For more than four decades now, David Lee Roth has been presenting himself as not just a rock star but a cartoonish approximation of a rock star, a vainglorious jester leaping around the stage, doing acrobatic high kicks as he shout-sings his way through testosterone-driven songs about sex and muscle cars, all at top volume. Love him or hate him, Roth’s larger-than-life personality and high-energy antics brought Van Halen to new levels of popularity during the music video revolution of the 1980s. He and the camera were a match made in hell.
Roth’s theatrical tendencies only became more pronounced as he parted ways with Van Halen in 1985 and embarked upon a solo career. With no band to tie him down, Roth was at last allowed to become the carnival barker of rock he was always meant to be. And perhaps no project better represents the essence of Roth than David Lee Roth’s No Holds Bar-B-Que, a self-directed, hour-long, made-for-video production from 2002. Financed by Roth to the tune of $600,000, No Holds Bar-B-Que was briefly sold on VHS during Diamond Dave’s tour with Sammy Hagar. It thereafter disappeared, consigned to the bootleg circuit, only to reemerge several days ago on the YouTube channel for the singer’s webseries, The Roth Show.
It’s difficult to know how exactly to categorize No Holds Bar-B-Que. It could be described as a collection of music videos, but this film deliberately jumps from scene to scene at random, as if there were a hyperactive child wielding a remote control from just off screen. In an interview with The A.V. Club, Roth did his best to describe the ingredients of his strange production:
A variety of ingredients, I think probably that you’d recognize instantly. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Soupy Sales, Groucho, Kurosawa, Hugh Hefner, and on and on and on. But I’ve woven it together in a form that I think is much more appropriate for our national attention-deficit syndrome, or whatever it is we’re having. As in, “Too hip, gotta go, golly, look at the time. Gotta go change the air in my tires, love to hang, bye.”
Over the course of a frantic, mind-scrambling hour, the viewer gets a guided tour of Roth’s jumbled psyche. And what’s in there? Roth himself, naturally, is present in nearly every shot. But there are also plenty of ladies, blond of hair and tan of skin, either scantily clad or dressed in form-fitting catsuits. There are also guys in grass skirts, armed soldiers, and at least one little person to round out the cast. The film zips around so quickly that the viewer never becomes comfortable in any one location. But for anyone who has longed to see Roth pose with samurai swords while a cover of “Baker Street” blares in the background, No Holds Bar-B-Que is a must-watch.