I’m headed to Memphis in the next couple of days for a concert that you will hear about in the next installment of Music Musings. While I was thinking about this upcoming excursion, my mind went back almost 31 years to the last time I journeyed down I-40 west to Memphis for a concert.
The year was 1986 and Van Halen had just released the first album with Sammy Hagar at the mic -5150. For the uninformed, 5150 (pronounced 51-50), is the police code for the criminally insane. My fellow VH enthusiast Joe and I bought tickets for the March 29th show in Memphis at the Mid-South Coliseum. I can’t remember how we purchased the tickets – keep in mind this was pre-internet. But, nonetheless, we had them and off we went. We were young and was going to go down and back in the same day/night. We miraculously found the Mid-South Coliseum (no GPS, Waze, etc.), rocked, and then made it back home.
The excitement to see the new Van Halen was over the top for me. I was curious to see how this incarnation would be. While I wasn’t the biggest DLR fan back then, the jury was still out as to how Sammy would fit in the lead singer role. From the opening note, there was no doubt with me that he had taken the band to the next level. Not only did he bring energy, he also played guitar which allowed him and Eddie to swap licks on stage. I remember thinking that it took …… guts to strap a guitar on and get on the stage with Eddie. Here are a few memories from that night:
- The sound – my ears hurt for two days. There was a rawness about the sound that was hard to describe – it was like they said “acoustics? We’ll just overpower them with our amps”.
- During Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love, Sammy sings the song from the catwalk high above the floor – even standing on the top rail and leaning out over the crowd. Believe it or not, Eddie joined him up there as well. Funny thing, about a month later in Nashville – Eddie stayed on the stage while Sammy went high. Always wondered why the change – did Valerie or management pull that plug?
- Sammy was all over the place and constantly establishing himself as the anti-Dave.
- During Best of Both Worlds, I remember Sammy getting Eddie and Michael Anthony lined up at the front of the stage and start this crazy marching thing. You could tell it was the first time they had done that, but they did it every single time they played that song in the years to come.
- The opening act was Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO). These classic rockers were a departure for VH who typically had no-names in the opening slot.
At some point on the tour, the band released the video Live Without A Net. It captures a great deal of the energy from the tour. You should watch it at some point. The one thing I saw that night and the video captures it is that they acted like a band. They were excited to be there. They were having fun playing music.
Isn’t that what it should be like?
Zach, Musing about Memphis