Top 10 Sammy Hagar ’80s Songs
As our list of the top Sammy Hagar ’80s songs demonstrates very clearly, it was a pretty great time for the Red Rocker. After spending most of the ’70s slowly climbing his way up the music-business ladder, he became a bona fide solo star early in the decade. But that was just the beginning. Hagar shocked the world by taking over as Van Halen‘s singer and somehow managed to help take what was already one of the biggest rock bands in the world to new levels of popularity. This quick tour through some of his finest songwriting, singing and guitar-playing moments shows exactly how he did it. Enjoy the second part of our Sammy Hagar: Four Decades of Rock series — Top 10 Sammy Hagar Songs of the ’80s.
‘Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy’
A couple of years before his soon-to-be bandmates in Van Halen brought keyboards to the front and center of their sound with the massive hit ‘Jump,’ Hagar had his own greatest chart success with this similarly infectious, unabashedly poppy love song. He shied away from the song in later years, leaving it off best-of compilations and such, but it remains his only solo Top 20 hit and helped introduce him to a larger audience.
When the time came to record (what he thought was) his last solo album, Hagar revisited this track, which his new Van Halen bandmates nixed for inclusion on ‘5150.’ The song, which builds tension by alternating between airy keyboards and dramatic drum hits, culminates in a triumphant, sustained and extremely high-pitched “oh yeaahh” scream. That moment serves as the perfect litmus test for Hagar fandom: You’ll either love or hate his earnestness.
‘Animation / Valley of the Kings / Giza’
After touring in support of ‘Three Lock Box,’ Hagar took a three-month safari in Africa. When he returned, he teamed up with Journey guitarist Neal Schon to record a one-off supergroup album. This lumbering, progressive rock-influenced 10-minute mini-suite was clearly influenced by his travels. It rocks to high heaven, earning it an unlikely but deserved spot on our list of the Top 10 Sammy Hagar ’80s Songs. Just please don’t ask us to explain exactly what he’s talking about.
OK, granted, neither this song nor Hagar would be considered true heavy metal by anybody but your grandparents. But it packs a dynamite riff, and captures the excitement of going to see your favorite band in concert as well as any track we’ve ever heard. It also proves that Hagar — as much as he understandably defers to his virtuoso bandmates — is far from a slouch when it comes to playing lead guitar.
‘Why Can’t This Be Love?’
David Lee Roth famously fought the introduction of keyboards into Van Halen’s sound. But as his replacement, Hagar had no such qualms, gleefully “doot doot do”-ing right along with Eddie Van Halen‘s synthesizers. Some Roth loyalists scoffed when the band used this poppy little number to introduce their new lineup to the world. But far more fans bought in, and the song helped give the band its first No. 1 album.
‘I’ll Fall in Love Again’
While not as obviously pop-oriented as ‘Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy,’ this surprisingly touching and bittersweet breakup song from Hagar’s breakthrough solo album shows just how strong his melodic sensibilities can be. The lyrics also demonstrate once again just how supernaturally upbeat this guy is, as he promises himself a brighter future even in the wake of a nasty split.
‘There’s Only One Way to Rock’
If not for the song immediately following it on this list, this prototypical Hagar rocker would serve quite nicely as the defining anthem for his solo career. Over a hard-to-deny riff — the Beastie Boys sure seemed to like it — Hagar defends the rock ‘n’ roll nation from all those nefarious fiends who would dare mock or deride it. The only way this track could be any better is if you added a guitar duel between Sammy and Eddie Van Halen — which is exactly what happened a few years later.
‘I Can’t Drive 55′
You didn’t think we were getting through this list of the Top 10 Sammy Hagar ’80s Songs without this one, did you? Apparently, both the title and inspiration struck the long-time speeding enthusiast right in the middle of him getting yet another ticket. Hagar scrambled for something to write on, and wound up with the enduring anthem that made him an arena headliner around the country. It didn’t seem that the Red Rocker could get any more popular, but an even bigger opportunity would soon come his way.
It’s the song that launched an empire. With a title inspired by a drunk he saw wobbling down the beach, Hagar wrote an ode to his beloved resort town of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Eddie Van Halen contributes one of his most Zeppelin-inspired riffs, and it proves to be the perfect playground for the high-harmony dream team of Sammy and his new best buddy, Michael Anthony. The song runs more than seven minutes, one of the band’s longest, and by the end you feel like you’re saying goodbye to the best summer of your life.
‘Best of Both Worlds’
Our vote for the best Sammy Hagar ’80s Song demonstrates everything his version of Van Halen could be — maintaining the creativity and coolness of the original lineup while adding new levels of sincerity and maturity. As the band flips between rough and smooth takes on the same driving riff, Hagar tries to figure out exactly what we’re here on this planet to accomplish. Ultimately, he declares the only thing to do is stop wondering and just make the best of it.