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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

(Not Really) Suggested Reading: "Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock" by Sammy Hagar with Joel Selvin (2011)

    RedRed by Sammy Hagar

    My rating: 2 of 5 stars

    I always kind of liked Sammy Hagar. Not a huge mega-fan or anything, just always enjoyed his music, starting way back when I was about 13 years old or so - at least a few a few years before he joined Van Halen. I remember picking up a few of his early 80's releases on cassette at my local drug store where they were usually in the $2.99 bin. Then he did that HSAS project with Neil Schon of Journey, Kenny Aaronson and Michael Schrieve. I still LOVE that album - hugely underrated project. Then he released a few more solo albums and by 1986 Sammy was the new lead singer for Van Halen, a development I followed with some interest as I was a big fan of DLR-era Van Halen and I was worried as many were at the time that the band might not recover from Roth's exit. But Sammy stepped in and the band seemed to take off to new levels of popularity through the late 80's. I caught the band on the 1988 Monsters Of Rock tour and they were really at the top of their game - they put on a great, high enegy show and the music was tight as hell. No sign of the disfunction that would tear the band apart just a few years later. At some point in the late 80's I was turned on to Sammy's first "big" project, Montrose. An influential and underappreciated album to be sure. Many years later, in 1999 I think, I managed to catch a free Sammy Hagar and the Waboritos show outdoors in a huge parking lot in Minneapolis. It was crazy - the music was loud and crystal clear, the crowd must have been somewhere around the 50-60,000 mark and on a hot summer night people were just letting loose and having alot of fun. So yeah, I could say I'm a casual fan of the man and his career.

    I have to admit, though, that I'm not such a big fan that I had to run right out and pick up this book. I probably would have never read it if a friend of mine who picked it up hadn't offered to let me borrow it for a few weeks and give it a read. I tore through it in a few days time - it's not very "involved" reading. After I was about half-way through with it I had made my decision...I was NOT in love with the book. I didn't hate it either, but reading it sure didn't make me a bigger fan of the man.

    I'll admit: I love all the dirt on the Van Halen years and how Sammy's involvement with the band deteriorated over the course of a few years time (YOU try and spend time with Eddie Van Halen...I'll pass.) until he left the band. The only person that comes out of this story rather unscathed and still seemingly like a rather "normal" person was VH bassist Michael Anthony. I always thought the Van Halen brothers were fucked up in the head and Sammy really let's you know just how fucked up they are. You can expect that there will be no further reunions with the band after they read the book (or someone reads it to them) and I'm sure Sammy really wasn't waiting for that phone call anyway - he's moved on to a better working relationship with his bandmates in the highly successful Chickenfoot, who will be releasing their second album shortly.Anyway, the Van Halen brothers have DLR back in the lineup now, along with Eddie's kid, Wolfgang, on Bass, the brothers having booted Michael Anthony to the curb for daring to have the audacity to play a few shows with Sammy and his band when VH was in a prolonged period of inactivity at some point during the 90's or early 2000's.

    But my main problem with this book was that Sammy comes off as a braggart - he's rather boastful throughout. It's like "The Legend of Sammy Hagar as told by Sammy Hagar." I understand that it's his autobiography, but the tone he takes throughout the book just put me off a bit. And I think he glossed over the late 70's and early 80's part of his career just a bit too much - a period he says was quite sucessful for him, but he just blasts right through several years worth of recording and touring without much detail of what actually went down during those years, other than the sentiment that his career was skyrocketing. Now I admit, I don't know everything about his pre-Van Halen career, but I don't remember it that way until he released "Three Lock Box" and "V.O.A" (a really great album that still holds up well.) I just wish there had been more detail about those years of his career. I did, however, enjoy the details about his involvement in the early years of the Mountain Biking industry, something I hadn't known about. And the details of his slow-build to success with his Cabo Wabo Cantina in Mexico are good reading. The man has a mighty fine sense for business dealings, no one can deny that after reading this book.

    Hagar does tell some enlightening and amusing stories in this book, but I just couldn't help thinking that this would have been a much better book if it had been written by someone else - someone a bit removed and more objective to reality. Sammy's story is a long one - he's been in the music game for about 40 years now, and has worked with countless musicians and people in the music industry. I think, had someone else written the book, with more opinions and insight from OTHER PEOPLE besides just the subject himself, it would have offered a much more thorough and historical view. With just Sammy's voice telling it all - well, I wasn't impressed all that much. I didn't hate it, but I sure wouldn't put it at the top of my "read it again" list. Once was enough for me.

    I'm sure there are those who will find this book to be one of the greatest rock and roll biographies ever written and they will read it again and again - and good for them. But for my money, had I spent any on this book, which I'm thankful I didn't, it's a bit of a disappointment.

    Sorry, Sammy, I didn't love the book, but I still like your music - at least that didn't change.

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(Not Really) Suggested Reading: "Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock" by Sammy Hagar with Joel Selvin (2011)

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