Steve Vai Recalls Writing ‘Yankee Rose’ With David Lee Roth
In a new interview with the Professor of Rock, guitarist Vai explained that he recorded a demo for his bandmates, but it was still missing a certain something as they put together Roth’s 1986 debut solo album, Eat ‘Em and Smile.
“When I was playing ‘Yankee Rose’ for them, Ted Templeman made the money-punch suggestion,” Vai said. “It’s simple – what I was doing on the verse, a riff, wasn’t quite working.”
The producer suggested he just play some open chords instead. “At first, I thought, ‘That’s just a little too simple,'" Vai recalled. "That’s me, you know?” He soon realized the truth of the matter and that Templeman was an ideal fit for the album project."
You can watch the interview below.
Album opener “Yankee Rose” begins with a sequence in which Roth acts like he’s having a conversation with the lead guitar. “It’s one of those quirky things about my technique,” Vai explained. “Dave and I really hit it off. … There’s something in us that has a similar kind of bent, a bizarre sense of humor. A lot of rock stars at the time would never go for something like that – talking guitar, talking with the guitar. … But Dave was just like, ‘Yeah, man! This is crazy. Let’s do it!’”
Vai called Roth his “fourth and final mentor” after music teacher Bill Westcott, Joe Satriani and Frank Zappa, saying the Van Halen singer “really provided me with tools that you just can’t get any place else.”
Vai noted that Roth is an "an intense guy. He was very serious and intense about his working out and being in shape. … That’s one of the thing I got from my relationship with Dave that was vital: You’re gonna go on tour for this amount of time, and you’re gonna go on that stage, and you have to deliver to a large group of people every night. You can’t mess them around. You’ve gotta be bulletproof. … We were always going to the gym or working out or climbing or running, and it was great.”