“Sammy Hagar & Friends” started out as a markedly different idea than the Red Rocker wound up pursuing on the guest-filled set. Hagar tells Billboard that the album, which comes out Sept. 24, was initially designed to be part of his 40th anniversary as a recording artist.
“I was going to do an anthology record, four decades of rock, and I was going to license songs from each decade and have a two- or three-CD set,” he explains. “And then I was going to write four new songs, one from each era. So there’s be a Montrose-esque song, which is ‘Not Going Down,” and an early Sammy (solo) song, which is ‘Bad on Fords and Chevrolets,’ and then a Van Halen-esque song and a lifestyle song, which is ‘All We Need is An Island.’ Then I started recording the new songs and I wrote a couple more and started getting excited. I’ve always been anti greatest hits packages, anyway, and I thought, ‘Y’know, I can still write. I can still sing. I can still go and make a great record,’ so I kept going and the next think you know, I have a new CD.”
Hagar did, however stack “& Friends” with, well, friends, colleagues and cohorts, an impressive list that includes duet partners Kid Rock (“Knockdown Dragout”), Toby Keith (Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville”), Taj Mahal (“Winding Down”), Heart’s Nancy Wilson (“All We Need is An Island”) and instrumentalists such as all three members of Chickenfoot (Chad Smith, Michael Anthony and Joe Satriani), Journey’s Neal Schon, Montrose alumni Bill Church and Denny Carmassi, Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart and, of course, Hagar’s own Wabos.
Ronnie Dunn, meanwhile, is part of “Bad on Fords and Chevrolets” which, as Hagar indicated, was one of the first of the new tracks for the project and also put the guest concept in motion.
“When I listened to his vocal, he sang it so good and he’s such a great singer, I said, ‘Will you sing a couple of verses and do a duet with me, and he did. After that it started looking like a duets record. I started calling all my friends and said, ‘Let’s get together and do this, let’s get together and do that,’ and everyone responded and it started coming together little by little.” (Watch Sammy and Ronnie talk more about the song here.)
Perhaps the most intriguing combination on the album was Schon, Anthony and Hagar for a rendition of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” and a live version of Freddie King’s “Going Down” — which led to early rumors that Hagar was putting a new supergroup together.
“Well, you never know what the world will accept,” he says. “It was just two hours of playing and the rest of the time fucking around. It’s what it was because that band is so good that we got the first take on ‘Going Down’ and the first take on ‘Personal Jesus’ — that was the magic. If it gets any traction then, yeah, I’d do it (again) in a heartbeat.”
Hagar will wrap up his current Four Decades of Rock tour on Sept. 7 at home in San Francisco. Besides promoting the new album he’s hoping to start a third Chickenfoot album before the end of the year, and he’s also busy with his Beach Bum Rum line, a product made from Hawaiian sugar cane that he plans to hold onto and not sell it off like he did his Cabo Wabo tequila brand.
“I didn’t plan on selling the tequila but I got in over my head,” Hagar explains. “Now I know what I’m doing a little more. I can see, kind of, what you can and what you can’t do. I’ve got people involved who know what they’re doing , so now I think I can keep my arms around it and stay with it. And like everything else I do it really goes hand in hand with the music, so I feel like it’s all just part of one big thing, and that’s great.”
“Sammy Hagar & Friends” Track Listing:
1. Winding Down (with Taj Mahal)
2. Not Going Down (with Bill Church & Denny Carmassi)
3. Personal Jesus (with Neal Schon, Michael Anthony & Chad Smith)
4. Father Sun (with Denny Carmassi & Aaron Hagar)
5. Knockdown Dragout (with Kid Rock, Joe Satriani, Denny Carmassi)
6. Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man (with David Lauser, Mona Gnader & Vic Johnson)
7. Bad On Fords and Chevrolets (with Ronnie Dunn, David Lauser, Mona Gnader & Vic Johnson)
8. Margaritaville (with Toby Keith)
9. All We Need Is An Island (with Nancy Wilson & Mickey Hart)
10. Going Down (with Neal Schon, Michael Anthony & Chad Smith)
11. Space Station #5 – Live from Ronnie Montrose Tribute Concert *
* Deluxe Bonus Track only