Sammy Hagar ‘Would Have Been Embarrassed’ to Be in ‘Van Hagar’
Sammy Hagar recalled the initial band-name discussions after he joined Van Halen, saying he "would have been embarrassed" to be in "Van Hagar."
The singer broke down the widely told story in a recent interview with Los Angeles radio station 95.5 KLOS, saying Warner Bros. Records executive Mo Ostin first raised the "Van Hagar" option during a band meeting.
"We were all in a room, and I think Mo Ostin said, 'Why don't we be careful here?'" he said. "Our managers and lawyers and the president of the record company and the band [were] all in a room when we asked for permission for me to join the band — it was official. … And we were in the studio, and we played [1986's] 'Why Can't This Be Love.' And Mo Ostin went, 'Oh, I smell money' — he thought it was just the greatest. ... Then he said, 'Did you guys ever think about maybe changing the name to, like, Van Hagar or something?'"
Hagar also theorized about Ostin's reasoning. "I know what they were thinking, because they thought, 'If this doesn't work, at least you can go back with Van Halen again," he added. "But if you're Van Halen and it don't work, now you've ruined the name Van Halen. So they were trying to preserve, I think, the Van Halen name. And Eddie Van Halen — no one else — said, 'Fuck that.' He said, 'This is Van Halen with a new singer. And everybody said, 'Okay. Word. Gospel.' Boom."
The singer said he was "100 percent on board" with that game plan: "It was Van Halen with a new singer. I would have been embarrassed to be Van Hagar. I would have said, 'Let's just change it back to [the band's early name] Mammoth or something — go back to the beginning."
You can hear the interview below.
Former bassist Michael Anthony recently discussed the name-change prospect, saying the Van Halen brothers had to fight to preserve the moniker.
"We had everybody — [Van Halen's record label] Warner Bros., our management, our lawyers — going, 'Oh, my God. David Lee Roth's gone.' They thought that that was such a strong identity," Anthony told Steve Gorman Rocks. "Warner Bros. wanted us to change the name of the band. I remember Eddie and Alex [Van Halen], we were at Warner Bros., and they were yelling, going, 'Hey, hey, this is our last name. This is our careers. And we're Van Halen.'"
Longtime producer Ted Templeman also initially suggested a switch. "When I first sat down with Sammy and his manager, I said, 'Call it something else if you're going to be in the band,'" he told UCR in 2020. "It's just not Van Halen without Dave to me.'"