's mind, or is every guitarist secretly envious of the lead singer?

Roth, a pop culture sponge and subconscious vaudevillian, brought a playful sense of humor and flamboyance adding a heretofore non-existent level of showmanship to a band that was otherwise content playing Mountain and Thin Lizzy covers at backyard keggers in the greater San Gabriel Valley.

Prior to Van Halen's arrival on the rock scene, there had been little to no room for such showboating tomfoolery. Imagine Diamond Dave auditioning for, say, Rainbow or Deep Purple (c'mon, it coulda happened) and Ritchie Blackmore's response to that first backflip off the drum riser.

Image from 'Crazy From The heat' THE BOOK!
Some of us may get a couple nice winning scratch-offs in our lifetimes, but, for others, luck comes in the form of growing up in the same area as those with whom you will conquer the music world. Roth and the future Edward Bertinelli were a technicolor Jagger and Richards for the MTV generation who, like Jagger and Richards, just so happened to "grow up in the same neighborhood".

Even so, if I'd been David Lee Roth the day Eddie showed "Jump" to the band, I would have quit the band right then and there.

That Roth did no such thing goes far in disproving any myth that Dave is only worried about Dave. Sticking with Eddie through his Thomas Dolby phase proved DLR was a team player who, it must be stated, ultimately got shit-canned anyway.

All of which makes Diamond Dave's masterfully retro solo debut EP Crazy From The Heat such an inspired dig at his former guitarist as well as a masterfully constructed homage to the songs that inspired him while growing up on the tough doctor-and-lawyer-lined streets of Pasadena, CA.

Just going by the track listing, Crazy should have been a disaster.

First off, the four-song EP opens with a note-perfect cover of the Edgar Winter Band's horn-heavy "Easy Street". Then Roth sets his sights on the Louis Prima medley "Just A Gigolo"/"I Ain't Got Nobody" and, again, holds his own.

Side Two begins with easily the most respectful cover of the Beach Boys' classic "California Girls", which nobody in their right mind would attempt because there is no competing with the original. Roth did so and actually matched the band's original peak chart position, too (#3).

Roth also got a Beach Boy (Carl Wilson) and Christopher Cross to sing backing vocals on the track.

After going 3-for-three, Roth wraps up his abbreviated solo debut with a Lovin' Spoonful deep cut and an acoustic ballad, at that. While Roth pulls it off with a layman's charm, the tune is a bit of a snooze. Bet he kinda regrets not sticking at least one Roth co-write on there, as the royalties from sales of over 1,000,000 copies would have come in handy after he found himself unemployed from VH, Inc.

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