David Lee Roth Reveals Origins of Eddie Van Halen Tribute Song
David Lee Roth was struck with the inspiration to write his tribute song to Eddie Van Halen, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow Bar and Grill,” after strolling by a bar.
“I actually walked past the door of a local drinking establishment and smelled the sawdust,” Roth told Variety. “And like [Marcel] Proust with a lemon cookie [in the novel In Search of Lost Time], it triggered volumes of memory.”
The singer realized that his late bandmate didn't get to have a typical "show biz" type of memorial where, after the burial, the guests go to a reception and share all sorts of stories about the deceased. If it were to ever happen, Roth said that his story about Eddie would start with, "‘The smell of fresh sawdust on the floor…’ And go from there. That’s the beginning of the story, at least for me. Because that was everywhere we played — the smell of fresh sawdust on the floor.”
The line, "You know the smell of fresh sawdust when they first throw it on the floor," appears about midway through the song. “I don’t usually write autobiographically,” he added, “but this was a specific effort to replicate a time and a place.”
Roth released "Somewhere Over the Rainbow Bar and Grill" at the end of October, and included it a day later as part of his new Roth Project, a web comic that also contains four more new songs. The music was believed to have been recorded years ago, during sessions with John 5 (guitar and bass), Gregg Bissonette (drums), Brett Tuggle (keyboards) and Luis Conte (percussion).
As of press time, the song has been played more than 400,000 times on YouTube. “For somebody in my position," he said, "at this point in my career, that’s a knockout over the park.” He also realizes that's it's a drop in the bucket compared to his seminal work with Van Halen, but he's quick to point out, “I won the Super Bowl seven times over with the Four Horsemen — ain’t nothin’ going to knock that mountain down.”