While many rockstars who are getting older still desperately try to be relevant and appeal to a young audience, Sammy is pretty realistic about his place in Rock and Roll. He's a great singer and a great musician, but he isn't getting any more famous than he was in Van Halen, and that's okay with him.
When asked to rank himself among guitarists, Sammy said he was "just a notch" below Aerosmith's Joe Perry.
Sammy has been asked to be the new frontman for many bands - Aerosmith, Pantera, Motley Crue, Velvet Revolver and the Grateful Dead, but Van Halen is the only one he joined up with, because the timing was perfect and Sammy was burnt out on being a solo artist. He feels that the band had done all it could do with David Lee Roth, and Sammy's voice and lyrics took them in a new direction.
Sammy took us through some of the best songs from his time with Van Halen, telling stories about how they came together.
SONG BY SONG WITH SAMMY:
SUMMER NIGHTS – Sammy knew enough to wait and let this song breath before coming in with a lyric. As Eddie played it for him, when the time was right, Sammy came in scatting the melody. The only words that came to him immediately were "Summer nights and my radio."
WHY CAN'T THIS BE LOVE – Eddie was reluctant to play this for Sammy, since it was seen as more of an instrumental piece, but Sammy loved it – "it's very African" – and found the perfect lyrics to make it a huge hit.
DREAMS – Eddie's favorite Van Halen song, and the hardest song to record. He likes it because it's spiritual, whereas up to this point, he found Van Halen purely sexual. The key of the song was really high, even for Sammy, and one night the words "higher and higher" came to him.
FINISH WHAT YA STARTED – An easy one-take song with Sammy and Eddie both playing guitar, this one came in the form of a 4 AM phone call from Eddie. Eddie played the tune and Sammy, who was with a chick, ran down to Eddie's hotel room to write it. Consequently, the lyrics "finish what ya started" are about being interrupted during sex and desperately wanting to finish up.
RIGHT NOW – Sammy was ready to throw this one out. He had the lyrics, but they were for a different song. One day he heard Eddie playing the music that would end up being "Right Now" and he realized that lyrics he had were perfect.
LOVE WALKS IN – This song was about Sammy being abducted by aliens, or at least that was Howard always thought. It turned out that he was "abducted" but he had a "mental experience" with them. Sammy believes that a soul "from the soul pile" can come in and swap itself out for your soul, and that's what happened to him. He is not the original Sammy Hagar.