‘I was almost as big as them’: Sammy Hagar remembers his early days with Van Halen

Through Van Halen was coming off its first-ever No. 1 single when Sammy Hagar joined in 1985, he said their union was as equals. Together, he says, they reached undreamt of heights.

After all, in ’83, Hagar had notched his firs-ever Top 40 hit with “Your Love is Driving Me Crazy,” from Three Lock Box. A year later, “I Can’t Drive 55″ from VOA went to No. 26.

Taking over for David Lee Roth, Hagar says in this new video, only made Van Halen stronger.

“They were doing great before me,” Hagar says, “but it took a giant leap. We had our first No. 1 album. Then we had a string of No. 1 albums. At the time, I was almost as big as them — and I might have been in some places. So, when it came together, it was like, whoop.”

Of course, there were those who argued ferociously over which was the better frontman — Dave vs. Sammy? It didn’t help that Van Hagar, as many fans dubbed the group’s second edition, actually started its initial tour before the new singer’s debut on 5150 had hit the streets.

In that moment, Hagar admits, he had a little trepidation.

“Because we hadn’t proved ourselves,” Hagar admits. “When we went out to do the first show (in Shreveport, Louisiana), the album hadn’t come out yet. They’d only heard the single. So, I was nervous walking out on stage, because we were playing all new songs. I was, like, ‘I hope this works.’ So, that got in my head a little bit. I was chewing my nails off. But we walked our on stage, and we just ripped it up. It was great.”

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.

9 Comments

  1. Mark Saleski says:

    I was almost as big as them….IN MY MIND.

    he forgot that part.

  2. The Hagar fantasy continues!

    He relies on people never looking at the figures.
    Every Van Halen album he was on sold far less copies than 1984 – the album that preceded him joining.
    In addition each of the albums he was on sold less than the one before so he actually led the band into a nose dive in sales terms even though at the same time he took the music to the lowest common denominator of cheesy radio ballads.

  3. Delusional Sam continues, LOL!

  4. Snowdog5150 says:

    It’d be fun just to see a journalist call Hagar on his bunk comments. Does Sammy actually believe his own bullshit? Does he equate number one albums as being more commercially successful if the Roth era didn’t, but yet has outsold the Van Hagar era by leaps and bounds? Not in my mind.

  5. Hagar,you are a complete ASS… You are a short little man that thinks he is 10′ tall. Grow-Up and Move-On, Van Halen has moved on and don’t need your sorry ass….

  6. Unfortunately Sammy is right, there are numbers to back it up people, and charts, but this always remains one of the biggest surprises to me. Who was actually buying this sh*t?!
    The Van Hagar era was plain cheeseball… cheeseball music/chesseball lyrics and business was good, real good. For me, Sammy Hagar being in Van Halen was a severe violation though and he ruined one of the best bands, the last real great rock n’ roll bands. But thousands and thousands of people bought those albums and went in droves to the concerts “you maniacs!!”

  7. The Van Hagar albums did go number 1 but that was huge first week sales, then dropping. In the US, Van Halen have sold 56.5 million albums, of which 34 million are the DLR era, 16 million Hagar, 4 million between the 2 greatest hits albums, 2 million live and .5 million VH3. Different Kind of Truth hasn’t achieved gold status yet.
    No Sammy, you were no where near as big as Van Halen was when you joined! I’ve been a VH fan since 1978 and like all eras of the band but to say they got more popular when Hagar joined isn’t true. Would still like to see Mike Anthony back, though. Maybe Wolfie can play rhythm guitar!

  8. At what point can we let this story go? This was almost 30 years ago.

  9. Hagar made van halen suck far as i care.

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