Trying To Make Sense Of David Lee Roth’s Cover Of 867-5309/Jenny

Trying To Make Sense Of David Lee Roth's Cover Of 867-5309/Jenny

Feature Photo: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com

Have you heard David Lee Roth’s cover of the classic Tommy Tutone song “867-5309/Jenny”?  The legendary Van Halen frontman released this song on his YouTube channel last week without any information about the recording. I don’t know about you, but I like to know who plays on a record. Who’s the guitar player, who plays drums, who plays bass? I enjoy knowing that stuff. Yes, I know, in the end, it’s all about the song, but there is something about knowing who played on the record that makes me enjoy the music a little bit more. Even on David Lee Roth’s website, there is no information on who played on this recording, where it was recorded, when it was recorded, or what he had for breakfast that morning. Is this surprising? Of course not; it’s David Lee Roth, and he’s done stuff like this multiple times throughout his career. And you know what? He has every right to do so because he’s David Lee Roth.

Trying to understand why he covered this classic MTV song is probably futile. David Lee Roth is regarded as one of the greatest frontmen in classic rock history. Yet, we can’t forget all the great songs he wrote with Eddie Van Halen. David Lee Roth is a true legend who has brought us great joy for so many years. Covering songs is nothing new for David Lee Roth. Van Halen started as a cover band. There are a lot of great bootleg recordings of the group playing covers in the bars in LA. Even during the Van Halen years, the group never hesitated to release cover songs on their albums. Some of their greatest recordings were cover songs. I love the cover of Linda Ronstadt’s “Your No Good,” and the Kinks “You Really Got Me” was the song that helped break the band. Furthermore, once you tackle Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman,” pretty much everything else is game. David Lee Roth had no hesitation in covering one of the most famous songs of the early MTV era because…….he’s David Lee Roth.

The article’s central question in trying to make sense of David Lee Roth’s recording of the Tommy Tutone classic is not a question of why he would cover such a famous song because we know his history behind covering famous songs. The real question is why he released such a similar version of the song. In the past, David Lee Roth’s covers have always been dramatically different from the originals. Yes, of course, it helped to have Eddie Van Halen standing right next to him when he did, but even during his solo years when he covered songs such as “California Girls” and “Just a Gigolo,” he always made them his own. Not this time. This is a faithful recording of  “867-5309/Jenny.” The only significant difference is that he changed the song’s title to “Jenny Jenny (That Telephone Song)” and added a harmonica solo at the end. Okay, if that’s the version he wanted to release, then so be it. Yet, as a fan of his music, I hoped for something more original in this remake.

The only sense of this entire release I can make is that the man is an artist who wants to release stuff. It’s in the blood. The ease of releasing anything one wants without having a record company’s approval or dealing with record distribution allows an artist to create anything they want to record and then release it to the world instantly. All the filters are gone. Is this a good thing? I guess that depends on what legacy means to an artist or their fans. Who am I to judge anybody, but I can ask the questions?

Read More: 10 Best Van Halen Songs With David Lee Roth

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