“Oh, I had all of this worked out years ago,” Sammy Hagar said when Geoff Edgers asked him about how a potential Van Halen reunion with all the band’s remaining members (including David Lee Roth) would go down. “But it would never happen… stepping on the stage with me is the last thing [Roth] would ever want to do. But it could’ve been great—we would’ve made it great for the fans.”
The quote comes from a recent interview Hagar and Edgers did for the Washington Post’s Instagram. Speaking candidly about his time in the band, the pain he felt with his departure and the corresponding fallout he’s been sifting through for the past few decades, Hagar revealed some intimate insight into the life he’s lived in stage lights. Through all the celebrity, the impression the 73-year-old rocker gives is of a musician just trying to make two things: peace with his past and more good music. The first part, at least, is what led him to getting back in touch with Eddie Van Halen last year before the legendary guitarist passed away in October.
“When I recontacted Eddie four or five months before he died, we got together and kind of made amends,” Hagar explained. “It wasn’t like ‘Oh, you’ve gotta apologize for this’ or anything. The first time I talked to him after all those years, I said ‘Hey Eddie, I’ve been trying to get a hold of you! I called your brother, I called your people’ and he said ‘Well, why didn’t you call me?’ I was like, ‘Well, that’s a good point,’ you know? I explained that I was trying to make sure it was cool with him that I got in contact, I didn’t want to get called names and then he’d hang up the phone or something. He said ‘No, no, no—I love you, man.’”
At that point, Hagar realized the scope of the situation, as well as the immense depth of his relationship with Van Halen which merited a decade of timeless music that went straight into the Great American Rock’n’Roll Songbook. “He had elevated his whole thing and had come to peace with everything—he knew he was sick,” Hagar continued. “He was totally above it all and elevated. He was talking to me like Wolfie’s dad. And man, I’m so glad that happened at that time. Because if it hadn’t happened and he passed away, I would feel terrible. I wouldn’t be able to talk about it, I wouldn’t know what to say. So, I’m so grateful that we connected.”
It was around that same time too that the idea for the Van Halen “kitchen sink” reunion was getting thrown around… but in the moment, Hagar was focusing more on the big picture. “[Van Halen] said ‘Hey, let’s make some noise,’” he said. “He was like ‘I’ve got a lot of work to do on myself this year, you ain’t gonna believe it. I’ve been fighting this stuff for 15 years. I’ve got this big thing on my neck and my throat right now. I gotta get it all straightened out, but next year, we outta make some noise. We gotta make some great music together, I want to do it again.’ I was just like ‘Yes, but Eddie, that ain’t what I’m calling about. I’m calling to make sure you’re okay.’ But hearing those things really made me able to handle his death. It’s still tough as hell. I miss the guy.”
When asked about whether or not he regrets revealing so much of Van Halen’s dark side in his 2011 best-selling book, Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock, Hagar responded: “Yes. If I had known that he was going to get as sick as he did—if I could’ve seen the future that he was going to pass early like this and it was going to be such a sad thing, I definitely would’ve left the dark side out of it. The problem was: I was really hurt. When I got thrown out of the band, the way he was acting was really impossible to deal with. I was hurt and I wrote it really quickly—I started writing that book the frickin’ first week I was thrown out of that band! I was angry, so there’s anger in there … But I don’t have the anger anymore. It’s so sad what happened to Eddie and I feel horrible about it. But I don’t feel horrible about what I wrote—I wrote the truth, I just would’ve left the dark side out of it.”
Throughout the interview, Hagar and Edgers go over a lot of fascinating stuff from the Red Rockers’s colorful career, even digging deeper into his distaste for Roth, which transitions into an entertaining description of how the ill-fated “kitchen sink” tour would’ve worked logistically (spoiler alert: Hagar would’ve been open to doing a duet for the encore). So far as getting a firsthand look into one of the truly Shakespearean stories of rock history goes, it’s a goldmine. Watch the full interview below: