Van Halen Photographer Neil Zlozower Details David Lee Roth’s Broken AnkleHannon Media Group
Frank recently interviewed legendary rock photographer Neil Zlozower during the Monsters of Rock Cruise. Neil shares some fun stories about the early Van Halen days on Episode 15 of The FAR OUT! Podcast.
Frank: So, is it true that David Lee Roth actually broke his foot during that session?
Zloz: Well, this is the story, and I don’t know how much time if you’re gonna edit this but what happened was Van Halen I came out and that album, I thought the photos were incredible, and I forgot the photographer’s name but the funny thing is the band hated those photos. I thought they were epic on Van Halen I. But the guys told me they never liked them.
Frank: Because they were dark or something?
Zloz: No, they just, I don’t know why they don’t like them. I mean to me those photos were trend-setting. I mean just like Van Halen’s music when Van Halen I came out, because up to that point it was discos. Village People, Donna Summers, John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Saturday Night Fever and where you go “I’m a Rock-n-Roller”. So the first time I heard Van Halen, I’m like “oh, this fuckin’ band’s gonna be huge”.
Next thing he did Dave. And he made Dave jump off the riser about 10 times and the very last time Dave broke his ankle. And all of a sudden Dave just said “okay, we’re done”.
They were amazing. I heard “Running with the Devil” and then it broke into “Eruption” with “You Really Got Me” and no one sang like Dave and no one definitely played guitar like Eddie. So when you’re a photographer you got to get the bands in the beginning before they break big, because once you break big, all the other parasite, maggots, sponge-leach photographers want to work with those bands cause they’re big. So you got to get in on the ground floor and one of my abilities was to always be able to call what bands we’re gonna be big, like Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, RATT, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Poison, Quiet Riot and you get them on the ground level and you become family with them so when they make it big, you’re big.
Van Halen for the 2nd record, hired the same photographer that shot the first photos and he rented this big huge soundstage in Los Angeles and he probably had 20 assistants and probably $30,000 with the rental gear it was this big production. And I was there, the guys are like “hey, Zloz, we’re gonna do our album cover. You want to come hang with us?” because we were all buds back then, you know, we’re one big family, we had the same likes. We like partying, we like boning chicks.
We all had the same interests. We were the same age, so they invited me down. So first went Al. And the guy did the shots of Al with his drum kit and I think he had the sticks on fire. So Al’s done. Next thing he did Dave. And he made Dave jump off the riser about 10 times and the very last time Dave broke his ankle. And all of a sudden Dave just said “okay, we’re done”. So you know, sessions over so they still had to do Michael and they had to do Ed. But Dave was, you know, pissed off he’s got a broken ankle! So a couple days later they called the photographer and they said “Dude, we want to see the photos you did of Al and Dave.” So he brought in the photos, and the photos were basically, I hate to say it cuz I have some of those photos, which honestly, I’m not supposed to have, but they ended up in my possession by accident, and they’re awful. They’re like amateur photos.
So they fired the guy on the spot and the next thing you know, Pete Angeles, was like to me the 5th member of Van Halen and a genius in my mind. He calls me, “Hey Neil, it’s Pete Angeles, look the guys love you! We fired the original photographer and we need you to finish doing the photo shoot. We need to do Ed and we need to do Michael. And you need to look at what the first guy did and sort of copy the lighting and everything else.” So they showed it to me. I did Ed, I did Al and then I found the nurses that were used on the album because they were all friends of mine, I like hanging with hot chicks who doesn’t?
And then we did Dave sitting on the stool with the broken ankle and that was Van Halen II – which was maybe one of the first trend-setting albums that really broke them and took them to the next level.”
Episode 15 of The FAR OUT! Podcast
Neil Zlozower has been one of the leading rock photographer’s since 1968. Neil has four books available worldwide, “Van Halen-A Visual History: 1978-1984”, “Motley Crue-A Visual History: 1983-2005”, “Six String Heroes”, “Fuck You: Rock and Roll Portraits”.