Sammy Hagar Says ‘A Few Jams’ Remain in the Van Halen Vault
"There’s maybe a few more there," the singer notes, addressing "I Want Some Action," a 5150-era demo that he and the Circle bandmate Michael Anthony recently teased on their “Van Hagar / Other Half” social media pages. "There were two songs that we actually finished, 90% finished, that we never got mixed, and they never made a record. One was from Balance, and the other one was from OU812."
Hagar, in an interview promoting the Circle's upcoming Las Vegas residency, elaborated on this archival material — teasing some of these unheard cuts, but admitting some of them "just weren't great."
"One was kind of a midtempo ballad-y 'Can’t Stop Loving You' kind of song," he says. "The other one was a heavy 'Poundcake' rocker kind of thing. ... I don’t know if it was just my lyrics or the music just didn’t have that shiny thing that Van Halen had, when every song was great."
Hagar noted that Eddie Van Halen had "boxes and boxes of cassette tapes" featuring the guitarist either playing with drummer Alex Van Halen or, more commonly, on his own. "Mainly him by himself, going into the studio and just running a cassette tape and jamming," he says. "Playing piano, playing a synthesizer thing, and that’s where half of our songs came from."
He continued: "When I joined the band, we were digging through cassette tapes more than Eddie was picking up a guitar and just writing together, like 'Finish What Ya Started' was. 'Why Can’t This Be Love' was that kind of a thing, where we wrote it at the time. There were a lot of the songs that we just wrote. But there were songs like 'Dreams' that came out of that cassette tape box. I heard that synth [imitates synth riff] and I just went, 'Holy shit, Ed! Whoa, whoa!'"
Hagar describes "Dreams," a single from 5150, as "the ultimate find of all time."
"[5150 producer] Mick Jones was sitting there, I was sitting there. We put that thing on and both looked at each other and said, 'Oh yeah, this could be something,'” he says. "It took me a long time to write the lyrics and find out how I was going to sing that song, but when I walked in there and put it down, it was magic. You know, it was gold."
He says the late guitarist left behind a mountain of unfinished material — "a million things" — but they're "just jams and pieces," not complete tunes. But "I Want Some Action" is an exception.
"The good thing about that song that you heard was that it was a whole song," he says. "We could chop that up and I could write the lyrics and that could be a song. It would be real easy to finish that and make a song out of it. I’m just, I’m very careful with all of that stuff, because I don’t want to make enemies with anyone in that camp. You know, it’s not my place to jump out and finish a Van Halen song."
Hagar says he'd "be happy to" finish off the track if he were asked. And in the meantime, he and Anthony "have been talking about" trying it onstage. "I’ll write some lyrics and we’ll just jam it live to see what the people think," he suggests. "If people go, “Wait a minute, where have I heard that before?...'”
Sammy Hagar and the Circle in Cleveland, Aug. 15, 2021
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