In Sammy Hagar’s new interview with UltimateClassicRock, the Red Rocker talks about the first time he met Eddie Van Halen, 37 years ago today, and serves up some interesting tidbits of the occasion.
Hagar didn’t join Van Halen as lead singer until 1985—his role in the group was announced on September 22 of that year, when Ed joined Sammy onstage at the inaugural Farm Aid benefit—but the two men first met seven years before, almost to the day.
The occasion was Summerfest, a day-long concert held on September 23, 1978 at Anaheim Stadium. The bill was headlined by Boston and Black Sabbath. With an estimated 56,000 people in attendance, the gig provided much-needed exposure for Hagar and Van Halen.
Hagar had by then established his name with the band Montrose and was a solo performer, though he had yet to find widespread fame, as he would in the early Eighties with solo hits like “There’s Only One Way to Rock” and “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy.”
Van Halen, for their part, were enjoying their first taste of success thanks to their self-titled debut, released the previous February.
To make a memorable impression on the audience, Van Halen made their stage entrance by parachuting in. Actually, professional parachuters did the work, with the band waiting on the ground to make it appear that they’d done the jump themselves.
“They were like in the back of a fuckin’ van, laying down while some road guys did it, and they come jumping out,” Hagar says. “It’s pretty funny. Actually, it’s a good trick, you know?”
Hagar recalls that he was ill with the flu but was determined to go on. He was also looking forward to meeting Eddie and seeing for himself what all the fuss was about.
You can read all of Hagar’s recollections at UlimateClassicRock, but if you’d like a preview, here are five things we learned from his interview.
1. Eddie was a huge fan of Sammy’s.
“He [was] shaking my hand, ‘Oh, Sammy, man. I’m a big fan, you know, Montrose, we used to play “Make It Last” and “Rock Candy,” ’ and all of this stuff. He’s standing there giving me all of this love, and I was just like, Wow, what a really great guy.”
2. Sammy was eager to see Ed in action.
“I wasn’t just a singer—I played guitar, and that fucker brought some new shit to the table, and I was impressed with it, and I definitely wanted to see him and meet him.”
3. Ed has his hairdresser style his hair like Hagar’s.
“The next time that I met him,” Hagar recalls, “he tells me, ‘I was at the Starwood when you played with Paul Kossoff, man. I used to go into my hairdresser—I took a picture of you and said, “I want my hair like that!” ’ ”
4. Hagar believes producer Ted Templeman designed Van Halen’s debut around Montrose’s 1973 self-titled debut, which he also produced.
“He had his little formula and four songs per side on the album…and name it after the guitar player’s name, right? They used to be Mammoth, [that] was the name of the band when Ted got ’em, and then he turned them into Van Halen.”
5. Templeman tried to get Van Halen to hire Hagar as lead singer prior to making their debut album.
“Mikey [former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony] swears and Eddie’s told me, but I never really pursued this, that Ted Templeman at one time said to them, ‘Why don’t we get Sammy Hagar in the band,’ before they made the first album. You know, I don’t like to sit there and go, ‘Well, what happened—what did they say? Who did what?’ But I guess that really happened in a conversation.”
To read the entire interview, visit UltimateClassicRock.