On Sept 9th, 1992, Van Halen took home three MTV Video Music Awards for their smash hit “Right Now,” including ‘Video Of The Year.’
Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony, and the video’s director and producer talk about making the music video for “Right Now” (the quotes below are from the book, I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution).
Sammy Hagar: I was tired of writing cheap sex songs. Eddie and I wanted to get serious and talk about world issues. “Right Now” was the best lyric I’d ever written for Van Halen. The treatment for the video was bullshit: “Right now, Sammy’s looking in the mirror and licking the milk off his mustache,” or something. I told the director, “Fuck you, man. People ain’t even going to be listening to what I’m singing because they’re going to be reading these subtitles.” I thought, How dare they? People probably don’t know this: I refused to do the video.
Michael Anthony: Because of the lyric of the song, we wanted something that was a little more meaningful than the usual party stuff. I was really proud of that video.
John Beug (Senior VP of Warner Bros. Records, and husband of Carolyn Beug, who produced the “Right Now” video): The video I”m probably proudest of his Van Halen’s “Right Now.” A commercial director and copywriter named Mark Fenske came up with the concept. The band didn’t understand what we were doing. Sammy Hagar didn’t want the video to come out. He said, “How dare you put type on top of my lyrics.” He finally relented and “Right Now” won Video of the Year at the 1992 VMAs.
Sammy Hagar: Mo Ostin, the chairman of Warner Bros. Records, called me personally when he heard I hated it. He goes, “Sammy , this is going to be the biggest video you’ve ever had.” I go, “You’re crazy. This stinks.” I didn’t want to talk about it, so I took my girlfriend-who’s now my wife-and we flew off to Kiawah, South Carolina. No one knew where I was.
Mark Fenske (“Right Now” video director): I’d written and produced a few TV commercials that used type on the screen. The record company was scrambling to get a video done. I doubt they’d have given me a shot except for that. When I met the band in a hotel room the night before the shoot, Sammy said, “I can’t argue with this guy, look at him.” I’m six-four and 250 pounds. If he was unhappy, I didn’t see it. But I was busy and nervous enough to not have noticed a lot of things. It was my first music video. And I’d brought my mother into town, to be the actress in one of the shots.
We didn’t have much money or time. Except for Van Halen, every person you see in the video worked on the crew or, in my mother’s case, was related to me. For the idea of a girl setting fire to a guy’s photo, I had a photo of me at twenty-four that I didn’t mind burning.
Sammy Hagar: I had pneumonia and a 104-degree temperature. When you see me in the video folding my arms, refusing to lip-sync, it’s because I was pissed off. The director’s going, “Oh, that’s great!” When I slammed the door into the dressing room at the end of the video, that was for real. I was pissed off.
I don’t think “Right Now” is a great video at all. It was groundbreaking and interesting, but the look and the feel didn’t do much for me. I don’t think it’s enough about the band.
Mark Fenske: When “Right Now” won Video of the Year, I didn’t know whether or not I should go up to the podium, so I didn’t. Music videos are that kind of gig. It’s someone else’s music, and all you’re doing is adding a visual or a context for the song, so it’s probably best not to overvalue your contributions.
I brought my mom as my date to the VMAs. While I was staring at the girls from En Vogue, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers walked past us. My mom leaned over to me and said, “That man is only wearing underpants.”
Although “Right Now” is the most popular music video from Van Halen’s years with Sammy Hagar, it’s huge success came despite Sammy Hagar originally being very much against the idea for the video when it was presented to him.
In the recent TV special, “Video Killed the Radio Star”, Sammy recalled making the video. “When they presented that, I hated it! I said, ‘I am not doing this. I wrote the best lyric I ever wrote in Van Halen. I’m trying to upgrade this band’s image with lyrics to where we’re finally not just a party band that can play our instruments, and they want to put [someone else’s] words [throughout the video]? Why don’t they use the words I wrote?’ And I actually took off and wouldn’t return people’s phone calls for about a week. And then finally, Mo Austin, the president of Warner Bros. calls with my manager and the director and they go, ‘What can we do to make this happen? We really believe in this.” And I thought, ‘Mo Austin’s calling me and trying to get me to do this video? Wow.’ So I went and I shot it. And if you look at my attitude in the video…I wouldn’t even cooperate. It’s the first time I pulled a fast one. And look… it’s the biggest video we ever had. [Laughs]. So, it shows you when I know. [Laughs]”
“Right Now” is from the band’s ninth studio album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (also known as F.U.C.K.) The album was released in 1991 and debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart and maintained the position for three weeks. The album went on to sell over 3 million copies in the US.
Below is the official music video for “Right Now,” and a video clip of Van Halen accepting the ‘Video Of The Year’ award.
“Right Now” official video: