Eddie Van Halen Says Sammy Hagar’s Book ‘Was Definitely Embellished’
Eddie Van Halen has accused Sammy Hagar of improper depictions of his alcoholism. While the guitarist does not back away from discussing his addictions and doesn't call him a liar, he says in a new interview that Hagar exaggerated a bit in his 2011 autobiography, Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock.
"Around 2004, I suppose I became a very angry drunk," he told Billboard. "But [the stuff in Hagar’s book] was definitely embellished. That’s him painting a picture of something that never happened."
The section of Hagar's book that details the Van Halen's 2004 reunion tour paints an unflattering picture of Eddie spiraling out of control due to his addiction. In his defense of Michael Anthony yesterday (June 20), Hagar said it affected Eddie's playing. "If Mike would have played any more than one note, it would have shown that Eddie wasn’t playing the right chords again and again and again. I couldn’t sing to him. You couldn’t play bass to him."
Van Halen, who has been sober since 2008, admitted that his drug use was a part of his creative impulses. "I didn’t drink to party," he said. "Alcohol and cocaine were private things to me. I would use them for work. The blow keeps you awake and the alcohol lowers your inhibitions. I’m sure there were musical things I would not have attempted were I not in that mental state. You just play by yourself with a tape running, and after about an hour, your mind goes to a place where you’re not thinking about anything."
Adding that his father was an alcoholic, he "started drinking and smoking when I was 12. I got drunk before I’d show up to high school. My ninth grade science teacher, he could smell the alcohol, and he told me, ‘Don’t drink anything you can’t see through.’ And I was like, ‘So, vodka?’ And he said yeah. Which was great, because that was my drink."
Billboard reached out to Hagar for his side of the story and he defended every word. “There is what Eddie says and there is the truth,” he says. “I’m happy to see that he’s healthy, sober and playing music again.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Van Halen makes the shocking claim that he doesn't listen to music that he's not currently making. He says that the last album he bought was Peter Gabriel's So, which came out in 1986, and wouldn't recognize the music of peers like Metallica or Guns N' Roses, or even the bands that have opened for Van Halen over the years. "Does that make me an a--hole?," he asks. "It’s an odd thing, but I’ve been this way my whole life."
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