REVIEW: Sammy Hagar – Sammy Hagar / I Never Said Goodbye (1987)

Scan_20160705SAMMY HAGAR – Sammy Hagar / I Never Said Goodbye (1987 Geffen)

Remember when everybody in the Van Hagar camp just loved each other?  Things were so happy in Van Hagar, that Sammy released a solo album in 1987 and nobody got mad.  Hell, Eddie himself co-produced it and played bass!   Hagar was obligated to do another solo album to get out of his contract with Geffen, and so the self-titled Sammy Hagar was recorded quickly.  Sammy apparently forgot he released another album also called Sammy Hagar in 1977, so this one was re-titled I Never Said Goodbye.   (I still call it Sammy Hagar.)

There was something particularly weird about this release on cassette. I had a version, purchased from Columbia House around 1989-1990, with a bizarre cover. The J-card was designed to fold around outside the cassette shell. I’m not sure why to this day, and I’ve never seen another copy like it. The artwork was obviously designed to fold on the outside rather than the inside, but I’ll never figure out why.

All the members of Van Halen even appeared in Sammy’s video for “Hands and Knees”.  The plot was simple, and perhaps a foreshadowing of things to come.  A bored Hagar calls his bandmates (including nextdoor neighbor Eddie) to jam, but nobody’s interested.  Instead, Hagar jams with a group of robots!  “Hands and Knees” was an odd choice for a first single, being a dark and slow mood tune.  The video guaranteed attention, and still garners a chuckle today (albeit a sad one, knowing these guys aren’t pals anymore).  I love Michael Anthony’s huge brick of a cell phone.  The video was better than the song, though it does have a killer of a chorus.  It’s clear if you listen that Eddie Van Halen is one damn fine bassist too.  Are you surprised?

One thing about this album, though:  it’s really commercial.  Like way, way more pop even than 5150.  It’s no surprise that some writers like the esteemed Martin Popoff have slagged this album.  The production has an airy 80’s feel, not enough oomph.  The opening track “When the Hammer Falls” is a hard rocker, but it could have been thicker with more meat.  Not that it would have helped too much.  The chorus on this one is pretty weak, which is too bad since the riff is good enough for rock and roll.

The second single, which Van Halen used to let Sammy play live acoustically, is “Give to Live”.  Van Halen’s version can be found on 1993’s Live: Right here, right now.  Hagar’s studio original is unabashedly pop, bombastic…and good.  I admit I still enjoy this very cheesy ballad.  Hagar is rarely profound, and neither is “Give to Live”, but it’s a nice song indeed.

A shitty synth (?) horn section urinates all over “Boy’s Night Out”. Speaking of synth, “Returning Home” is all but unpalatable. This is one of Sammy’s UFO yarns, a story of a guy returning back to Earth to find it wrecked. “I saw the ruins, once the smoke cleared, once upon returning home.” It’s just sunk by all this terrible synthesizer junk and programming. The UFO has crashed into the damn mountain!

ALIENS

The second side surprisingly opened with some blues jamming:  “Standin’ at the Same Old Crossroads”.  And that would be Sammy on the slide guitar.  “Crossroads” leads directly into “Privacy”, a “Radar Love” re-write that is better than “Radar Love”.  Maybe I’m just sick of “Radar Love”, but “Privacy” has some smoking playing on it, proving again that Hagar is actually a pretty badass soloist.  Side two on a whole is actually much better than the first.  “Back Into You” is a vintage-style Hagar radio rocker.  Journey must have wished they wrote “Back Into You”.  The keyboard overdubs aren’t necessary but hey, it was the 80’s and this is a great little AOR rocker.

Another tune that Hagar played live with Van Halen was “Eagles Fly”.  He actually presented the song to the band for 5150, but it was turned down.  A live Van Halen version can be found on the 1993 single for “Jump (Live)”.  He did it acoustically on stage, but the studio version is bombastic and big like “Give to Live” is.  It’s a pretty impressive tune, for pop rock.   David Lauser’s drumming makes the song, I’m a sucker for that rat-a-tat-tat!

The album ends on a ho-hum note, the soul-funk of “What They Gonna Say Now”, sort of this album’s “Inside” to close it out.  Just not good enough.  If you want to hear Eddie Van Halen playing bass up close and personal, he’s very audible here, but he’s not a flash bassist.  He plays with the groove for the song.

It’s tempting to think of this album as a collection of tracks that were not right for Van Halen, and that’s mostly true.  A lot of it, however, just wasn’t good enough for Van Halen.  “What They Gonna Say Now” could have been a Van Halen track, but it would have been the weakest tune on 5150 if so.

2.5/5 stars

Advertisements

47 comments

  1. I loved this album when it came out. But mostly cause I was an epic VH fan…still am I guess! Some good songs but definitely a time capsule album. A bit of ’87. Thanks for sharing…BTW maybe its just me but I’m thinking the writing is on the wall for a Van Hagar reunion within 2-5 years tops!! They speak so much nicer about each other…lol

    Liked by 1 person

        1. They were talented and thats more surprising to me that I didn’t gravitate their way. Thats the type of bands I preferred. Guess it was just a personal thing for me. They might have been a victim to me anyway of being in the crosshairs of the glam to grunge timeframe/movement. And lumped in with other bands I didn’t like. But that said I really don’t like their music go figure…

          Like

  2. Dude…
    That friggin…liner hat came in the cassette version, troubled me.
    What was the idea?
    More room for graphics/pictures?
    It looked as if it cost more to produce as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Citizen V! Yeah it would have to be more expensive to produce, I think. Different sized paper, different settings for the folding and cutting operations…I don’t get it. No idea why they did that. The potential to wreck it just by storing it was high!

      Thanks for dropping by!

      Like

  3. I haven’t paid too much attention to the solo career of Sammy, so your review of this one isn’t sending me scrambling me to find a copy. I think I have one here, Can’t Drive 55? Something like that.

    Good on ya for sticking out with this one. That cassette copy sounds… weird.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I would give this one a 3 based on the Hagar solo catalogue! Course with Ed involved your correct it should have had a beefier sound…
    Pretty good album though for a contractual obligation !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It sounds like this one would have been better if it was a Van Halen album with none of the songs, loads of rockin’ guitar and maybe DLR. Just sayin’, innit ;)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “Give to Live” was the 1st single. It was released before the album. “Hands and Knees” was released as a video for the hell of it. All it accomplished was keeping fans from being aware of the single Hagar actually released, “Eagles Fly.” Why Hagar did something so ridiculous is beyond his usual stupidity of releasing the wrong songs regarding hit potential on every album. People who hear songs he never released on every album are left thinking he didn’t want to be a pop success.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No problem Mike. “Hands and Knees” was actually the B-side. I think Hagar just wanted an excuse to do something with his buddies and cared little about having success with that album. He just wanted to get his commitment to Geffen fulfilled. It’s just a shame he deprived so many of a great song. Luckily I had two radio stations in my area which still played it because it was that good. MTV was everything back then so the song had little chance of becoming a top 40 hit when Hagar went to unprecedented heights to sabotage his own song. The song every critic in radio and print felt would be a smash was “Back Into You.” When asked about it on that nationally syndicated radio show with Redbeard, which every market carried on Sunday night, Hagar said he didn’t want to interfere with the release of OU812, so he wasn’t going to release it. He really thought Van Halen was his last stop at that time.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I wonder what the internal situation was like at that time. There were rumours swirling after OU812 that Hagar was on his way out. That was the first time I had heard those rumours and they surfaced pretty much every album after that. Eddie played and produced on his solo album, but later referred to Sammy’s concurrent solo career in very negative terms. Hard to gauge what was really going on. But I imagine some of what happened was Sammy trying to keep Van Halen happy.

          Like

Rock a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s