Record Label Wanted Van Halen to Change Band Name When Sammy Hagar Joined
Estranged Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony has revealed in a recent interview that Van Halen's record label wanted them to change the band name once Sammy Hagar joined as David Lee Roth's replacement.
This is another piece of proof that record labels, although they know how to generate millions upon millions of dollars in revenue off bands, don't always know what's best for those bands. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) indicates that Van Halen sold a total of 16 million records in the Hagar era, and that's just tallying studio releases only.
Anthony, who was a guest on the Steve Gormans Rocks! Westwood One radio program (hosted by ex-Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman), reflected on the lineup change and what it was like as Van Halen initially tested the waters with Hagar as their potential new singer.
The bassist admitted he had seen Hagar perform a handful of times and was a fan of his first successful group, Montrose, but the 'Red Rocker' wasn't completely on his radar.
Their first meeting took place at Eddie Van Halen's 5150 studio when Hagar had some downtime. "He had cut all his hair off," recalled Anthony (transcription via Blabbermouth), "and he comes walking into the studio. I was sitting there in the studio, and he comes walking in. And I go, 'That's not Sammy Hagar. He's the guy with long hair.' And we instantly became friends."
Anthony noted that the chemistry between the singer and the rest of the band was instantaneous.
"We played probably for about 10 minutes tops, and we knew that we had something happening," he said. "We had a couple of songs that would end up on the 5150 record; I think they were 'Good Enough' and… There was another one; there was a couple of them that were pretty much written. And we played it for him, and we said, 'Just sing. Just sing something.' And there were bits that he actually sang that ended up — and I kid you not — on the album. The chemistry was just such, like, 'Wow!'"
Once Roth departed, though, Van Halen's record label, Warner Brothers (now Warner Music), had different ideas entirely about what the group should do next.
Anthony described the label, the band's management and their lawyers' reactions to Roth's exit as panicked. "They thought that that was such a strong identity," he said in reference to the split-kicking, katana-wielding frontman.
"Warner Brothers wanted us to change the name of the band," the bassist confirmed. "I remember Eddie and [drummer and Eddie's brother] Alex, we were at Warner Brothers, and they were yelling, going, 'Hey, hey, this is our last name. This is our careers. And we're Van Halen.'"
Two months after the release of 5150, the first Van Halen album fronted by Sammy Hagar, the record had sold over two million copies in the United States. Less than five months later, it had moved another one million copies, yielding triple platinum status in the very same year it was released, 1986.
Subsequently, each studio album with Hagar was certified at least double platinum by the RIAA in the same year the individual records were released.
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