Sammy Hagar: “I Was Really As Big As Van Halen”

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Sammy Hagar sat down with veteran journalist Dan Rather on February 10 for an extensive 90-minute interview. The interview airs February 23 at 8 p.m. ET on Rather’s AXS TV show, The Big Interview, but we have an advance clip below in which Hagar talks about his first tour with Van Halen.

In the clip, Hagar says he was nervous about going out and performing the group’s new material. Rather suggests that Hagar also felt “under pressure” because he was succeeding David Lee Roth. “There’s gotta be a little pressure,” he says.

Hagar—who, like Rather, has his own AXS TV show, Rock & Roll Road Trip—disagrees.

“At the time, as a solo artist, I was really as big as Van Halen,” he says. “At that time I was selling out double nights everywhere in the country. They were doing about the same,” he notes, due to the success of their first U.S. Number One single, “Jump.”

Hagar says he was in fact nervous because he and Van Halen were going to perform numerous songs off their debut, 1986’s 5150, which had yet to come out.

“I was nervous on that first show because I didn’t feel that the audience was going to sit there and listen to us play a bunch of new stuff,” he says.

As he explains, they didn’t need to worry.


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While Hagar’s statement will undoubtedly stir up dissenters, it should be noted that he already had achieved fame with Montrose and had established himself as a successful solo artist. His 1981 release, Standing Hampton, went Platinum and featured his hit song “There’s Only One Way to Rock.” It was followed by other chart hits, including “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy” and “I Can’t Drive 55.” By the time Hagar joined Van Halen in 1985, he was headlining in many parts of the U.S. and Europe.

In this clip, Hagar also talks about how Van Halen “broke the rules” by refusing to create a video for the album. It was left to MTV and Warner Bros., their label, to finance the video. “We held out until Warner Bros. paid for all of our videos. We never paid for a video. So that’s about four million dollars we got, easy, relative to other bands.”

In related news, Hagar last week explained why he reached out to Eddie Van Halen after years of estrangement when the guitarist celebrated his birthday this past January 26. The singer said the recent deaths of David Bowie and Glenn Frey made him want to move beyond the bad feelings that had soured their relationship, though he said he has no interest in performing again with Van Halen.