DAVID LEE ROTH
EAT EM AND SMILE
Released on July 7, 1986 (Warner)
Review by Metal Mike:
Well, Diamond Dave’s debut full-length solo album is turning 30. Go figure. I’m old, and clearly so are you if you also have this on cassette. After David Lee Roth broke with Van Halen in 1985, he offered up the lounge lizard exploratory album Crazy From The Heat, which included the hits “California Girls” and “Just A Gigalo/I Ain’t Got Nobody.” The reason I bring that up is because Eat Em And Smile contains such a crapload of new talent not on the previous EP that it was bound to be a hit. Behind Dave was Steve Vai on guitar, Billy Sheehan on bass, and drummer Gregg Bissonette. Each of those players can still stand up in their own right today, but back then, they were a powerhouse super-group. Eat Em And Smile hit #4 on the Billboard 200, while “Goin Crazy” landed at #12 on the Mainstream Rock charts and “Yankee Rose” hit #10 on that same Billboard chart in 1986.
It’s ultimately too bad that the crapload of talent was essentially wasted on the record. Eat Em And Smile is a mix of hard rock, messed up blues, and lounge lizard jazz. Only a few tracks impress me… “Yankee Rose” of course, “Goin Crazy”, and that’s about it. “Bump & Grind,” “Elephant Gun” and “Big Trouble” sound like ol’ Dave was re-hashing his Van Halen days, and not so well. I’m not even sure why “Shyboy” was included on this album. It’s almost like Dave didn’t show up one day and Vai/Sheehan decided to write a tune together. In fact, it is the only original song on the album that David Lee Roth did not get a writing credit for.
I know there was a rumour that Steve Vai and producer extraordinaire Ted Templeman wanted to include the old song “Kids In Action” by the Kim Mitchell led Max Webster Band, but it was bumped at the last minute by the record company. Apparently it was in favour of the cover of “Tobacco Road” which has been done so much better so many times before and since. And frankly, I would rather not talk about “I’m Easy” or “That’s Life.” They’re not awful. They just don’t belong on a rock album. Dave should have done another big band oriented EP then include them here. He was either 20 years behind the times, or 10 years early to hit the swing revival era.
So finally we come to the two songs that really matter. “Goin Crazy” and, obviously “Yankee Rose” allow Dave to unleash the hell out of his stellar band to see what they’re made of. These two songs are the lasting legacy of Eat Em and Smile. “Goin Crazy” is a great summer party song, while “Yankee Rose” just encapsulates everything that was great about ’80s rock… the bluster… the attitude… the musicianship.
As far as I can tell, the English language version of “Yankee Rose” has been purged from YouTube, which is a shame because it is lots of fun to watch… even in Spanish. In fact, according to the always reliable Wikipedia, bassist Billy Sheehan had the idea to re-record the vocals in Spanish for an album called Sonrisa Salvaje (literally “Wild Smile”). That was a disaster sales wise and was dropped immediately by the record company.
In the final analysis, this could have easily been another EP from David Lee Roth. “Yankee Rose,” “Ladies Night In Buffalo,” “Goin Crazy,” “Bump And Grind” and any other random song would have sufficed. I’ll forever be grateful to Dave for those two aforementioned songs, but in retrospect, it’s a shame he didn’t use the talent he was given.
Review by Deke:
March 1986 and Van Halen lands the first punch with 5150 and of course, myself along with millions of others, have been served with some new material by the Halen camp. After a few spins, the logical question was asked, “Wonder what Diamond Dave has up his sleeve?” So four months after 5150‘s release in July here comes the Roth Army with Eat Em And Smile! Dave has gone full throttle with a hot-shot line up of musical cats as in Steve Vai, Billy Sheehan and Gregg Bissonette. This band put together could stand toe to toe with Camp Halen and their 5150 album.
Of course, we all know the story about how the 99 Ton’s Of Fun tour ended for Dave and company. Dave went a little left with Skyscraper and lost the bass virtuoso (Sheehan) as well… But that’s getting ahead of ourselves here. Let’s check on the Fabulous Picasso Brothers and see their response to Van Hagar!
“Yankee Rose” — Here comes some drums, bass and Vai goes with his guitar a “wha, wha” with Dave going “What!!!”… and we’re off. Dave kicks in the lead single with the lead song off of the album and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Dave is gonna rock and for me, that’s good as I sat out and did not purchase the Crazy From The Heat EP. But yes, Dave tells us all about the Yankee Rose. Thanks Dave….
“Shyboy” — Boom…. comes Gregg, Steve and Billy all ripping and soloing off the top and for me, it’s like “Holy shit! These guys are destroying everything in sight and wow it’s a rocker played at hyper speed.” So I guess this is Sheehan‘s tune from his old band Talas and two tracks in, Dave is telling me and the world that he has the band to take on what he considers the evil empire (i.e. Van Halen).
“I’m Easy” — Vai lays down some pretty cool guitar and Dave takes what sounds to me to be a swing tune and blasts it through the Marshall amps in the studio. So this is cover number one on Eat Em And Smile but that’s OK because it’s like it’s Dave‘s own tune and feels like if he wrote it in the back of a cab on the way to the studio.
“Ladies Night In Buffalo” — Guess Dave ain’t going to sleep and it’s in Buffalo of all places. What a cool laid back tune. Bissonette lays done some cool chill drumming and the boys decide to all lay low in this one as Dave is creeping the streets of Buffalo!
“Goin Crazy” — Cool tune and funny video but yeah man, this is Dave and the fellas bringing the party to your house via your turntable or cassette deck! Vai and Sheehan after chilling in Buffalo decide to rock it up in the solo section of the song! Funny thing is there is some keyboard action buried in the mix and that’s courtesy of Jesse Harms! Who you may ask? Well Mr. Harms was Sammy Hagar‘s keyboardist in Sammy‘s solo band for many years. When Hagar bolted to the 5150 studio, I guess Harms has gotta work right? “Goin Crazy” indeed!
“Tobacco Road” — Cover number two and well, whose counting? I am but back in ’86, I was still listening to Vai doing weird shit with his wang bar and man, he’s cool with “I’m Easy.” Dave can take a cover and Rothize it to make it sound like his own! That’s a pretty cool talent to have and by golly, back than he did!
“Elephant Gun” — It’s basically the show tune extravaganza for all the musical chops provided in this unit. You want soloing? This is a one stop shop for some serious ass kicking and hey, don’t forget about Dave protecting all the ladies with the “Elephant Gun!”
“Big Trouble” — I think one night, Dave and Steve went down to the 7-11 to get a juiced up slurpee and came across some “Big Trouble.” Dave is in full storyteller mode here and when he gets going on his story telling, he can’t be beat man — especially back then! Cool song and riffin’ and soloing and well, it’s just a classic track. Eight songs in and it’s all good man!
“Bump And Grind” — The Roth Army heads to the strip club and Dave tells us that yes, his name is cash an’ carry and he’s a dead ringer for the big first prize! Ha! Seriously friends, his lyric prowess is all over this tune! So let’s get this straight. The night begins with rolling tobacco with Dave and then he’s chasing women with an “Elephant Gun” which leads to some “Big Trouble” by the 7-11 and to cap it off, a little ol’ “Bump And Grind” at a local watering hole at 3 am! Whoosh! Call 911. I’m coding and I can’t keep up!
“That’s Life” — Cover number three and it’s a Sinatra tune to boot and the vid is super cool with live shots of the show, which Dave never released, which for me is one of rock’s biggest blunders! Dave nails down a horn section and it’s all good fun. You know Dave ain’t gonna end his album on a downer but rather an upper!
In conclusion, Dave fired back across the lake to Camp Halen and tells the world that he can still rock with a super star band of dudes with some serious rock chops. For me though, I was bummed Roth was out of Van Halen but I was glad that back in the year of 1986, I got two rock solid releases in 5150 and Eat Em And Smile!
Also of note, it must be said that Roth did a Spanish version of his Eat Em And Smile album called Sonrisa Salvaje in which he sang all the songs in Spanish! That funny Dave was always thinking with his wallet!
01. Yankee Rose
03. I’m Easy
04. Ladies’ Nite In Buffalo?
05. Goin’ Crazy
06. Tobacco Road
07. Elephant Gun
08. Big Trouble
09. Bump And Grind
10. That’s Life
David Lee Roth – vocals, backing vocals
Steve Vai – guitars, horn arrangement (3)
Billy Sheehan – bass, backing vocals (2, 3, 5, 6)
Gregg Bissonette – drums, backing vocals (3)
Jeff Bova – keyboards (1)
Jesse Harms – keyboards (5)
Sammy Figueroa – percussion (5)
The Waters Family – backing vocals (10)
The Sidney Sharp Strings – strings (10)
Jimmie Haskell – horn and string arrangement (10)
Reviewed by Metal Mike and Deke for Sleaze Roxx, July 2016
David Lee Roth‘s “Goin’ Crazy” video:
Goin’ Crazy is a single off of David Lee Roth’s first full length solo album after Van Halen in 1986. lyrics: Well, here I’m rollin’ down another sunny highway, been in the sun too long. I’m goin’ coconuts but least I’m goin’ my way, I’ll prob’bly be here when that sun goes down.