GETTING MORE TALE #872: “Tattoo”
On January 10, 2012, Van Halen released their first new single with David Lee Roth on vocals since 1996: “Tattoo”, from the forthcoming album A Different Kind of Truth. An exciting day to be sure.
I had not yet started this site, but if I had, on that day nine years ago I would have written this story.
In 2012, radio station 107.5 Dave FM (now Dave Rocks) was still running the contest that put me on the map locally speaking: The Four O’Clock Four-Play. Afternoon host Craig Fee would play four songs in a row, and listeners had to guess what the common thread between the four songs was. I won more often than anyone else and became a local celebrity named “LeBrain”, and that’s why you’re reading this today. But on January 10, Craig stumped me.
The Four-Play that day was, of course, Van Halen’s “Tattoo”, played four times in a row! Craig, who has since left the radio business, was a massive Van Halen fan. He was the kind of guy who would see “Love Walks In” on that day’s play list, and remove it in favour of “Hear About It Later”. He was unafraid and that combined with a diehard love of Roth-era Van Halen must have been all it took to play “Tattoo” four times in a row on the Four-Play.
Truly it was a glorious time to be listening to the radio. You never knew what Craig was going to play on any given show. He had a penchant for “Rainbow in the Dark” by Dio, and of course Roth-era Van Halen deeper cuts. He played half of Fair Warning on his show once. I don’t know what the real-world consequences were for these musical shenanigans, but Craig’s bravado was inspiring. After the Four-Play contest was discontinued in April of that year, the show’s format became more of a listener call-in program, and the glory days came to an end.
But what was the “common thread” for the purposes of the contest that day? “Tattoo” played four times? Arbitrarily, it was the Elvis tattoo in the lyrics. “I got Elvis, on my elbow…” Of course it could have been anything, but Craig just needed an excuse to play the song over and over and over again and still give away that day’s prize.
This post is dedicated to Craig, who I hope is doing well out there in his post-radio life. I feel very fortunate to have had his show to listen to at work, playing all this stuff that no other radio station would have dared. We Van Halen fans were in our glory that day, getting our fill of the new tune and enjoying every moment. Of course, people who hated the song were in agony for that show. Oh well! So sad, too bad.
Hard to believe David Lee Roth was back and an album was really coming — and now we had the proof in our ears! Almost as hard to believe Craig got away with playing “Tattoo” four times in the space of a 30-minute contest.
A story for the rock n’ roll history books; a memory for the ages.