How Close Did Sammy Hagar Really Come to Joining Aerosmith?
Aerosmith were once again caught between a rock and a hard place at the end of the '00s.
The band's injury-prone 2009 tour culminated in singer Steven Tyler taking a nasty fall off the stage at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on Aug. 5, 2009, in Rapid City, S.D., breaking his shoulder and bringing the trek to an early, unceremonious end.
Reports later emerged that Tyler hadn’t spoken to his bandmates in months and had hired his own management in the interest of launching a solo career, which he referred to as "Brand Tyler" at the time. By November 2009, guitarist Joe Perry was under the impression that Tyler had left Aerosmith, and he told Billboard that the band was "positively looking for a new singer to work with."
The Toxic Twins eventually patched things up, as they had many times before, and in 2012 Aerosmith released Music From Another Dimension!, their most recent studio album to date. During their highly publicized rough patch, though, the band did audition other singers. High-profile names reportedly linked to the gig included Lenny Kravitz, Paul Rodgers, Chris Cornell, Billy Idol — and, depending on whom you ask, Sammy Hagar.
"The Aerosmith hint ... came around that time when Joe Perry tried to get me to join that band, and the management asked me to go to South America and try it out," Hagar tells UCR. "I almost did it. I think if I would have done both those things, I would have been the guy that replaced the guy. You know, always the guy replacing the guy, and that’s a strange legacy for a guy like me, you know what I mean?"
Hagar is no stranger to mercurial bandmates, having replaced David Lee Roth and logging more than a decade as the frontman for Van Halen, whose namesake guitarist could be both dysfunctional and dictatorial. But the Red Rocker says he's averse to intra-band conflict, and he predicts his dynamic with Perry would have been much different than Tyler's.
"The problem is, I would have taken the toxicity out of the whole thing!" he says with a laugh. "It probably would have bombed, because I’m not a toxic kind of guy. When the arguments start, I’m outta here. I can’t be in a bad situation like that. But that was real tempting there for five minutes. I got down to Cabo, and I really relaxed and thought about it. I was listening to all of the tunes and all of this stuff. I was thinkin', '"Livin’ on the Edge," I’ll fuckin' kill that song!' And then I woke up on the beach and said, 'You know what? I can’t do this.' So that was it."
Hagar's declination was no harm, no foul for Aerosmith — particularly because Perry doesn't remember if he even formally extended an invitation.
"The whole looking around for another lead singer thing, as soon as that raised its head — and I don’t know where it was quoted — but I don’t even know. Maybe I did, I don’t know," the guitarist tells UCR. "But I'm usually the one on the other end of the phone when it comes to Aerosmith stuff. I don’t even know if I talked to Sammy. I'm not sure. I know it got out there, but we knew him, and I know him. He's a really mellow guy, easy to get along with.
"He definitely had the pipes to interpret Aerosmith songs," Perry continues. "I can see why that idea had been floated. But we also had a short list [of other potential singers] at that point. Things went the way they did, and everybody got out of their system what they wanted to. Then we slowly glued back together. I mean, you could say that the band split apart more than when I left [in 1979] and then [guitarist] Brad [Whitford] left [in 1981]. There were other times when we were like, 'Okay, that's enough. We've done enough.'"
Time heals all wounds, as the members of Aerosmith have frequently been reminded over the course of their tumultuous 50-year career. Amid their public dustup, Perry released a solo LP, 2009's Have Guitar, Will Travel. Meanwhile, in 2011, Tyler released his memoir, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?, and a poppy single titled "(It) Feels So Good," and he joined the judges' panel for the 10th and 11th seasons of American Idol. He also released a solo album, We're All Somebody From Somewhere, in 2016. These extracurricular projects allowed the two most public-facing members of Aerosmith to blow off steam, and more than a decade later, they continue to tour with ferocity and regularity.
"You don't keep a band together without a lot of bumps and grinds," Perry says. "That’s what it takes to keep it together. But as of today, I consider [Steven] the brother that I never had. We're probably as close together now as we've ever been. We're looking forward to getting back on the road together. It's a long journey, man. The steps go sideways."