Sammy vs. Dave: And the Better Van Halen Vocalist is…

music musings, beaverdamusa.comI have avoided this topic for my blog for a while now because I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how to present it, and it would probably be long enough for two blogs.  The topic? David Lee Roth vs. Sammy Hagar.  For the record, we will treat Van Halen III (with Gary Cherone) like a tequila-infused night at Panama City Beach’s Club La Vela.  Deny. Deny. Deny.

First some background – Van Halen has been my favorite band since their self-titled debut album was released in 1978.  I have been to probably close to 30 shows since the Fair Warning tour and often went to multiple shows on the same tour.  I have always been a fan of Eddie’s guitar work, Alex’s drumming, and Michael Anthony’s bass, and even DLR’s frontman antics for a while – then I got older.

When Sammy joined the band, he not only brought one of the best rock & roll voices, but he brought musicianship.  On his first tour, he was even gutsy enough to play guitar on stage with Eddie and even trade licks on “Only One Way to Rock”.  I was hooked on the Sammy era of Van Halen.  Looking back on the DLR era was like looking back at your high school shenanigans – they were childish and you wondered what the hell you were thinking.  All of a sudden, the martial arts moves, the sword twirling, and “I’m so f’ed up, I forgot the words” became an annoyance.  The sad thing about all the comings and goings of lead singers is that it keeps probably the greatest rock guitar player of all time from putting music out.

Eddie and Alex basically stayed in obscurity and didn’t put any new music out.  Sammy went on and put out several solo albums, created a new group called Chickenfoot (which rocks by the way), continued to tour, and just recently formed a new band called the Circle.  He would occasionally have Michael Anthony playing with him.  Eddie then kicked Michael Anthony out of Van Halen and replaced him with his son, Wolfgang.  While one can understand wanting to play with your son, bass players can be replaced, but the distinctive backing vocals of Michael Anthony can’t be replaced.

If you haven’t heard, Van Halen has released a live album recorded in Tokyo back in 2012.  Eddie was quoted in an article as saying they record basically every show, but they let DLR go through and pick the best vocal show.  Did they “fix” some vocals in post-production?  Who knows?  I do know that in 2012, they cancelled half the tour and played the Tokyo show after several weeks off.  Based on the Nashville show (which was about five shows before the tour ended), DLR’s voice needed rest or even retirement.

Van Halen kicked off their tour with an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s show where they performed on Hollywood Boulevard.  About that same time, Sammy releases a live cut of the Circle playing the Sammy-era classic “When It’s Love”.  It provides an opportunity to compare both lead singers (much like the highly-touted Sam and Dave tour).  Sammy’s voice still sounds great while sadly, DLR has become even more clownish in the way he acts on stage, his voice is shot, and he skips words on basically every song.  Between DLR’s crappy vocals and the missing sound of Michael Anthony, just give me a karaoke track of Eddie playing and I will be happy.  However, I will let you decide:

Musing in Nashville

Zach

P.S.  For EVH fans, the Van Halen New Desk (www.vhnd.com) has a great article on how DLR cut his nose on Fallon ().  The best part of the article was the fan video which captured about five minutes of EVH “noodling “while they kill time waiting on DLR to get his nose taped.

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