Anthrax acolyte, resident New York hooligan and Official Editor of All Things Metal, the nefarious Matt Hanrahan gives us the low down on Van Halen’s other exiled singer’s bio…
As anyone who knows me knows, I am a die-hard fan of the Mighty Van Halen. I have seen the band live with Roth and Hagar several times and still listen to the music almost daily. I hate all the BS attached to the band, and just try and focus on the material, but obviously from time to time I have to comment on Who’s the jerk? Who’s the better singer? And so on. So when Sammy Hagar recently released his biography, Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock, I borrowed a copy (I cant bring myself to pay for Sammy’s material outside of VH…and even some of the latter Sammy VH albums will never see my any of my sheckles) and wanted to read it with an open mind, but of course wound up just comparing it page-for-page with David Lee Roth’s bio Crazy From the Heat. I did the same thing with the Holy Bible and Mein Kampf (DLR 2-0). The Hagar vs Roth bio comparison is tough for me for many reasons: first off Dave’s book was written well over 10 years ago and ends around the time the Van Halen brothers brought Diamond Dave back for an MTV award show and to hype a Greatest Hits album, but then immediately changed their mind (or whatever everyone’s versions of the story was). It was also before Sammy and Dave blew everyone’s minds and toured together one summer a few years back. The point is Sammy’s book was written much more recently and therefore has more accounts of what has happened up until today, and also includes his take on what happened with Roth who (like me) barely acknowledges Hagar’s tenure with the band. Roth seems to play the line thinking that VH started and stopped during his run with the band in the 80s. I am generally partial to that thinking myself, but I cant resist Eddie’s guitar playing and think 5150 is a great record just the same, not so much the albums past that aside from a nugget or 3 (“Black and Blue” off 0u812 comes to mind).
OK so Sammy’s book is indeed a great read — fast, fun, full of interesting stories and decadence, and while not quite rivaling Motley Crue’s The Dirt, still paints a pretty filthy picture of what really goes on in the life of a rock n roller. For instance Sammy was banging everything in sight while on the road (I know, shocker), but he even had quick-change tents installed under the stage where he had countless groupies do his evil bidding while Eddie was melting faces during his guitar solo. This being LIAS we also HAVE to talk about the guy’s car collection. Hagar loves him some Ferraris. Hagar also loves driving his Ferraris very fast. This is, after all, the man whose biggest solo hit was “I Can’t Drive 55”. Sammy’s been buying up sweet ass rides since he got his first record advance back in the 70s and hasn’t stopped since. Among the Ferraris that occupy his garage is a rare custom Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, and by his count around 15 other powerhouses (including Aston Martins, BMWs, Ford GTs and Jags). Dude also owns airplanes.
Sammy chilling on perhaps his greatest vehicle of all, the 1978 Pontiac Trans-Am. Hit the Jump to continue reading Mr. Hanrahan’s “Red” review…
“Stills crashed into Cabo like a tsunami and inhaled all of the tequila and blow he could get his hands on…”
Oh yeah another awesome bit is when Sammy has one of his legendary parties down at his bar in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and Stephen Stills somehow out parties the likes of Lars Ulrich, Slash and a few rock stars half his age! Dig this: Stills, who must have been like 60+ at the time, crashed into Cabo like a tsunami (do they have those there?) and inhaled all of the tequila and blow he could get his hands on. I had always heard David Crosby could party, but sounds like Stills was the real Bones McCoy. Hagar says everyone was blown away by Schteevo and his 3+ day bender. The guy literally didn’t sleep, didn’t shower, and was last seen limping back (apparently he has gout, too — another shocker) down the runway to barely catch the plane to LA in the same sweaty clothes he had on when he arrived. I officially challenge Stills to a Drug-Off. Also a Gout-Off, if that exists…
Other standouts in Hagar’s tome are the numbers. Hagar has been rocking concerts and making records since the 1960s. Lots of people probably don’t know he was once the lead singer in Montrose, which is ironic given that he was also fired from that guitarist-led and named band as well. Another interesting, albeit maybe not so rock n’ roll, factor is how many other businesses Hagar has been involved in over the years. Most people are aware of his tequila biz, but how many people know about the mountain bike shop, or even more odd the sprinkler company?
Ok let’s get back on track — so how does that compare to Diamond Dave’s stint as an EMT? Or his short-lived run as radio host filling Howard Stern’s mighty shoes in NYC? More importantly how does Hagar compare to DLR in the lyrics department and with his prowess as a front man? He doesn’t; Diamond Dave is arguably the best frontman in the history of Rock & Roll. Hagar also has a huge belief in psychics and aliens — even claiming to have been abducted several times. Diamond Dave (at least to me) is a psychic and probably an alien and his lyrics rarely stray from devouring booze, drugs and women. Point: Roth.
You can certainly infer from both books that the Van Halen brothers may be the real blame for not only Dave’s departure(s) from the band but also Sammy’s exits as well — which clearly spells out why the so-called reunion tour (which I saw and loved 2x (LINK?) and will see again this year (LINK) is sans Michael Anthony on bass — and more importantly, background vocals. Poor guy just wanted to play, and he along with the fans suffer. I have said this before and am finally typing it: why not bring Mike along for the fans, and bring Eddie’s kid out on 2nd guitar and/or keyboards and please everyone?
OK, so what am I ultimately saying here? Get the Hagar book. Get the David Lee Roth book. Decide for yourself. But above all remember the one thing that I usually say (constantly) before I go have that 14th beer and drop another dime in the jukebox babay: “If loving Van Halen is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.”