The Rockstar Ramblings: Roth vs. Hagar
With the long awaited Van Halen (with David Lee Roth) follow up to 1984 due out next year (and one would expect a world tour) this week we take a look at the classic David Lee Roth vs. Sammy Hagar debate with a closing thought on how the pending album may affect this age old discussion.
THE VAN HALEN YEARS
David Lee Roth was with VH for their first six albums. Roth started with the VH brothers as mostly a cover band that grew into a sound that complimented Roth’s raspy voice with Eddie’s guitar. Van Halen I and II (the first two albums) are classics. Fair Warning, Women and Children First, and Diver Down would continue to build on the success of the first two albums, making VH a critical and popular success story. However, it was the album 1984 (and the #1 single Jump) that would catapult the band as one of the top in the world. Along with videos showcasing the party hardy attitude, several songs were hits and are still in radio rotation today. This was the last album with Roth at the helm. Soon after the VH brothers would recruit Sammy Hagar and put out albums 5150, OU812, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, and Balance. Musically the band was stronger with Hagar, leading to even more albums sold; however, the more mainstream sound and commercial success also led to over play of their music in commercials and more commercials.
VERDICT: David Lee Roth wins slightly. My opinion is that the music from the Roth years actual holds up better today than the Hagar years.
LOOK AND ATTITUDE
David Lee Roth was/is obnoxious and a show boat. Roth created a template (partly inspired by others) on how to be a rock star front man. Sammy Hagar, no light weight himself in the rock star department, couldn’t help but come across as more of a hard hat/lunch pail musician following Roth.
VERDICT: David Lee Roth takes the edge here. Without Roth there is no Vince Neil, no Bret Michaels. Okay, let’s call this one a draw.
THE INTANGIBLES (from videos)
Sammy Hagar wore Zubaz pants often in the early Van Hagar videos. Roth was an on-stage ninja.
VERDICT: There are no winners here.
MUSIC CAREER W/O VAN HALEN
David Lee Roth had major success with the EP Crazy From The Heat and albums Eat’em and Smile and Skyscraper. After these initial solo releases, a significant drop off, often left trying to put out albums unoriginal and lacking the superstar attitude that made Dave famous. Sammy Hagar was already a success as a solo artist prior to VH, creating the greatest driving song of all time: I Can’t Drive 55. After VH Hagar would continue making tequila inspired music and then form super group Chickenfoot to much success.
VERDICT: Sammy Hagar is the clear winner here.
Sammy Hagar: The Red Rocker, David Lee Roth: Diamond Dave
VERDICT: Diamonds are forever.
Taking a break from his solo career, Roth became a paramedic, Vegas lounge singer, and the next (albeit briefly) heir apparent to Howard Stern. Recently DLR has released some of his artwork he painted over the years. Sammy Hagar’s interests include Tequila, owner of Cabo Wabo Cantinas, and Tequila.
VERDICT: Sammy Hagar, by a swig.
Over a decade ago there were many Sammy Hagar supporters, in my bar room discussions, more were fans of Sammy with VH than David Lee Roth. It was always close, it’s like picking John Stamos or Bob Saget, it’s really preference of style. Over time there has been a shift due to the original six Van Halen albums, aging like fine wine while the Hagar VH albums, well, continue to remind us (at least me) of Pepsi and Buick automobiles. To me, this is the interesting point. With the pending album David Lee Roth is putting his Van Halen legacy on the line. Should the album be a success it will cement him as the true front man of Van Halen, if it flops, then we may have another twenty years of Roth vs. Hagar, the same way we still have the Uncle Jessie vs. Danny Tanner debates.
VERDICT: David Lee Roth (so far)
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