Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock By Sammy Hagar with Joel Selvin It Books, 256pp., $26.99
During the tour to support Van Halen's For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, singer/guitarist Sammy Hagar certainly took the record's title to heart. Because just about every night during Eddie's 20-minute guitar solo, Hagar would retreat to a hidden tent beneath the stage.
There, he would find five or six pre-selected completely naked female audience members, waiting for Sammy to fuck them. In fact, Hagar says he had so much sex on that tour that for a while he actually wasn't able to climax anymore - no matter how hard he tried.
In Red, Sammy Hagar has written what is at times the bluntest, funniest, and jealousy-inspiring rock-star memoir in many years. It's tale of guilt-free sex, drugs, and rock and roll, without the sleaze factor (and overdosing) of Motley Crue's The Dirt.
"Once I discovered rock and roll and pussy," he writes, "I barely made it through high school. And once I finally got high, it was really all over."
Thanks to a lengthy excerpt in Rolling Stone and numerous interviews Hagar has given on his promotional tour, many of the book's biggest stories and anecdotes are already out there. That includes his feelings about UFO-surfing aliens (he says he was mentally abducted by some), David Lee Roth ("I couldn't stand the guy...he's not a great singer and he acts like the coolest, hottest guy in the world when to me, he looks gay"), and Eddie Van Halen's mentally unstable behavior and heavy drinking during the 2004 reunion tour ("He turned into the weirdest fuck I'd ever seen, crude, rude, and unkempt...I asked him where the glass was for his wine, he held up the bottle and said 'here it is!'").
There's also the time a drunk Alex danced barefoot - then fell - on a sizzling Benihana grill, with predictable results. Only bassist and Hagar's current Chickenfoot bandmate Michael Anthony comes off as a thoroughly decent guy all the time. Granted, there are times of actual musical and personal caring between the four members, but it's these other anecdotes that stick with the reader.
Hagar also tells of a rough-and-tumble early life of gypsy-like meandering for his mother, father, and three siblings. Not helping matters is that dad was a belligerent alcoholic who favored fighting in and out of the ring--at one point trying to throw punches at firefighters who had come to save his house after he passed out with a lit cigarette, burning it down.
A Hagar family camping trip might include grandma trying to hit Hagar Sr. with a rock, only to accidentally bean her husband instead. Bobby Hagar would eventually die in the back of a police car, homeless and drunk.
Outside the juicier aspects of the book, the reader comes away knowing that Hagar's success is due a lot to his insurmountable work ethic, whether it's writing songs, jamming to improve his skills, or branching into other businesses including nightclubs and a hugely successful tequila company. There are plenty of more stories and observations about Hagar's time with Montrose, Van Halen, the Waboritas, and various stages of his solo career.
Ironically, given his criticisms of Roth, Hagar exhibits a healthy ego of his own, freely admitting early in his career to enjoying the pampered, rock-star lifestyle, while not so much the role of family man.
First wife Betsy is painted later in their relationship as a medicated, spendthrift neurotic, which seems a bit less than charitable (Hagar later married his mistress, and says he's never been happier). But you have to admit it's amusing when he calls a blow job "not cheating," and then later says cheating means not one, but two fucks with the same woman.
Hagar still feels that a full-on Van Halen reunion tour with the brothers, Michael Anthony, David Lee Roth, and himself would be a monster, a fan's wet dream. And despite what he's written here, he still holds out hope it could happen.
But whether the five guys can come together onstage in ego-free harmony, or from dressing rooms cordoned off from each other - as Hagar and Roth ended up doing on their one-off "Sam and Dave" tour - who knows?
In any case, Red is fun and quick to read, though perhaps not as fun and quick as those women in the tent under the stage...
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.