BILLY SHEEHAN On DAVID LEE ROTH: 'I'm Still Supremely And Forever Grateful For The Break He Gave Me'

December 26, 2022

During a recent appearance on the "Talk Louder" podcast, hosted by veteran music journalist "Metal Dave" Glessner and lifelong hard rock/metal vocalist Jason McMaster (DANGEROUS TOYS),legendary bassist Billy Sheehan reflected on his time as a member of the backing band of original VAN HALEN singer David Lee Roth. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "[David] is a phenomenon of nature and he's still my hero and I'm still supremely and forever grateful for the break he gave me. And we had a ride together; we had a wonderful time. He's a jokester and a comedian… I learned so much from him, it's unbelievable. It was like getting a PhD in Show Biz 101; he knew it inside and out. And he is on. If he's not on, he's probably not there. If he's not around, he's probably not on. But if he's around, he's on. He's never not on."

Sheehan went on to say that Roth is "very smart." He added: "I just finished [VAN HALEN producer] Ted Templeman's book, and Ted really praised his lyrics. I don't think VAN HALEN would have been VAN HALEN without those lyrics, 'cause they weren't your typical 'baby, I love you' lyrics… And the stuff he did on [Roth's debut solo album] 'Eat 'Em And Smile' was quite fantastic. I think if we would have kept that 'Eat 'Em And Smile' vibe and style, the band would have really done incredibly well. Unfortunately, he made a left turn and did [1988's] 'Skyscraper'. It takes a lot of courage to make that kind of a turn. I give him credit for the courage. I didn't like the results of it myself personally. Like [David] Bowie, with 'Ziggy Stardust' suddenly came out with the 1984 record, when he broke up his original band and then went off and just went into the dance kind of thing, it took a lot of guts. So I think Dave kind of did that same thing with 'Skyscraper'. Unfortunately, it was not as successful as it have been."

This past summer, Sheehan told We Go To 11 that he had the only existing professionally filmed video of a concert performance by Roth and the band for "Eat 'Em And Smile". "I've got it," Billy said. "I have it. I think I'm the only guy with it. They shot it pro. It's Dave's tour and Dave's business, so I can't do anything with it, unfortunately. At some point, maybe I'll try and get in touch with Dave, 'Do you wanna put this out?' But I had a pro-shot [video]… I forgot how I got it. As far as I know, nobody else has it. I just reviewed it the other day and backed it up again to another three drives to make sure I didn't lose it."

Sheehan continued: "I'm not sure if it could be out someday, if Dave would be interested in doing it, but I've got it; it's here for him. If he wants it, I'll be happy to put it on my Dropbox and send it over to him. But most of [the videos that are out there] are hand-held [clips], shaky with [muffled] audio. This one is — the audio is good; it's not great. But it's better than most of the hand-held camera things.

"Back then, a video camera, to sneak it into a venue [was very difficult], but somehow people did. It's pretty amazing. I mean, they were sneaking bottles of Jack Daniel's in, and a camera wasn't too far of a stretch during concerts in 1986 there.

"So, yeah, I do have a pro-shot [concert]," Billy repeated. "And for a while I couldn't find it, so I thought, 'Did I imagine that? Am I fooling myself here?' But sure enough, the other day, 'Uh-uh. There it is. I've got it.'"

"Eat 'Em And Smile" was the first of two Roth albums to feature the duo of Steve Vai and Sheehan on guitar and bass.

Billy said in a 2017 interview with Songfacts that he was "ready to go" if Roth ever decided to do some shows with the "Eat 'Em And Smile" band. "We have a great respect and love for Dave and what he did for us," he continued. "There's no secret undercurrent thing going on that I'm not talking about. The fact of the matter is it's Dave's call. If he chooses to do so, I couldn't be happier."

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