HarperCollins Canada released Sammy Hagar’s book, Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock in March of this year and I knew instantly that this was one book that would get a nicely detailed review by my husband. An encyclopedia of everything rock and metal leading all of the way back to the 70’s, Papa Bird is the one to talk to if you want to know “what it means to rock”. And here is his take on the book.
Yup, Sammy’s got an ego, and he tends to turn a blind eye to his own short comings. That’s pretty clear after reading his autobiography: Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock. But hey, what rock star doesn’t have an ego? It’s pretty much a requirement for the job. And what a job it is.
Hagar, solo artist, former singer of Van Halen and current front-man of super-group Chickenfoot, spins some pretty amusing tales in this 242-page bestseller. The book begins with stories from Hagar’s childhood, growing up in southern California. But things move along pretty quickly. Hagar touches upon his time in influential 1970s band Montrose and his early solo days (blaming sluggish album sales on, of course, the record company). It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that Hagar become somewhat successful as a solo artist, with his song, “I Can’t Drive 55.”
But it’s his Van Halen stories I was most interested in. They’re worth price of this book alone, right from Hagar’s his first trip to guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s infamous 5150 recording studio. “The studio was filthy. Beer cans everywhere, ashtrays full of cigarettes,” Hagar writes. He describes jamming with the band, and realizing instantly he must join.
Hagar talks about the ups and down of being in the mega popular Van Halen, and the events that led to his eventual departure years later. Obviously, there’s no love lost between Hagar and original Van Halen singer David Lee Roth. The pair toured together briefly at one point, when they were both out of Van Halen. Hagar describes Roth as a “bald-headed a**hole, a swaggering, middle-aged prima donna … a nostalgia act who has to wear a wig and he even spray-paints that.”
One of the more memorable parts of this autobiography is a meeting with Eddie in 2004 in a lead up to the band’s short-lived reunion with Sammy, where Hagar described his disheveled former band-mate as “crazier than a loon.” Eddie at that time had just overcome tongue cancer. “He told me he cured himself by having pieces of his tongue liquefied and injected into his body,” Hagar writes. “He also told me when he had his hip replacement, he stayed awake through the operation and helped the doctors drill the hole. What a fruitcake.”
Of course, Hagar — the hard rock version of Jimmy Buffet — also spends considerable time talking about his tequila empire and the restaurant business (Hagar is part-owner of the Cabo Wabo Cantina chain of watering holes).
All in all, this is a very entertaining book from the man known for years as the “Red Rocker.”
Hagar may not be able to “drive 55,” but he can sure tell some good stories. This is a must read for any music fan.
* We received a copy of this book for free to complete this review. The opinions expressed in this post are ours only and are in no way influenced by any outside factors.