It’s been well over four decades since Van Halen unleashed their debut record upon the world. Although it’s usually Eddie Van Halen’s incredible guitar playing and songwriting that takes the spotlight most of the time, the band’s fans are still participating in the ever-present debate – who was better for Van Halen, David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar?
Whichever view you may hold on the matter, both singers contributed to the band’s greatness. David Lee Roth was the ultimate showman while the band got their first No. 1 record with Hagar.
But what about Van Halen members? What do they think? Well, in a recent edition of The Mitch Lafon and Jeremy White Show, Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony weighed in on the matter and revealed where he stands.
When they asked him whether he felt that the band was “selling out” with the Van Hagar material, he replied (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):
“Nothing that Van Halen ever did was a conscious effort. Even from the beginning, Warner Brothers would say ‘Hey, what’s the first single gonna be?’ We said, ‘Hey, you guys choose it. We love all our music, we made it, so you guys choose whatever you think.’ And we never wrote towards that way, ‘We need a number one single.'”
“When ‘Jump,’ which was our only big single from the early days of Van Halen, Roth didn’t even want that song on the album, because he’s all, ‘Eddie, you’re a guitar god, man, you’re not supposed to be playing keyboards.’ And Eddie, he grew up classically trained. Piano, in addition to picking up guitar.“
“When Sammy joined the band, I think it was just a natural progression of the band. We just continued writing and Sammy brought in this whole knowledge of being a guitar player himself, he understood structure of music and stuff like that. From that standpoint, where David would always write the lyrics and go, ‘Yeah, man, play that hard or whatever,’ Sammy’s like, ‘Hey, you got this chord here, what if we play this chord or whatever, make this change.“
“He brought a whole new element, and it just kind of changed the dynamic of the band. We weren’t going to continue doing what we didn’t want to continue doing, what we were doing with Dave. Because that was with Dave. It’s the natural evolution within the way the band was evolving.“