This or That: Van Halen or Van Hagar?

This post is prompted by the recent news (here via MTV) that Van Halen and David Lee Roth are reuniting (for the record, Wolfgang Van Halen will be assuming Michael Anthony’s bass & backing vocal duties, so it’s not a full reunion).

I believe that the title of this post might give away which side of the line I flop on: I’m in camp Diamond Dave, 100%. When Van Halen broke up, it was tragic. As a teen, my room was papered (literally; all walls AND ceiling.) with pictures of DLR. I was a bit of a fanatic.

When Van Halen broke up, for me, it was like the end of my youth. What would happen??

Here’s what happened: DLR recorded Eat ‘Em & Smile, picked up guitar virtuoso Steve Vai and when I saw them in concert, I was blown away. Close my eyes and I was at a Van Halen show. For me, Dave was the show. The bombastic & inimitable frontman. I saw first-hand that Eddie’s guitar playing could be duplicated; but how could they duplicate Dave?

Pick your poison: David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar?

Well, as we all know, they didn’t. VH carried on with Sammy Hagar, the Red Rider taking on lead singer duties.

I was underwhelmed.

I’m sorry; I’m a purist. I couldn’t fathom Van Halen sans David Lee Roth’s mighty swagger any more than I could imagine Pink Floyd sans the mad growl of Roger Waters.

I’ll give Van Hagar props for having some good-bordering-on-great songs, but for me, there is only one Van Halen.

Do you remember the last time Eddie & David kissed and made up and went on tour? They came through my city but when I read an interview with Eddie Van Halen wherein he stated that they banked upwards of $1 million per show? I decided to waive the $100, throw my Van Halen CDs on random & pour beer over my own head, thank you very much.

Where do you fall on the Van Halen / Hagar divide? A selection of songs are below, plus some honorable mentions for the song covers that Van Halen rocked.

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8 Responses to This or That: Van Halen or Van Hagar?
  1. Dr. Pants
    December 28, 2011 | 12:30 pm

    I am more of a Van Hagar fan, I have to admit. I recently found out that Dr. Pants’ new bass player, Devin, agrees with me (Kenneth, our other guitar player, is staunchly anti-Van Hagar). I’m not a Van Hagar purist–I really could take or leave anything post-OU812, and I love 1984. But OU812 and 5150 are records that I also really love. Eddie and Sammy wrote SONGS together, and not just riffs that Diamond Dave wailed over (I know that’s an oversimplification, but too often Dave’s vocals sounded unfocused and unmelodic). Mind you, that’s probably the point; people who love the Roth version of Van Halen think that songs like “Dreams” or “When It’s Love” are an abomination and a blight on the band’s career. I think they are pop genius.

    • Mari
      December 28, 2011 | 4:22 pm

      Maybe that’s part of it–I prefer the early stuff, and 1984 is my least favorite of the DLR-helmed releases. I didn’t like it when VH swayed too far to the pop end of the spectrum. Though I can appreciate the Van Hagar songs more than I can appreciate Sammy solo, I’ve never been a fan.
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Melisa
    December 28, 2011 | 2:44 pm

    I like them both, however upon hearing the news of the new tour my sister and I agreed that we give them about 3 shows in before DLR stomps off the bus for good (this time, anyway).

    • Mari
      December 28, 2011 | 4:22 pm

      LOL, yes, I think EVH & DLR are like Sid & Nancy, a recipe for destruction!

  3. Ri
    December 28, 2011 | 6:14 pm

    Well, for me there are two immutable facts:

    (a.) Sammy Hagar is the better musician of the two.
    (b.) DLR is better at being an annoying douchebag.

    When you also consider, though, that no VanHalen has ever blown my skirt up in the slightest – avec either SH or DLR – you may want to throw my vote out so as not to skew the curve…lol

  4. Kelly Carpenter
    December 29, 2011 | 5:52 pm

    I found Hagar-era Van Halen boring. But it also may be because bands in their earlier years just have a lot more energy, especially so when you have a maniac like DLR onstage.

  5. Kim
    December 30, 2011 | 1:28 pm

    I do truly love both, and grew up hearing about equal amounts of both….however, I will probably always love Van HALEN just a bit more than Van Hagar. The Hagar years, the band sounded good. But apart from the music itself, the vocals were completely different, so they seemed like a completely different band to me.

  6. Kim
    December 30, 2011 | 1:30 pm

    BTW, Feels So Good and Hot Summer Nights are the best Van Hagar songs, IMO. And I love Van Halen’s Dance The Night Away more than their more commercially successful singles :)

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