(Credits: Warner Records INC)
When David Lee Roth departed Van Halen in 1985, the band was at the height of their commercial success and looked like an unstoppable force. From the outside looking in, his decision seemed maddening due to the group’s popularity, but Roth had made his mind up, and the time had come for him to seek new ventures.
Many assume Roth’s reasoning for leaving Van Halen was due to him wanting to focus on his solo career, which is only partly true. Several months before announcing his decision to leave, Roth had already released his debut EP, Crazy from the Heat. The set of cover songs allowed Roth to experiment with sounds outside of the comfort zone of the band and spread his wings musically.
However, his initial plan was never to leave Van Halen behind. During the promotional run for the EP, Roth frequently spoke about his plans to make more music with the band and was optimistic about their upcoming material, which never materialised.
Although his comments also highlighted a possible riff between the rest of the band, with Roth telling Billboard in 1985: “Since my very first days in with the band 11 years ago, I have always had the feeling that one day I would wake up in a cold hotel, all the rooms would be empty and I would be stuck by a phone with a busy signal. From the first day. Nothing has changed.”
Additionally, Roth had been sidetracked by the idea of turning Crazy from the Heat into a film featuring him in the starring role. He wanted to bring the rest of the band into the production and asked Eddie Van Halen to create the soundtrack, but the guitarist declined the offer.
During an interview with Rolling Stone in 1986, Eddie declared this moment the final straw in their relationship. He claimed Roth said: “I can’t work with you guys anymore. I want to do my movie. Maybe when I’m done, we’ll get back together.”
Meanwhile, Roth reflected in 2014: “The bottom line is I wanted more control. I was always butting heads with Ted Templeman about what makes a good record. My philosophy has always been I’d rather bomb with my own music than make it with other people’s music.”
Despite a deal with CBS to make his film with a proposed budget of $20million, the movie fell through. However, the episode was a wake-up call for Roth, who knew from that moment that his passion wouldn’t be fulfilled with Van Halen at that moment in time, and he needed to go it alone to stay true to his artistry.
Ultimately, Roth would return to the fold with Van Halen in 2007 and stayed with the group until they called it quits following Eddie’s death in 2020.