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40 Years Ago: Sammy Hagar Exposes Himself to Kiss Fans

Ebet Roberts / Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Ebet Roberts / Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Getting booed offstage is a time-honored tradition for opening acts. But on Feb. 18, 1977, Sammy Hagar didn’t appreciate it that much. While supporting Kiss at New York’s Madison Square Garden, he reacted by smashing his guitar and going the full Jim Morrison.

As Hagar recalled in his autobiography, Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock, his self-titled second album was about to be released when he landed the opening slot for 10 nights on Kiss’ Rock and Roll Over tour, beginning at the Garden. But in addition to nobody in the audience being familiar with his work, Hagar wasn’t listed on the bill because he got the gig too late. “People started booing before I walked out,” he wrote. “I had never played New York except with Montrose. They didn’t even know me. I looked out and the whole place was dressed like Kiss. They’ve all got their makeup on. They were booing and flipping me off.”

Despite his attempts to win the crowd over with something they might have known — Montrose’s “Bad Motor Scooter,” a cover of Donovan’s “Catch the Wind” that was released as a single — it only got worse, as Kiss fans threw things onstage. That’s when Hagar decided to give New Yorkers one of the ultimate insults.

“I’m so happy they flew in this special audience for me from Los Angeles,” he told them. That enraged the crowd even further, and they charged toward the stage.

“‘F— you,’ I said and dropped my pants, pulled out my d— and smashed my f—ing ’61 Stratocaster to pieces onstage,” Hagar recalled. “What an idiot. Demolished this vintage guitar and walked offstage. … It was the worst experience I ever had onstage, and it ruined me in New York. They didn’t even know who I was. They hated me before they heard me.”

Not wanting to face this treatment the next two weeks, Hagar walked away from the tour after that first night. Even though it was a disastrous experience, Hagar and Paul Stanley have remained friends. “He comes to shows if I’m playing,” Hagar told MTV. “He came to the Van Halen reunion tour in L.A. and hung out. He’s a good guy. And every time he sees me, either he’ll bring it up or I’ll bring it up: ‘Paul, can you believe that s—?’ ‘I can’t believe it! I can’t believe you did that!’ It’s funny now, but at the time, when you’re faced with that kind of rejection, it can be heartbreaking.”

See Kiss and Other Rockers in the Top 100 Albums of the ’70s

Next: Top 10 Sammy Hagar Songs of the '70s

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