Sammy Hagar said the good times he had while in Van Halen were so good he doesn’t give the bad ending any thought at all.
“It was just eight, nine years of pure bliss,” Hagar said during his appearance on Spotify’s Rock This With Allison Hagendorf. “And then the tenth year it went sideways. But that’s alright. I don’t even care about the bad times.”
Hagar said the good times began when he, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony hit the stage for Van Halen’s very first concert with Hagar as the lead singer. It was at Hirsch Memorial Coliseum in Shreveport, Louisiana on March 27th, 1986.
“The record wasn’t even out yet. ‘5150’ wasn’t out,” said Hagar. “Of course the show sold out in three seconds and we go, ‘The record’s not out yet, they only heard ‘Why Can’t This Be Love’. The single had been out. We’re goin out saying, ‘We ain’t gonna play any old songs. We’re not gonna play no early Van Halen , we’re not gonna play no old Sammy.’ So at the last minute, at rehearsal, we said, ‘Well we better throw a couple in!’ [laughs] ‘Cuz we’re gonna go out and play a brand new album they never heard. And we were scared shitless backstage. I gotta tell ya, honestly, we were all pacing the floor. Eddie had two cigarettes goin’, Al had two beers goin! [laughs]. [Then] we walked out on stage and [the fans] tore the barricade down just before we hit a note, just walkin’ out, and we just went, ‘Let’s go’.
“It was the most unbelievable ride anyone’s ever gonna have in rock and roll,” he continued. “Because we were all nervous. Ya never know what’s gonna happen [when] you change a major member in a band [but] boy they loved it. We played ‘Jump’ and ‘You Really Got Me’, ‘I Can’t Drive 55’ and ‘One Way To Rock’. The rest was [songs from] ‘5150’ with a lot of jam in it. A three minute song became a seven minute song. It was great. What a ride that was.”
Van Halen “Unleashed” – 1986 MTV Special
When the ‘5150’ tour came to an end, Hagar said the band held a celebration at his home. But not before Alex decided to get a haircut.
“We ended in my hometown, four nights in San Francisco. Everybody stayed at my house,” said Hagar. “Alex went – after the last show – he went out in the streets and he shaved his head with some construction worker that was working in the street with the jack hammer. He took the guy and said, ‘I’ll give you five grand to shave your head.’ Guy said, ‘OK’. They went into a bar, they started getting drunk, they went to a barbershop, got their heads shaved. Then they came to my house for the last – we were havin’ a dinner at my house for the end of the tour – and Alex had a Tina turner wig on and I’m looking at him goin’, ‘What are you gonna do Al? What’s goin’ on with that wig man?’
When Hagar was asked about his 2011 autobiography “Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock”, he expressed regret about the portions of the book that addressed his well-publicized fallout with Eddie and Alex during and after the band’s 2004 reunion tour.
“I included everything. There’s nothing I didn’t say. I kind of wish I would have been a little more conservative about the Van Halen years,” said Hagar. “But I was angry when I wrote the book. They threw me out of the band, and they did it ruthlessly. And I don’t care what anyone says — God rest Eddie’s soul; I love him to death — but him and his brother are pretty tough guys to deal with, if they go against you. They really made it harder on me at a weird time in my life. So I was angry when I wrote that stuff, but I didn’t enhance it. Believe me, if anything, I was kind to those gentlemen at that time in our lives. And I’m so glad we came back together. But if I’d waited a little longer, I wouldn’t have been so angry and there wouldn’t have been so much angst in it.”
According to Hagar, he’s been asked by his book publisher to record an audio version of his book but has declined every time.
“They still want me to do it,” he said. “[But] I’m afraid, ’cause if I start reading it, I know I’m gonna change it. I’m gonna try to be nicer, or I may tell a story that maybe wasn’t in the book, or I’ll remember something else.”
Hagar went on to say he was thankful for making peace with Eddie before his passing in October. He covered some more Van Halen territory including the story behind the band’s hit “Right Now”, his solo track “I Can’t Drive 55”, his songs featured in movie soundtracks and more. The entire interview can be heard below: