My parents, in what they surely see as a poor decision, gave me a subscription to BMG’s mail order service. I eagerly tore into the sheet of stamps, judging them only on the coolness of the miniature album cover and select 10 or 12, most of which I’d never even heard of. Of all the cassettes I received, I remember one. Van Halen’s 5150. 5150 is my earliest recollection of both Van Halen and Sammy Hagar. I loved it. I listened to it over and over. My father starting yelling a lot. Life was good. To this day “Get Up” is amongst my favorite songs.
High School. 1992.
Chris Hamlin, my little sister, a girl I was dating and I made the two hour trip to Columbia, MO to see Van Halen on the F.U.C.K. tour. On a week night. The show started at 8 pm. Dad wanted to know when we would be home. We said “late”. I guess he thought 11 pm was late. We had nose-bleed seats at the Hearnes Center. Baby Animals opened. Then Van Halen played, very loud, for about two and a half hours. We got home at 1 am. Dad was livid. The whole night was exhilarating.
I moved to St. Louis with my new bride. If you have ever spent much time in St. Louis you probably know that Sammy Hagar is a way of life. Legend has it that in Sammy’s early solo days, when he was opening for whomever was the flavor of the month, the headliner opened for Sammy when the show stopped in St. Louis.
Shortly after arriving in St. Louis I saw Van Halen for a second time. Chris Hamlin and I got tickets for the Van Halen III show. No Sammy. Gary Cherone. Gary Cherone is no Sammy, but I don’t think he got a fair shake. He’s a really good showman and performed better than I expected. The problem I had with that concert was the “new” music. It blew. After the tour he left Van Halen.
Sammy Hagar came to St. Louis at least twice, solo, while I lived there. I missed those shows. But then, in a triumphant return, Van Halen, on tour, with Sammy! Woohoo! 31st row at the Kiel. Chris Hamlin (notice a trend), his wife, Christie (my wife) and I made the pilgrimage downtown for the show. If it hadn’t been for Eddie van Halen’s fat slob of a son slumbering onto the stage to butcher 316, it would have been a perfect concert. Ear bleed volume, a rowdy crowd, Sammy bantering with the locals. But geesh, Eddie, leave your son at home next time. I reckon that was the last time I’ll see VH with SH in concert.
I wandered into a Best Buy store only to find a table covered in freebie promo disks by the entrance, one of which is a five song live recording of Sammy Hagar in St. Louis. On the back it said “The Long Road to Cabo – in stores September 23rd.”
After loading the rug rats into the SUV I climb into the driver’s seat and start rummaging through the CDs. “Megan, what would you like to listen to?”
“Shady Tree, Daddy.” She’s referring, of course, to “Under the Shady Tree” by Laurie Berkner. Kids’ music, put together to appease short attention spans. Don’t get me wrong, for kids’ music it’s pretty good, but after listening to it about 3 million times…….
“Ok, Megan, we can listen to Shady Tree in a few minutes. Why don’t we listen to something else first?” This often works and she forgets about Shady Tree. She gives me the “You’re gonna do it anyway, so just put on something I don’t like, already” look.
I find the Sammy promo disk in the center console. “Wanna listen to Sammy Hagar?” Megan has never heard Sammy before. We’ve been very gentle to her ears so far – lots of classical, jazz, and Shady Tree.
“Is Sabby Hager a girl or a boy?”
“Sammy’s a boy.”
“Oh.” She’s not thrilled. I slide it into the player, turn the volume up one whole notch, and proceed to absorb a live recording of “Space Station #5.” After a few bars I turn around seeking Megan’s approval.
I am faced with a look of primal horror on my little princess’ face. At this point the most insane words ever spoken by a father pass my lips. “Do you like this song, Megan?”
“I wanna listen to Norah Jones.”
Norah Jones. At least it’s not Shady Tree. I rummage. No Norah Jones. “Megan, how about Fiona Apple?”
“Ok, Daddy. I like Fioma Appew.”
I suppose Sammy Hagar might be an acquired taste. Maybe next year.