Saturday, April 2, 2011

Face-Off: Dave, or Sammy?

Doug: Beatles or Stones? Betty or Veronica? Ginger or Mary Ann? Cockrum or Byrne? Such are some of the ages old questions that plague our pop-culture minds. But here's one we've yet to broach on this blog... In the arena of Bronze Age pop/rock, do you prefer your Van Halen fronted by David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar?

Doug: I won't even get into the convoluted history (shoot -- we talk about Spidey as a soap opera; you should check this out if you want a soap opera!) of the band. I'm more interested in discussing their music. My faves from the "Dave era" include Jamie's Crying, Hot for Teacher, Feel Your Love Tonight, and their cover of the Kinks' smash You Really Got Me, of course with Eruption as the intro. They had a lot of fun with songs like Ice Cream Man and Big Bad Bill (is Sweet William Now), and I did, too. For the Sammy Hagar years, you can't go wrong with Dreams, Why Can't This Be Love, Finish What Ya Started, Right Now, or Poundcake. One could argue that in spite of three of the band members staying consistent through these two lead singers that the sound is so different that it's almost like two different bands. Of course Eddie's guitars and Michael Anthony's backing vocals hold it all together.

Doug: So, which Van Halen era do you like best?


Ray "!!" Tomczak said...

As far as I'm concerned, Van Halen ceased to exist when Diamond Dave left.

Glenn, kenixfan said...

While I liked 5150 quite a bit, I have to agree with the first poster. David Lee Roth made the band what it was and there's no other band before or since quite like Van Halen. With DLR at the helm, they were one of the great American bands despite never being taken too seriously.

But DLR didn't want that anyway (which is another reason to love the guy).


Anonymous said...

Ditto. Wasn't the same after Dave left. They became Van Hagar.


Anonymous said...

Dave. I even loved that stupid "Just a Gigilo" video.


Inkstained Wretch said...

While I like some of the Hagar-era stuff, David Lee Roth fronted the definitive version of the band.

That quartet was wilder, more inventive and, most importantly, more plugged in to the anarchic spirit of rock n' roll. Consider the intro to Hot for the Teacher -- Nobody else was doing stuff like that at the time. Today's bands pale in comparison.

The Hagar-era stuff sounds slicker but a lot less exciting. It may be musically less complex, but it lacks the breezy spirit of earlier stuff. A lot of their songs would have fit right in with a Journey or Foreigner album, while the Roth band was more like the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

On paper, Hagar was more talented. He had a wider range as a singer, could play guitar and could compose music. You can find plenty of interviews with Eddie from the 80s and 90s making those points. The presumption was the band could do way more with Hagar than with Roth.

But chemistry matters as much as talent. Maybe more. Hagar could never create the same dynamic as Roth did. Hagar made the whole band sound like him: a middle-brow journeyman rocker.

Roth was technically less talented and may have been insufferable as a person, but he somehow brought out the best in the others.

Edo Bosnar said...

Yeah, I agree with everyone else: this almost seems like a joke question to me. The obvious answer is Dave, of course.
As far as Hagar's concerned, in my opinion he reached his peak with the "Standing Hampton" album and did nothing I considered worth listening to after that, whether solo or with Van Halen.

Stephen T. Harper said...

Doug, you hit it on the head when you said "... like two different bands."

Very different.

Van Halen w/ Sammy was a huge band from the start - kind of a "super group" really. They cranked out tons of pretty innocuous, mainstream hits.
Great musicians, great singer, good music. But that band never blew anybody's mind.

Van Halen with Dave was young, hungry and totally unlike anything that anybody had ever seen or heard before. Van Halen with Dave blew a lot of minds. The juxtaposition of the quiet genius and technical wizardry of Eddie, against the testosterone dripping, harlequin/gameshow host, Roth... was unimaginable before anybody ever saw it, and unrepeatable once it ended.

That band sent thousands of teenage boys to music stores to learn how to play and changed the course of rock music for years. Attempts to sound like Eddie and act like Dave generated most of what happened in hard rock, good or bad, for the next ten years.

Van Halen with Dave was an awesome, awesome band all the way til the end. Long gone now.

Joseph said...

I'll echo the others: the original was the definitive version.

I've met several people that believe otherwise, but apparently they don't post on this blog.

Rich said...

As long as Eddie is playing guitar on it, who cares? The man is incredible. Having said that, it's very rare that I listen to any of the albums with Sammy on vocals. Hagar's lyrics are embarrassingly bad. They just don't carry the self-deprecating humour of Dave's lyrics and come across as offensively sexist. I actually love the Van Halen III version of the band with Cherone; so I'm probably in the minority of VH fans.

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