Coppin’ a major buzz
It’s a Sammy Hagar weekend at the Dixon May Fair this Saturday
If, at its core, true rock ’n’ roll is a bunch of raving shit, then no one is more of a true rock ’n’ roller than Sammy Hagar.
Sure, Jerry Lee Lewis may have more divorces and mysteriously non-viable wives to his discredit, and he’s probably staggered through enough episodes of liquored-up, pistol-waving incoherent frenzy to make him a legitimate contender for some kind of enshrinement in the pantheon of greats. And certainly Elvis Presley, who fell off his porcelain throne into a rather plebeian pants-down heap at the tender young age of 42 with enough serious pharmaceuticals in his system to take out the Houses of Windsor, Rothschild and Seagram combined, is referred to as the “king” of rock ’n’ roll by some.
But Presley has been dead for almost a quarter-century. And while Lewis, Chuck Berry and a host of rock’s other senior citizens are still gumming their way through the hit parade at various casinos and county fairs, they no longer have what Berry alluded to in his 1955 hit, “Maybelline,” when he sang: “Tooted my horn for the passing lane.”
So the mantle of heritage rock god has been passed to a new generation of jabbering fools that came of age in the 1970s, when ’50s revivalism was in full flower. Most of those have descended to regurgitating old AOR hits, or they’ve moved on to a more “mature” phase in the twilight years of their artistry.
Not Sammy Hagar. The 50-something icon of hedonistic buttrock, who will appear this Saturday at the Dixon May Fair with his band the Waboritas, may be the guy who picked up the slack, at least in the pedal to the metal, yabba dabba doo department. Hagar is still churning out hard-partying anthems to whooping it up and swerving all over the highway in big-block-powered American-made automobiles, at a time when many guys his age are contemplating whether the wood or the three-iron will make for a better short drive. Plus he also owns Cabo Wabo, a nightclub in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, which markets a tequila under the same name.
Hagar’s been stirring up trouble since at least 1973, when Montrose, the debut by the group of the same name, was released; it contained such brilliant Hagar classics as “Rock the Nation” and “Bad Motor Scooter.” Ted Templeman, who produced the disc, used the tricks he learned on that album to turbocharge Van Halen’s debut four years later, a landmark in buttrockdom. Hagar went solo in 1976; he replaced David Lee Roth in Van Halen in 1986 and stayed through 1995’s Balance. In a weird twist of booking, if not fate, Hagar and Roth will tour together, beginning at the end of this month in Cleveland, home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
But the true genius of Hagar can be found in his lyrics, which can be enjoyed by going to his Web site, redrocker.com. “Burned out on the TV set,” he laments on “Shaka Doobie (The Sky’s the Limit).” “Burned out on sex / I ain’t trashed / I’m fucking wrecked.” Or check out “Mas Tequila,” a vignette he probably witnessed in his nightclub: “She did a mean macarena to the funky cold medina / Behind a body shot and three margaritas / She’ll drink it straight from the bottle, terra cotta jug / From a boda bag coppin’ a major buzz.” Yep. Or dig Sammy’s spiritual side on “Sympathy for the Human”: “I am a Christian / I am a Buddha / Hari Krishna, I am a Jew/ I am Satan, have Zen within me … ” You get the picture.
What, you were expecting some pearls of wisdom here from Sammy Hagar? Nah, I didn’t interview him; didn’t want to mess up my perfect picture of buttrock royalty. I did, however, name my dog Sammy Hagar. And in the inimitable words of that Sammy: “Woof! Woof!” And, when I flipped him one of his favorite Brazil nuts: “Awooiie”—which sounded suspiciously like “all right.”