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It Was All Eddie's Fault

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WW: Does it give you a chill to think about what David Lee Roth would sound like singing "Dreams"?

Hagar: He couldn't even do it. That is a fucking scary thought.
WW: Of course, some people could never really accept Van Halen without David Lee Roth--like the guys in Nerf Herder. Is it true that they wanted you to be in the video for their song "Van Halen"? [The tune includes the lines, "Sammy Hagar/Is this what you wanted, man?/Dave lost his hairline/But you lost your cool, buddy/Can't drive 55/I'll never buy your lousy records again."]

Hagar: Yeah, they asked me to be in it, which to me was the biggest joke in the world. I wouldn't do that. I don't have anything against Nerf Herder. I listened to that record, and they're kind of a cute little pop band. But I don't think anyone should ever make fun of someone who's sold 50 or 60 million records and who's had a 25-year career. I think the worst way to break into the business is to make fun of those people. It'd be like me coming out and ragging on Elvis Presley.

WW: Some people have taken that approach.

Hagar: You're right, but I don't think they should do that. I think it's a negative. You might get three or four thousand people who hate Sammy Hagar to go out and buy your record, but probably half of them aren't going to like you, either. They'll be like, "Yeah, I agree with you, but you suck, too." To me, that's a very narrow approach to music. Thirteen years from now, if those guys are making platinum albums and want to make fun of me, then I'll be glad to be in their video. But not before.

WW: Do you see the tour you're on now as a way to remind people that there's more to you than what you did in Van Halen?

Hagar: Sure, but this is an anthology show. I do eight new ones, and I also do two songs from Montrose, the first band I was ever in, and I play six old Van Halen songs and six old Sammy Hagar songs. But when I do the old ones, I do them with a smile on my face. It's fun playing "I Can't Drive 55." I swear to you, it's a blast. But when I sing it, I don't shove my hand in the air and mean it like I did in 1984. Because I meant it then. Now when I play it, I play it in a nostalgic way, in a fun little tongue-in-cheek way, and we all have fun and sing it. But songs like "Little White Lie" I sing with my dick, balls, back, neck, face, ears, eyes, brain, feet--everything.

WW: As you've mentioned, you've been at this a long time; I remember hearing a rumor back in the mid-Eighties that you were actually about sixty years old and were lying about your age--which would make you over seventy now.

Hagar (laughing): Not yet.

WW: Are there any other funny rumors you've heard about yourself?

Hagar: Shit, man, I don't know. I mean, I'm the most misunderstood guy in the whole world. Everyone thinks I'm some kind of a crazed maniac--which reminds me of a rumor I really disliked. At the end of the last Van Halen tour, there was a rumor that I was in drug rehab. And that really bothered me, because I don't take drugs. I was going, "How could someone actually think I was a drug addict? How can you be my age and be in the kind of shape I'm in and do what I do and be on drugs?" Give it up. And there was another wild rumor around the time of OU812 [a Van Halen album released in 1988]. There was a picture on the cover of the National Enquirer that they said was me making out on the courthouse steps with a girl who was in some TV series.

WW: It wasn't Valerie Bertinelli, was it?

Hagar: No, it was not. Don't you be startin' no shit, brother.

KBPI's Infest '97, with Sammy Hagar, Naked, Vallejo and Slash's Blues Ball, featuring Slash of Guns 'N Roses. Sunday, August 31, Red Rocks, $18.50, 830-

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts