Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Fistful of Hagar in Red

Sammy Hagar has been a part of my musical and philosophical life, since I was able to talk understand music. If I am the world's second biggest Hagar fan my father is first. My dad would play album after album of Sammy's, even stuff that no one has ever heard like Nine on a Ten Scale. Whether my love for Hagar is a matter of choice or conditioning it is hard to say, but no matter what; I stand behind Sammy's music as anyone close me knows. I have been in many heated arguments over the legitimacy of Hagar's superior leadership of Van Halen and his lyrical prowess compared to David Lee Roth's meaningless songs. Needless to say I was stoked to see Sammy release a autobiography.

The problem with reading memoirs of childhood heroes is that they become more human rather than legend. For all intensive purposes Sammy Hagar was really called by Ronald Regan to stop terrorists in the Middle East. Sammy Hagar was like Superman, sung about truth, justice, and the American way, this was accented when he sky dived into the White House in the video for VOA. Then three and a half minutes later saves the world. None of this was in the book. Maybe he was being humble when wrote it.

Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock does have the story of a dirt poor son of a boxer busting his ass to become one of the world's most famous rock stars and tequila peddler. The book is also filled with the sacrifices he made to do so, such as character and sobriety. Hagar doesn't hide the fact that he completely ignored his wife and child to make a music career come to fruition. Then after his had a nervous breakdown he simply divorced her. Before doing this he would have voracious sex with numerous women in a tent under the stage Van Halen played on. No wonder Betsy Hagar always phone-stalked her husband and was quasi-suicidal while he was on tour.

Then there is the issue of drugs. Sammy would do drugs, then write that he didn't do drugs then a story would come up with him doing blow with Eddie Van Halen, then another statement about being clean, then some more blow with Stephen Stills. Conclusion Sammy Hagar does drugs.

Many of Sammy's song inspired me, in fact a lot of the life lessons my dad tried to teach me are straight from Hagar's lyrics. When you believe in someone's music and their persona being an extension of this positive message it's hard to read about how much of a asshole they are to their kids or spouses. Before I could go on a spontaneous Hagar album retrospective with immense enjoyment, now when I listen to his love songs, I can't help but the think: "bullshit."

 Sure I am being unrealistic. Unrealistic as a Dorthy thinking that the wizard is some badass floating visage that shoots flames. Nonetheless, it hurts my feelings when the legend of Hagar is dispelled. Yes I know he is a rock star and his book is supposed to have SEX DRUGS AND ROCK'N'ROLL, but deep down I was expecting Sammy to talk about driving his Ferrari to the Moon and stopping an alien invasion.

Once I got past the shock of my reality being fractured I started to realize the book wasn't half bad. By reading it I got the Hagar confirmation that the Van Halen brothers are sick, sad, pathetic, and in need of  dire help. We get stories of Eddie bragging about pulling one black tooth with pliers, or Alex shot gunning beers then doing a stunt that lands him not only on his face but in the hospital. Sure the dirt is always good to read, but the part the inspired me the most was Cabo Wabo. Sammy had a knack for building a business empire. He has designed mountain bikes, in door sprinkler systems, and a successful land shark in California and Baja. The man knows how to invest. Now his tequila (which he was offered 100 million for) pays for his expensive Ferrari tastes and produces his albums with Chickenfoot. The story of the Cabo Wabo cantina and tequila is well worth the price of the book. 

So if you have more than a passing interest in Van Halen, Sammy Hagar, Cabo Wabo, or the music industry in the 80's, then check the book out. Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock is an easy read and has a lot of laughs. If you grew up listening to Sammy Hagar and have a strict investment in him being a legend of a man, a sort of demigod, then maybe skip it. I have a feeling I am the only one that the second part pertains to, but just in case... 

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