Did Van Halen Almost Finish a David Lee Roth Reunion LP in 2000?
How close did Van Halen come to completing a new studio album with David Lee Roth in 2000? Depends on whom and when you ask.
Roth and longtime Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony have both gone on record about the recording sessions, which took place 15 years after the singer's initial departure from the band and more than a decade before the release of 2012's Roth-fronted A Different Kind of Truth.
"I don't know if we had a complete album's worth of stuff, but we were pretty darn close," Anthony said in a 2006 interview with Burrn! (via the Van Halen News Desk). "Unfortunately, there you go with Dave again, and we just couldn't finish it. And all those old reasons why he left the band in the first place, they started surfacing." In a 2008 interview with the Van Halen News Desk, the bassist tempered his previous comments, noting, "I think we pulled the plug before we could really get deep into really getting it going."
This attempted studio reunion of Van Halen's original lineup, which hadn't recorded an album together since 1984, took place in the summer of 2000. That was about six months after the band parted ways with third singer Gary Cherone after unsuccessfully trying to record a follow-up to his debut with the group, 1998's Van Halen III.
Roth confirmed at least part of Anthony's story in an April 2001 MTV report. "About a year ago, myself and the great Van Halen band played together once or twice, and it sounded amazing," he said. "In the following several months, Edward Van Halen and I created some of the most amazing, phenomenal [music]. .... The hands fell off the clock, ladies and gentleman, and we wrote three astonishing tunes." The singer, who left Van Halen in 1985 and briefly returned to record two songs for a 1996 greatest-hits album, said he hadn't spoken to anyone in the band since the 2000 sessions, but he was "positive for the future."
In a 2021 appearance on the DLR Cast, writer, musician and frequent Roth interviewer Frank Meyer said that in 2004 the singer's manager played him four songs from the 2000 sessions, all of which wound up on A Different Kind of Truth. About half of that album was comprised of reworked versions of unreleased songs from early in Van Halen's career, but the tracks Meyer said he heard were new.
"It wasn't the remake songs, so it wasn't 'Tattoo,' because that's 'Down in Flames,' and it wasn't 'She's the Woman,'" he explained. "It was the rest of them. It was 'As Is,' and it was 'Honeybabysweetiedoll,' and it was 'Trouble With Never,' and it was 'Blood and Fire.' Presumably, it was [with] Michael Anthony, though I don't recall if I asked that question."
Meyer called the songs as "awesome," but he also noted that all the demos he heard "stopped dead in the middle." Roth manager Matt Sencio explained why: "Dave knew that he was in Eddie's studio on Eddie's tapes and that once he walked out the door who knew what was gonna happen to that stuff? ... So, he told Eddie the only way he'd go in and do these sort of live demos if they didn't have full recordings of them until they cut the deal to put it out as an album as Van Halen, which didn't happen for another several years."
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Instead of pressing forward with Roth, in 2004 Van Halen instead reunited with their second singer, Sammy Hagar. The band recorded three new songs for The Best of Both Worlds compilation and then mounted a disastrous tour that wound up being the last time Hagar and Anthony ever appeared onstage with the band.
After Anthony was replaced by Eddie's son Wolfgang on bass in 2006, Van Halen reunited with Roth for three successful tours and the A Different Kind of Truth album.