Great rock ‘n’ roll fun

Browse Samy Hagar‘s song catalog, and what do you get? Well, you’re probably a little tired, because few rocker catalogs are so full of anthemic punches. But you also get a certain respect for the many styles he covered and the detours he took, all while maintaining his status as an eternally young Red Rocker.

Since he’s recorded in so many situations for so many labels, there’s never been a compilation that sums up the best of everything. 2004 The Essential Red Collection comes closest, but even that has some notable omissions. What follows is our attempt to wrap up the best of Sammy, from the start of his solo career to the present day, in a tidy 15-track package that fits on a single CD. This is strictly taken from solo albums (and band albums where it gets #1), so Montrose, Van Halen and Chickenfoot can wait their turn. He also draws (with one exception) solely from songs he wrote or co-wrote.

Let’s call this collection A way to switch, since that melody (which we of course included) still sounded like a title track waiting to happen. Taking this in chronological order…

Listen to the best of Sammy Hagar on Apple Music or Spotify.

Red (since Samy Hagar1977)

This rocker is the anthemic opener and sort of title track to Sammy Hagar’s self-titled 1977 album, known to fans as The Red Album. The title is not a double meaning like Aerosmith“Pink” by: He loves color and thinks red knocks them out. The album as a whole is a great starting point for Sammy’s debut, with treasures buried in “Free Money” – yes, one of the first covers anyone has done of a Patti Smith song – and the attitude high “The Pits,” which would be on this collection if we had more room for deep cuts.

Heavy Metal (from heavy metal1980)

The fantastic magazine heavy metal was all over college dorms in the late 70s, and its only animated feature featured big names from the hard rock/metal world. For this theme song, Sammy Hagar leaves out the fantasy element and instead celebrates heavy metal as a sound and a lifestyle – musically, it’s probably the most Zeppelin he’s ever had.

Space Station #5 (from Live 1980)

We said there would be no Montrose on this set, but this song has crept in since Sammy Hagar revisited it on his 1980 live album, faithfully recreating the original’s space trucking groove. . While we miss Ronnie Montrose’s lead guitar, this version is no slouch: cheer on guitarist Gary Pihl, a mainstay of the band Hagar before moving on to a longtime gig with the band Boston.

I did everything for you Rematch1982)

It’s easy to forget that Sammy Hagar got his first big hit as a songwriter, not a singer: Originally on his 1978 live album. All night long, it was taken over by Rick Springfield three years later. It entered the Top Ten as a sequel to “Jessie’s Girl,” and it gave the teen idol the tougher image he was looking for. Hagar then cut her own studio version for a best-of collection. Fans have long wondered who inspired this song, one of the meanest he ever wrote.

Your love drives me crazy Box with three locks1982)

Eighties pop metal at its finest. It was Sammy Hagar adapting to the production trends of the time, bringing those big drums to the fore, adding some bright synths and keeping it all danceable. And it works, mostly because the song is solid — and by Hagar’s standards, nice and romantic. It was his biggest solo hit single, the only one to reach the Top 20. It officially kicked off his glory days, with an even bigger following just eleven months later.

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I will fall in love again (with Hampton standing1982)

For all the party vibes he gives off, Sammy Hagar can also be a serious pop craftsman. There’s no better proof than this infectious track, a breathless rocker with a California-breezy feel and some beach boys keys in the harmonies. He tempers his lead vocals to keep it radio-friendly. Characteristically, the lyrics welcome romantic disappointment with the assurance that everything will be fine.

There’s only one way to rock Hampton standing1982)

Rock anthems were making a comeback in the early 80s – see ELO’s “I Love Rock & Roll”, “The Heart of Rock & Roll” and “Rock & Roll is King” – but this Sammy Hagar song had no arguably the biggest pace and most attitude. The tune inspired countless wise critics to point out various other ways to rock, but that wasn’t the point. It was just pure fun. The song was the second hit of Hampton standingand you can smile if you know what the title of this album means.

I can’t drive 55 (from VOA1984)

This is, of course, Sammy Hagar’s definitive song, and one of the solo hits he’s had with Van Halen: You hook an instant catchphrase to a chorus between the eyes, and you’ve got a classic hard- rock. The title has long since become a code for not being able to follow the rules. But according to his own recollections, Sammy wasn’t exactly a bad boy: the cops pulled over his Ferrari when he was 62, which is perfectly legal in some parts of town.

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Valley of the Kings/Giza (from SAS1984)

It’s time to pull an overlooked track out of the fire. HSAS was Sammy Hagar’s short-lived (only a few months) supergroup with Santana alumni Neal Schon and Michael Shrieve, as well as bassist Kenny Aaronson. The single was an unlikely cover of “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” but this track was a far more successful shot at doing something grand and mythical, in the vein of Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” Schon throws riffs throughout – clearly having fun being in a band without keyboards – and Hagar’s vocals really soar, especially on the enigmatic closing vocals.

Eagles Fly (from I never said goodbye1987)

Not a trace of party spirit on this one, which dares to opt for a deeper inspirational vibe. The song sports one of Sammy Hagar’s most thoughtful vocals, and musically it splits the difference between classic hard rock and modern synth-rock. This was submitted for Van Halen’s 5150which the producer found it too serious – but you might still consider it a Van Halen track since Eddie (who plays bass throughout the album) adds a few licks in the guitar solo.

Little white lie (of March to Mars1997)

Skipping forward ten years, we come to Sammy Hagar’s first post-Van Halen radio hit – and he finds it in an unusually vengeful mood, continuing the more serious feel of its VH swan song. Balance. Beginning with a cappella vocals and acoustic guitar, the song is all about tension: the arrangement keeps you on your toes for the whole band to step in, which only happens when it’s almost done.

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Mas Tequila (from red voodoo1999)

It’s less a party song than a real party, pressed straight to CD. Yes, the groove is borrowed from Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll, Part 2” (Glitter and collaborator Mike Leander get writing credit), but Hagar throws in her own stock of good times — and the Glitter n’ tune. Didn’t have this nifty change key before the guitar solo. (Additional points for checking the name of Tone-Loc’s then-15-year-old rap nugget, “Funky Cold Medina.”) Tequila would be extremely good for Hagar, his Cabo Wabo brand was a smash hit and he l eventually sold for $80 million.

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I love this bar Live it!2005)

A Sammy Hagar country crossover album was probably the last thing anyone expected after Van Halen, but fans who think they hate country should check this one out. Now with the Waboritas as a regular band, this album featured a Toby Keith cover, collaborations with Kenny Chesney, and the spiritual influence of Jimmy Buffett (who would later sign Hagar to his Mailboat label). And it ends up making perfect sense, as he meets these artists where they hang out – on the beach of course, where spirits flow and spirits flow. A surprise highlight was that harder spin on a well-timed Keith hit.

Trust Fund Baby (from The space between2019)

2019 found Sammy Hagar with a new Allstar band (Jason Bonham, Michael Anthony and Vic Johnson), and he didn’t call it the Circle for nothing: with a few tweaks, this track could have made it back to the red album. Rocking fast and hard, he comes up with a few new ways to point out that he’s not a lucky son.

funky feng shui Containment 20202020)

Sammy Hagar and the Circle have lifted their spirits with their online posts during the pandemic – mostly doing covers, but also releasing this 90-second track as an ongoing song. It’s probably a hit once they finish it, but it’s also a lot of fun right now; showing that he can still hit those high notes in his living room without studio help – and that after all these years, he’s far from ready to calm down.

Think we missed one of Sammy Hagar’s best songs? Let us know in the comments below.

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