With its high-concept series of contemporary on-screen messages, “Right Now” was, Sammy Hagar today admits, “the biggest video Van Halen ever had.” Yet it almost never got made, because Hagar actively boycotted the idea.
“When they presented that, I hated it,” Hagar says. “I said, ‘I am not doing this.’ I wrote the best lyric I’ve ever written in Van Halen. I’m trying to upgrade this band’s image to where we’re finally not just a party band that can play our instruments — and they want to put words (on the screen)? Why don’t they just use the words I wrote? They’re great words. It’s a statement. I said, ‘It’s gonna be confusing.’”
Confusing or not, “Right Now” would claim three honors at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1992, among them video of the year. The Van Halen track has since been used in countless films, and was even part of an ad campaign for Pepsi.
In comments on the Mark Fenske-directed film, part of a new segment of TV’s “Video Killed the Radio Star,” Hagar still obviously doubts whether it really reflected the song’s original meaning — though he’s willing to accept that the video has become part of pop-culture history.
Hagar adds that he actually stopped taking people’s phone calls on the concept for about a week. Ironically, by the time he gave in — after a direct call from Van Halen’s label head — Hagar had fallen ill, forcing the band to cancel some of its previously scheduled shows.
All of that adds up to a sullen, disconnected performance in the celebrated video.
“When we shot it, I had pneumonia,” Hagar says. “But it was already etched in stone. If you look at my attitude in the video, I wouldn’t even cooperate. And I’m not like that, either. Everybody knows Sammy’s not like that, right? But it’s the biggest video we ever had, so it shows you what I know.”