David and Eddie, together again

Times Staff Writer

Give credit (or blame?) to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: David Lee Roth is back with Van Halen and planning to tour.

The mercurial Roth, who officially left Van Halen on April Fool’s Day in 1985, will reunite with his old band for a tour that kicks off in North Carolina in early May and includes June stops in L.A., Orange and San Diego counties, according to sources in the concert industry.

Joining Roth will be guitar hero Eddie Van Halen and drummer Alex Van Halen. But bassist Michael Anthony reportedly will be replaced by Eddie Van Halen’s teenage son Wolfgang.

The band had been planning a splashy press conference in L.A. to announce the news, but word leaked out Thursday. There had been intense speculation that the reunion might happen after the announcement this month that the band would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in New York on March 12.


That induction ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel could be a study in awkward stage politics now, considering that Sammy Hagar, the on-again-off-again replacement for Roth, is being inducted as well.

Hagar sang with the band on their lucrative tour dates in 2004 and 2005 and told The Times a few weeks ago that he hoped the ceremony would be a good-spirited celebration of the band’s legacy. Now he faces the prospect of playing the rock bridesmaid at the celebration of his band’s rekindled first marriage.

Hagar and Roth have feuded publicly, and in 2002, when they turned their public animus into a tour of strange bedfellows, the venture dipped into soap opera almost daily.

It’s not technically Roth’s first return to Van Halen; he appeared onstage with the band at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1996. They recorded a few songs but then it was all off again.

The return of Roth will be met with exultation by fans of the band’s edgier and raunchier Sunset Strip metal roots and their remarkable six-album rise to the top of rock stardom, which began with “Van Halen” in 1979, an album that has shipped more than 10 million copies to stores, according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America. Hagar’s entry into the lineup in 1985 marked a step toward a less aggressive edge and more mainstream sound.

Fans have long debated which lineup truly rules and now Roth will get a chance to present his argument onstage for the first time since the Reagan administration.