Eddie Van Halen's innovations in guitar technique were some of the most crucial advances in the instrument since it was electrified, but Roth says their band's style and vibe was also pilfered by the scores of "imitators" in the '80s, the decade following Van Halen's breakthrough.
"Hair bands were the imitators of Van Halen," Roth told KKLZ in an interview promoting his upcoming residency at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in 2020. "Yeah, it is true, and spandex was what they came up with as something visual. I started off in leather, with the same haircut that Bono and Springsteen and the guys in Metallica had. A famous haircut — if I had that same haircut today, it'd have its own Instagram!"
While the arena rock world (and lifestyle) most closely associated with Led Zeppelin is often cited as a major factor in the '80s generation of hard rock music, Roth points out that VH sold 10 million albums before the '70s were through.
"We spawned a whole lot of imitators who resorted to gimmickry and trade crap," Roth continued. "It's easier to imitate a haircut and a kind of pants and to exhibit bad behavior."
Roth says the approach and eventual downfall of many '80s bands was brought on by misinterpretation of how Van Halen went about making its music and producing its live shows. Van Halen always played the part of the ultimate party band, but Roth says it obscured how much orchestration went on behind the scenes.
"In order to appear loose you better be really structures," he said. "We've always hidden from ya just how much discipline, work and effort goes into the background of this. ... The audience — you're there to have fun. Us up onstage, we're there to work."
With Van Halen likely "finished," according to another recent statement from Roth, the front man says it's up to him to keep the music alive and take care of the band's legacy with the time he has remaining.
Rumor has it that Eddie is in ill health, but longtime friend Steve Lukather downplayed the concerns, suggesting that the iconic guitarist is dealing only with normal complications of aging that make it challenging to tour.
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