AR: You’re going on to David Lee Roth now, aren’t you?
DD: David Lee Roth is a different scenario. It’s hard to put into perspective now, because it doesn’t make much sense – it depends on how old you are. But when Van Halen came out they were really deemed horrendous by most critics. They were excessive, crappy, noisy, and this really sounds like I’m being a jerk, but I had just done a cover story on them – it’s up on Rock’s BackPages. It got reprinted a lot – the first big Van Halen story we did for Creem. The gist of the story – which is embarrassing now, because as a rule I usually hate most heavy metal – was that I confessed I loved and was captivated by Van Halen. And this was circa the Women and Children First record. And I know at that time it was not deemed a particularly hip move to admit you liked Van Halen, I know. I remember I went to this punk club in Detroit to watch Rachel Sweet play and was wearing a Van Halen t-shirt and got scoffed at by many a punk. Roth was a great showman; great sense of humor and everyone in the band were great guys. The music still stands up – this is pre-Sammy Hagar. They existed in an interesting place – this sounds kind of dopey – a sort of pre-post ironic age. They were really good at acting like morons and knowing they were acting like morons and people liking them whether they were or not.
In a way I was reminded of that years later, living out here, I had to review the new Blue Oyster Cult for Mojo – and this was well past their shelf date, but from an assignment standpoint they asked me who was in town and I said Blue Oyster Cult and they said “Oh, why don’t you review that?” So I saw them and it made me think that BOC also had it good because they had all the trappings of heavy metal, but it all seemed to be a big joke, so they could in one fell swoop get all the hipsters who were sort of in on it, so to speak, and get the ones who weren’t, who liked the music at the same time. And it was just miraculous music that still sounds good.
AR: I guess by the mid ’80s onward it was like one had to work just to avoid the overexposed acts.
DD: Yeah, I agree. The other thing you have to think about is how many music videos you’re familiar with – how many stills from those acts you’ve seen in your mind’s eye, how many brain cells have been wasted with their image splattered on them, that sort of thing. They’re all filled with very striking looking people and it’s almost a mathematical process. People that meet a certain visual criteria, who make music that satisfies a certain amount of people in the country – just put them in the machine and this is the result: In the late ‘80s they’d get on every magazine cover, they were all over TV and the same place at the same time. It’s was the complete antithesis of let’s say, Led Zeppelin, who shunned interviews. These others were out there and setting records for just how out there they could be, for how long. I don’t mean out there crazy, but out there in your face.