David Lee Roth selects his favorite Van Halen album: ‘That’s my ticket; my entry fee’

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Van Halen’s self-titled 1978 debut wasn’t their biggest hit, only reaching No. 20 on the Billboard charts. But its unself-conscious construction still makes it frontman David Lee Roth’s favorite.

“That’s the one that came — ‘no mind.’ What do you call that in Japanese? Mushin, no mind,” Roth tells Jay Mohr, in a newly posted talk. “It happened because we played for years in clubs and bars, and that’s where you really sharpen that, without thinking. You’re playing to make the mortgage, the rent for the apartment, so to speak. And when you go into the studio, it is so completely familiar that — what’s the term in theater? — you’re off book. You are so off book, you know it better than your home phone number. You don’t have to read the script at all. You know every syllable. You don’t think about it at all.”

Eventually, as Van Halen’s fame grew, their initial disc became a huge hit — eventually earning diamond-selling status in 1999 for selling 10 million copies. David Lee Roth would help Van Halen string together five more Top 10 albums through 1984, before returning with the No. 2 hit A Different Kind of Truth in 2012. Each of those successive projects, however, were put together with an eye toward expectations, Roth admits.

That wasn’t the case at first. “You come to the studio, and you play the music — you don’t play the studio. Your whole mind is on where this music is going,” Roth adds. “Later on in your career, you will be tempted, if not completely induced, to go ahead and play the studio, like it was a musical instrument. You know, ‘what’s this button?'”

Roth, by the way, was reluctant at first to select his top Van Halen album. That is, until he came up with a suitably inventive — and, yeah, salacious — scenario by which he’d have to do so.

“Let’s say, we’re drowning and I have to grab an album because there is a Brazilian supermodel on an island,” Roth says, bursting into helpless laughter, “and I want to show to her something ultimately done well. So, that’s my ticket. My entry fee.”

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