When David Lee Roth Forayed Into Pop on ‘Goin’ Crazy!’
Following his kitschy Crazy From the Heat covers EP, David Lee Roth made a triumphant return to blustering hard rock on his debut full-length Eat 'Em and Smile — and foreshadowed his next stylistic departure with the poppy single "Goin' Crazy!"
Eat 'Em and Smile gets off to a roaring start with the ludicrously sexual lead single "Yankee Rose" and the blisteringly technical "Shyboy," with guitarist Steve Vai, bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Gregg Bissonette giving Roth's ex-Van Halen bandmates a run for their money.
From there, the album ventures into smoky jazz-rock ("Ladies' Nite in Buffalo?"), lounge and blues standards ("That's Life," "Tobacco Road") and cocksure pop-metal ("Bump and Grind"). "Goin' Crazy!" is the most straightforward pop-rock tune, anchored by the singer's boisterous shrieks, Vai's playful guitar riffs and airy keyboards a la vintage Van Halen.
The musical smorgasbord Roth delivered on Eat 'Em and Smile was intentional, according to producer Ted Templeman, who also produced all six Roth-era Van Halen albums. "Now, even though we’d stayed away from anything resembling heavy rock on the [Crazy From the Heat] EP, I thought, Let's go balls-to-the-wall with metal and stack that alongside the big band, vaudeville stuff that bad been on the EP," Templeman recalled in his 2020 memoir. "I figured we could make an album that could tap into Van Halen's traditional sound, kind of like Diver Down meets Fair Warning. The album we'd make could never match a Van Halen album by the original four guys, but I wanted to try to get as close as we could. With Billy, Steve and Gregg, I knew I could do it all."
"Goin' Crazy!" and several other Eat ‘Em and Smile songs had been slated to appear in Roth's debut feature film, also titled Crazy From the Heat, for which the singer had written a screenplay and secured a $10 million budget from CBS Theatrical Films (and for which he had left Van Halen, putting his career on the line). But in November 1985, days before shooting was scheduled to begin, CBS announced that it was shuttering its film division and yanked its funding for the project.
Undaunted, Roth went about assembling his red-hot backing band to work on his debut full-length. Eat 'Em and Smile hit shelves in July 1986 and became a Top 5 platinum hit, and the videos for "Yankee Rose" and "Goin' Crazy!" received heavy airplay on MTV.
Watch David Lee Roth's 'Goin' Crazy!' Video
The "Goin' Crazy!" video features Roth in typical grandstanding fashion, cartwheeling and roughhousing around a soundstage with his bandmates like an Aqua Netted Rat Pack. As the band performs, two spray-tanned, high-coiffed record execs watch incredulously from the studio's control room. The executives were played by a fat suit-wearing Roth and his manager and creative partner Pete Angelus, who together were known as the Fabulous Picasso Brothers.
The "Yankee Rose" and "Goin' Crazy!" videos were based on ideas that Roth had for Crazy From the Heat. "Most of the clothes we had in the Eat 'Em and Smile videos, and the fat suit that Dave wore in 'Goin' Crazy!,' those were all meant for the movie, initially," Bissonette told Guitar World in 2016. "'Goin' Crazy!' and 'Yankee Rose' were a big part of the proposed look of that movie. Even though Crazy didn't happen, the videos sure did, and they were amazing. To this day, nobody makes videos like that."
Roth had a lot riding on the success of Eat 'Em and Smile, but that didn't stop him from clowning around on the "Goin' Crazy!" video set. "Before the record came out, I went down to a soundstage for Dave's video shoot for 'Goin’ Crazy!'" Templeman recalled in his book. "I saw Pete Angelus, who was overseeing the shoot. Then this actor, dressed in a fat suit and dripping with gold chains, lumbers up and starts talking to me in character. I'm playing along, laughing with him and Pete. After a minute, the actor said, ‘Ted, it’s me! Dave.’ I had no idea. You couldn’t even tell it was him inside that thing! It was really hilarious."
Released as a single on Oct. 25, 1986, "Goin' Crazy!" peaked at No. 66 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 12 on the rock chart. Roth's pop gambit paid off, but it would become a point of contention on his keyboard-heavy sophomore album, Skyscraper, which netted a Top 10 hit with "Just Like Paradise" but ultimately led to the disintegration of the Eat 'Em and Smile lineup. But as Roth readied his debut LP and cut the rollicking videos for "Yankee Rose" and "Goin' Crazy!," the good times were rolling and the storm clouds had yet to appear on the horizon.