Hagar the Horrible

Sammy Hagar and the Wabos Tuesday, July 4, at Tower City Amphitheater
Of all the infernal questions to have wormed their way into rock's subconscious, the merits of David Lee Roth versus Sammy Hagar as frontmen for Van Halen has to be one of the most dim-witted debates circulating in frat houses and gentlemen's clubs across this great land.

Such lip service is especially insipid since Hagar has always been such a mundane, middle-of-the-road hack. Say what you will about Diamond Dave's (extremely) failed bid to replace Howard Stern, at least the man had flair -- an obnoxious, over-the-top, distinctive flamboyance that matched Eddie Van Halen's obsessive pyrotechnics tit for tat.

Once egos clashed and Roth got the boot, Eddie went looking for a nonthreatening presence to (not) share the stage with. Even in '85, Hagar's future looked far less promising than that of A-ha; choosing him to lead Van Halen was a disastrously boring choice. Imagine: If not for Van Halen's fateful call (the suggestion came from Eddie's mechanic), the band might have avoided its descent into the tepid, MOR morass from which it never emerged. A once-campy, honest, and horny homage to the Kinks and Roy Orbison became an adult-contemporary nightmare. Childishly titled efforts such as OU812 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge are depressing reminders of just how tired the band (and hard rock in general) became.

Hagar's a well-tanned dumbass, a party-till-you-drop "dude" of the highest order, whose adolescent ode to speeding, "I Can't Drive 55," is the musical equivalent of a fart joke. Look for it to appear early in the first set, along with enough rescued Van Halen chestnuts to send the bleary-eyed crowd back to the '80s, a time of mullets, tight pants, and other bad decisions.

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