Unbeknownst to me and many others, Uncle Donnie was an adviser for Van Halen from roughly 1980 through ’85, when David Lee Roth bolted the band. Apparently, he came aboard to be in charge of their concert merchandise line (including the oft-overlooked Diamond Dave dildos, in six flashy colors—suck on that, Gene Simmons) and wound up running a number of their business affairs. Not sure what led VH to part ways with Uncle Donnie, but this memo, from around ’85, might offer a clue or two.
TO: David Lee Roth
FROM: Don Skwatzenschitz
RE: Career Advice
Dave, I know this is a good time for you. The solo EP is selling like hotcakes; you’re all over MTV; you’re on magazine covers galore. I think it’s time you consider a—how to say it?—”Jump” in your career. A quantum leap. Time to “Run with the Devil” and “Dance the Night Away” with success. “Unchain” your potential. You get my drift? If you don’t, um, “I’ll Wait.” Here are some things to consider while I’m waiting:
Leave the band. You don’t need them now; you haven’t needed them since you stopped playing Gazzarri’s for beer money; you’re not going to need them next year, nor will you in ’88, nor will you in ’91—do you get the picture? On and on and on, in perpetuity, David Lee Roth is Van Halen. You can pick up a garage band and make them sound great. You can pick up a group of virtuosos and make them sound better. You are the pick that strums the guitar, the stick that hits the drum, the thumb that slaps and pops the bass. Dump ‘em. Go solo, for good.
Record foreign language records. There was that line in “Everybody Wants Some”—”Ah seegah boogah lyah luka fowa mookbeek.” Is that Swahili? Guamese? French? I love how you stuck it in there, though I think you really should have translated it. For the fans, you know. What does it mean? But then I got to thinking, if you’re going to be an international star—truly international—you should do translations of your records. Pick a handful of dialects—eight or ten, a dozen if you’re feeling energetic—and lets put together a greatest hits in that language. Swahili Van Halen? Only if you dream big, buster.
Embrace your inner Earl Scruggs. I think Van Halen songs would sound great in multiple contexts. Bluegrass, for instance. Don’t you?
Think about radio. Remember that time you and I were talking about how good a McDonald’s cheeseburger value meal is as hangover food? And that led us to discussing how hot the grill had to be to make the perfect cheeseburger; then you calculated that temperature on the Kelvin scale and bemoaned the fact that no one uses the Kelvin scale anymore; and how you used to use the Kelvin scale to calculate the color temperature of Van Halen’s lighting rig, when you weren’t contemplating using a figure-eight pattern next time you performed cunnilingus; and how the one groupie in Des Moines liked to put Elmer’s glue on you, let it harden, then remove it without using her hands; and how when your mother used to put Elmer’s glue in your art case in grade school, you never would have imagined that particular use for it; but how you could imagine your fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Gebelhauser, being a lot like the groupie in Des Moines; and how Mrs. Gebelhauser was the original inspiration for “Hot for Teacher,” which Eddie didn’t even want to put on the 1984 album, but relented when you offered to give him two cases of Blue Nun if he left it alone; and how good the wines in Chile were; and how you spent the day at a chili cookoff in Texas and went unrecognized; and how much Pearl beer you drank, and how good Pearl tasted when chasing shots of Jack Daniels; and how you woke up the next afternoon with a slammer of a hangover and immediately had room service go out and get you a McDonald’s cheeseburger value meal? Remember all that? You’d be great on talk radio.
Remember: You can always go back. Say you make another solo record, it becomes a big hit, you leave the band, and then have second thoughts—you know, you miss arguing with Eddie, or you want to see what stupid tricks Alex will come up with on the road, or you want to send Michael out to get you Taco Bell after a show. Believe me—these guys are going nowhere without you. Who are they going to get to replace you? Rob Halford? Lou Gramm? That little douchebag from Journey? Forget it! You are truly irreplaceable. They’ll be there if you decide you want to go back and deal with it all again. But I think you’ll find that life will be good on your own, Dave. Life will be good for a long, long time.
All the best,