Sammy Hagar’s Solo Journey Begins
by Jody Haskins for The Laguna Spectator May 1, 2017
Sammy Hagar burst onto the national rock scene in 1974 with Montrose. After a couple of rocky years with Montrose, Sammy’s visions for rock and roll fame and fortune could no longer be held back by the limited viewpoint of Ronnie Montrose. While Sammy knew they had a band that could rival any other of its day in terms of power and sheer rock and roll energy, he couldn’t get Ronnie Montrose to comprehend his vision for the band’s future. A frustrated Sammy left Montrose to pursue a solo career in 1976.
Sammy Hagar’s first solo album ‘9 on a 10 scale’ came and went without much notice except in his home state of California. His second solo album ‘Red’ saw Sammy Hagar inching further towards a hard rock sound. This album featured Sammy Hagar’s signature song ‘Red’. It is a catchy fast rocking song about how much Sammy likes the color red. Seems a little less than Montrose in terms of power but Sammy was probably still trying to decide on a solo career direction. This album sounds as if he is torn between his San Francisco rock roots and the allure of the easy money pop stars earn when compared to hard rockers.
Sammy’s early solo albums were mediocre at best. It wasn’t until he left Capitol Records for the Geffen Record label in 1981 that his solo career began to take off.
From Capitol To Geffen
The following events were vital to the success of his solo career. Starting with the release of the LP ‘Standing Hampton’, Sammy was asked to write the title song for the Heavy Metal Movie soundtrack. Alongside Cheap Trick, Blue Oyster Cult, and Black Sabbath. No other song better sums up the ‘Heavy Metal’ experience in 1981 than Sammy Hagar’s song ‘Heavy Metal’.
Soon to follow was Sammy Hagar’s best know solo album ‘Three Lock Box’. While Sammy’s star was reaching supernova status, Van Halen’s was burning out with the departure of lead singer and consummate front man David Lee Roth.
In 1984, Sammy Hagar released ‘VOA’ with its cheesy pro-military industrial complex Reagan era abysmal cover art.
Sammy parachuting down onto the White House lawn in a red clown costume. It is painfully embarrassing to look at even today. This album was not nearly as good as ‘Standing Hampton’ or ‘Three Lock Box’. It did, however, contain Sammy Hagar’s biggest radio and MTV hit in ‘I Can’t Drive 55’.
I know this is hard to believe but in 1984 MTV actually played rock music videos day and night. This was before MTV went to the dogs with such garbage programming as Yo MTV Raps and The Real World. Van Halen and Sammy Hagar were both in heavy rotation on MTV and on rock radio.
Sammy Joins Eddie
Meanwhile, in sunny California, Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen shared a common car mechanic who suggested they join forces after David Lee Roth left Van Halen in 1984. Sammy and Van Halen enjoyed immense success together from 1986 to 1995. It came to a crashing end in 1995 when the close friendship between Eddie and Sammy turned cold due to Eddie’s alcohol abuse.
When you sit back and think about the sheer volume of classic rock songs that Sammy Hagar was a part of it is astonishing. Here is a little playlist I put together of my favorite Sammy Hagar solo tracks. Let me know if the comment section below if you agree or disagree.
- Heavy Metal – Heavy Metal Soundtrack and Standing Hampton
- I Don’t Need Love – Three Lock Box
- I’ll Fall In Love Again – Standing Hampton
- I Can’t Drive 55 – VOA
- Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy – Three Lock Box
- Little White Lies – Marching To Mars
- There’s Only One Way To Rock – Standing Hampton
- The Shag – Mas Tequila
- Hammer Falls – VOA
- Back Into You – VOA