David Lee Roth's brief, contentious and unproductive 1996 reunion with Van Halen left the singer wondering if the band had ever really shared the same vision.

The following year, in his book Crazy From the Heat, Roth told his side of the original Van Halen lineup's short-lived second and final era. He says that it all began he offered an olive branch to Eddie Van Halen right around the time the group broke up with his replacement, Sammy Hagar. To his surprise, the guitar legend invited Roth to record two new songs for a career-spanning greatest hits album.

Van Halen's 1996 Reunion With David Lee Roth Was Doomed From the Start

Although Roth was suspicious that he was being used for short-term purposes, especially after their manager publicly leaked word that the band was also in the process of seeking yet another lead singer, he says he tried his best to make the sessions work.

Roth did admit to refusing to use lyrics written by Bon Jovi and Aerosmith hitmaker Desmond Child. "Those sanguine, sissified, grew-up-way-too-close-to-mommy lyrics. It sounded awful but even then I tried to sing some of it," he wrote. "Wasn't right."

Eventually the group completed two tracks, "Me Wise Magic" and "Can't Get This Stuff No More," which were released in October 1996 on the Best Of: Volume 1 compilation. A month earlier, the original lineup appeared together in public for the first time in over a decade, to present an award at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Watch Van Halen at the 1996 MTV Music Video Awards

Despite the crowd's roaring approval, the appearance was an internal disaster, as the group was clearly not on the same page when it came time to answer backstage press questions about the prospects of a full album or reunion tour. Eddie surprised Roth by revealing that he needed hip surgery before even considering a tour, and explained that the group was "going to take it step by step, see how it goes."

Roth chose another path. "My answer would be different. I got three answers to that one question: Let's go, let's go, let's fucking go," he declared. "I'm packed. ... I'm not very good with baby steps. My specialty is ass-kicking. Does that sound unreasonable? It may well be but I guarantee you, you will find no reasonable man on top of big mountains, but that's where I'm going."

Van Halen angrily confronted Roth afterwards, but the singer pushed back, saying the band should have followed his pre-show advice and crafted a unified plan about how to answer those questions: "Don't put me up in front of the international press and start talking about plans I have no idea even existed."

Eddie and Alex Van Halen contend that Roth's actual statements were much more self-centered. "He goes, 'Well hey, tonight's about me, not your hip," Eddie told MTV News. "I said, 'if you ever speak to me like that again you better be wearing a cup. ... either he was high [or] just didn't hear the truth, but he was never told [he was back in the band], we never alluded to him being back in the band."

Watch Eddie and Alex Van Halen Talk About the MTV Music Video Awards

Obviously any chance of further reunion activities were now out of the question. Van Halen instead recruited Extreme's Gary Cherone as their third lead singer and released the creative and commercial flop Van Halen III in 1998. He was dismissed the following year.

Looking back on the Van Halen's legacy a decade after the original lineup's breakup in Crazy From the Heat, Roth declared, "I did what I did with Van Halen in good faith and I asked for no quarter. ...I'm very proud of what was the band and what was that show and what it did mean to people. It disgusts me that it has turned into the complete opposite. That it now represents everything that I spoke against, that we supposedly represented the converse of. I don't want to have to remember that the team turned into that. Makes me question what the team was while I was a member. Was it all bullshit?"

Read More: How David Lee Roth Really Left Van Halen

Fortunately, Roth and the Van Halen brothers were eventually able to make peace and write a suitable ending chapter for their story. After Van Halen mounted a disastrous, personality conflict and addiction-plagued reunion tour with Hagar in 2004, Roth returned to the group for a much more successful 2007 tour, although founding bassist Michael Anthony was replaced by Eddie's song Wolfgang. The lineup - dubbed "3/4 original, 1/4 inevitable" by Roth during his onstage raps - mounted two more tours and released the 2012 album A Different Kind of Truth before Eddie died after an extended battle with cancer in 2020.

"The best years of my life; the high points of all my life - onstage with you, homeboy," Roth said to Van Halen during what turned out to be the group's second to last show together, in October of 2015. "I will always do the half-Jesus towards you, Eddie Van Halen."

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Gallery Credit: Matthew Wilkening

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