Sammy Hagar’s first album for Geffen Records, Standing Hampton, initially put the self-proclaimed “Red Rocker” on my musical radar. While not a huge fan, he was always on my radar. Frankly, if I am being honest, that’s really the only Sammy Hagar solo album I like.
Sure, I like the Van Halen stuff a lot, but so much of his other solo stuff never stuck for me.
Standing Hampton did.
After a lackluster career on Capitol Records, Hagar moved over to the then bootstrapped Geffen Records, albeit bootstrapped by one of the more successful artist managers of the 1970’s and founder of Asylum Records, and future billionaire, David Geffen.
Now if you are a music nerd, like me, you probably recognize Geffen Records as a premiere 80’s label (Guns-n-Roses, Whitesnake, Elton John, Don Henley, Peter Gabriel and the re-emergence of Aerosmith)…..and the label Geffen had before DGC Records (Nirvana, Beck, Sonic Youth, Counting Crows, Weezer).
Believe it or not, before all of that hullaballoo, it was Hagar’s Standing Hampton that was one of Geffen’s biggest rock records of the early 1980’s on the fledgling label.
The album starts with three beats and kicks in with a big ol’ power chord with Sammy nonchalantly singing “You do what you wanna do, I’ll leave it all up to you, in time I’ll fall in love again“.
I was hooked from the minute I heard it.
Man, I love “I’ll Fall in Love Again”. I really do. Even to this day it is my go to song every time my heart hurts.
Now the second song “There’s Only One Way to Rock”, has always stuck in my craw a little. While making a legitimate statement and being a solid rock song, I can’t get behind it lyrically.
I remain steadfast in my belief that there is more than one way to rock.
“Baby’s On Fire”…maybe, but not the song.
And then there it is “Can’t Get Loose”. Yes, it sounds a little dated.
OK, REALLY dated.
But after a particularly bad break up awhile back I was listening to “I’ll Fall in Love Again” (obviously) and let the album play through for the first time in years. I guess I was finally paying attention:
“What makes him stand and fight
When he only wants to love?
And why do they push so hard
When he only needs a shove?”
At that particular moment in time, that verse struck me…still does.
“What makes one man rich?
How’s another man get so poor?
What make someone care so much
For things another man can just ignore?”
This was right in the thick of the financial implosion, the “great recession” or whatever you wanna call it, so that really resonated as I rode the jam-packed subway home from my crappy job that barely paid the bills. A job that I was reminded over and over again by the media, friends and my employer to simply be thankful to have.
“Some questions go unanswered
And they have for quite some time
Something’s forever sacred
We’re just prisoners of our own mind”
I can still see myself getting off the subway, walking the 1/4 mile underground to get on the other train, goose stepping with the rest of the idiot brigade on our way home; all miserable but seemingly thankful to have a job. A prisoner of our own minds, yes, but even among the masses I was sworn to solitary confinement.
“Oh, can’t get loose, we can fight like hell
But we can’t get loose, we can dream
But we can’t get loose, keeps it holdin’ on, holdin’ on
Can’t get loose, shake it, shake it
Can’t get loose”
And then the piece de’ la resistance:
“There she sits with stars in her eyes
But too afraid to dance
‘Cause every guy that she holds so close
Just wants to get in her pants”
It was a bad break up. I felt she tossed it aside too quickly which could only mean to me that she was laying down with someone else. And I heard that verse and thought “Yea, f’ her. Let her act like the trollop I always knew she was.”
“Tell me what keeps her by his side
When she’s treated just like dirt
The fear of the dark unknown
Appears to be much worse than the hurt
So she stays up nights and dreams
Of a knight in shining armor
Who will rescue her one day
While time keeps going against her”
Was it me?
Did I treat her like shit?
Did she stay longer than she wanted?
Did I push her away?
Did I do this to myself?
Of course not. It takes two to make it work. It takes two to make it fail.
It only takes one to realize that the fear of “the dark unknown” actually isn’t really that much worse than the hurt. In this case it was her realization, not mine. And even though I tried to tell her that there will never be anyone in shining armor; it’ll shine at first…until you get up close and see the chinks, she didn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t listen.
What keeps people together and what pulls them apart is a mystery as old as time itself. With all due respect, minds much more creative than Sammy Hagar’s have been trying to figure that out for centuries.
Side One ends with “Heavy Metal”. There are two songs named “Heavy Metal” from that era. Both from the movie of the same name. One from Don Felder. I always preferred Felder’s song, but this always worked in a pinch for whenever your life required a little “Heavy Metal”.
Side Two starts with “Baby It’s You”. Cheesy and dated but lovable as hell. I can almost feel the mullet grow as I listen to it.
The next three songs are pure filler “Surrender”, “Inside Lookin’ In” and “Sweet Hitchhiker” are the very reason for the fast forward button exists on cassette players.
And then the oddest, yet boldest, song on the album.
Hagar covers “Piece of my Heart”. Now, I am not sure why anyone in their right mind would want to cover that song. It’s actually hard to hear in my head any voice other than Janis Joplin’s, but Hagar gave it a go.
Bold move Sammy. Bold move.
It’s oh-kay… but all these years on and I still scratch my head on that one.
So why the treatise on Sammy Hagar and Standing Hampton?
I had read his autobiography Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock a few years ago and was impressed with its honesty. Unlike some other rock autobiographies I have read (I’m looking at you Joe Perry and Eric Clapton) Sammy Hagar’s book was pretty candid, and, well, uncensored.
After blowing through it, I knew I wouldn’t be returning to read it. So, in one of my periodic book purges a few weeks ago decided to get rid of it.
In my building we have this little giving stone/block, or whatever, were people put crap they don’t want. So, I brought some books down in the morning and by noon all had been taken except Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock by Sammy Hagar.
It sat there for a full two days before I finally wrote a post it note saying “What, no love for the Red Rocker”?
Apparently, Brooklyn is way too fucking cool to appreciate Mr. Hagar. Hell, if they mention Sammy Hagar at all it’s only to prattle on about how crappy Van Halen was with Sammy Hagar (they’ll probably snarl “Van HAGAR“) .
For the record, anyone who really likes Van Halen can acknowledge, however begrudgingly (and that includes myself) that the Sammy Hagar era of Van Halen holds up extremely well. I love the David Lee Roth albums, true, but no one can deny Sammy brought a wildly different and much-needed energy to the band.
The SUM of Van Halen has and will never be defined by its parts (Gary Cherone notwithstanding).
So what are we left with when we consider Sammy Hagar?
17 solo studio albums and US sales of around 27 million and worldwide solo sales of about 40 million (if you combine those sales with Van Halen, it is closer to 70 million records).
Hagar created Cabo Wabo Tequila and Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum.
With an interest in food, he built the Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo Wabo Mexico and began a career in the restaurant business operating Cabo Wabo Cantina, Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill and El Paseo.
With an interest in mountain biking, he purchased a mountain bike store, Sausalito Cyclery (now called Mikes Bikes), which quickly became the number one rated independent bike store in California.
Along the way he designed his own “Red Rocker” bicycle.
Sammy Hagar sold Cabo Wabo Tequila for a cumulative $91 million dollars.
Sammy Hagar has an estimated net worth of about $120 million dollars.
However, money doesn’t define the man.
Sammy Hagar donates all the profits from the two Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill, in St. Lois and Las Vegas, to local charities.
Sammy Hagar keeps his backing band The Waboritas on his payroll all year even though they usually only play a handful of dates.
For the summer 2004 Van Halen reunion tour, he refused to tour unless original bassist Michael Anthony was included (he’d been fired and Eddie wanted his son Wolgang to play bass). The band balked and Sammy gave up a percentage of his pay to include Anthony on the tour.
He’s fucking always smiling!
No, he’s not Bob Dylan or Neil Young or some other lyrical artiste’.
No, he’s not really a guy who strays too far from the musical formula that works for him.
No, he’s not Bill Gates or Steve Jobs (but in the world of rock, achieving that kind of business success is pretty unusual).
Sammy Hagar is simply Sammy, a wildly successful rock star, a very successful entrepreneur and, by all accounts, a really nice and well grounded guy.
Maybe it is because of those things that respect seems to elude him.
For a man of that much accomplishment to have left virtually no detritus along the way is a testament to the quality of the man. Bundling all that up, I think the man deserves a tip of the hat and a little more respect. Not just from my fellow Brooklynites, but from everyone.
Let’s get on that, shall we?