Changing line-up and changing sound – From David Lee Roth to Sammy Hagar

Understandably, prior to this entry this website has not covered the Sammy Hagar era Van Halen. The author has left out his name on certain issues as to keep the two singers’ music and representation separate.

To begin with, there were always issues in Van Halen from the start between the main members of the band. The original line-up with bassist Mike Stone did not work as he was not seen as talented as Michael Anthony. The band opted David Lee Roth to join Van Halen as their lead singer, as Eddie Van Halen was not comfortable with it at the time.

Although DLR and EVH get along much better these days, relations are still not the best between the two. However, this is not always a problem for a band still recording and touring to this day.

Picture courtesy http://magazine.dv247.com/2011/07/05/tone-clinic-part-17-edward-van-halen/

This line-up persisted for just over a decade. There has been much publicized banter on the internet, music magazines and other places about the change of singer from David Lee Roth to Sammy Hagar.

So, why Sammy Hagar? Well for a start, the first main line-up of the band did not get along very well from the release of the 1984 album onwards. Various private meetings were held to try and hold Van Halen together after the release of that particular album. It soon became clear that David Lee Roth did not like the sound and direction of Van Halen’s music around this time. Eddie wanted to branch out more, whilst David Lee Roth thought it would be ridiculous for a rock band to even consider placing synthesisers or other production techniques into their music. This, by far, was the biggest reason for the initial split. Ed even considered leaving Van Halen at one point around 1983. Stylistically, the band wanted more, and David Lee Roth wanted a more back-to-basics approach.

Sammy Hagar’s entry into Van Halen in 1985 represented a more melodic and poppy approach. Sales of their albums were strong throughout this time.

Picture courtesy http://www.vulture.com/2011/03/the_nine_saddest_eddie_van_hal.html

The second reason was the idea that David Lee Roth could not and should not be allowed to create his own music. Indeed, David Lee Roth suggested in an early 1985 interview that he was sick of being tied to the Van Halen project and just wanted to get on with it instead. Comments like these did not go down well in the Van Halen camp.

On April 1, 1985, Roth mentioned in a statement that he had left Van Halen. This was initially met with some scepticism, as it was on April fool’s Day. However, later that year in the mid-August issue of Rolling Stone, Eddie Van Halen told the world that the first lineup of Van Halen were over, and that the band were seeking a replacement singer. It looked like Van Halen were over for good this time.

Eddie did his best to hold things together, and managed to do so. Auditions for singers were begun, and after some time, a decent singer, yet very different to what David Lee Roth had to offer stylistically was presented to Eddie by his car mechanic: Sammy Hagar.

This cover of a late 1985 Rolling Stone Magazine suggests than the then new lineup of Van Halen was quite happy to make music without David Lee Roth.

Picture courtesy https://franny032.wordpress.com/tag/eddie-van-halen/

Sammy Hagar was not unfamiliar with Van Halen. In fact, they had toured together (although neither met each other personally until 1985) in the late 1970s. Sammy Hagar was originally famous for having a stellar solo career after inspiring, yes, Van Halen to follow a similar sound to what he was pursuing at the time. Sammy Hagar was lead singer in the group Montrose and released a string of successful solo albums prior to entering Van Halen. So, it seemed like an ideal fit for the band after years of David Lee Roth’s excessive macho behaviour…or so the band thought.

Montrose is a killer album that introduced Sammy Hagar into the world of music.

Picture courtesy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montrose_(album)

Regardless of what the band now thinks of this change, fans were rewarded with a newer, more poppy style of Van Halen. Some older fans do prefer Sammy Hagar over David Lee Roth. Indeed, listening back to the Sammy Hagar era Van Halen: 5150; OU812; For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and Balance (along with the live albums recorded as well), one is reminded that this self-conscious change refocused the band’s music in a somewhat different direction. Some DLR fans were not impressed with this new music, naming it “screechy”. But the point was, it was not simply a change of singer, but also a change in style.

What about David Lee Roth? Well he embarked on a moderately successful career beginning with the 1985 EP Crazy From The Heat until he properly rejoined Van Halen in 2007. But on David Lee Roth’s second long term stay, the band were very different in terms of maturity and musical direction that they wished to experience. But “Diamond Dave” in 1985 had enough, and left Van Halen and did not re-join until 1996. But still when it comes to music, although personnel can change, the music can still be wonderful and uplifting to the listener, no matter who is the lead singer.

David Lee Roth’s solo career did not reach the heights of Van Halen, but was successful nonetheless.

Picture courtesy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crazy_from_the_Heat

References:

  1. Renoff, Greg. How David Lee Roth really left Van Halen. http://ultimateclassicrock.com/david-lee-roth-left-van-halen/

2 thoughts on “Changing line-up and changing sound – From David Lee Roth to Sammy Hagar

  1. Paul Battifora

    Sammy and EVH did meet prior to 1985. Eddie V actually sought out Sammy Hagar in 1978 backstage and the two exchanged words. I think it might’ve been at the Texas Jam…

    Like

    Reply
    1. chrisairey01 Post author

      I do apologise for the mistake there. Once I get a chance I will change what I have written up. But very true, and spot on!

      Like

      Reply

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