Having just wrapped a "who-would-have-thunk-it" co-headlining tour with the guy he replaced in Van Halen 10 years before leaving the band himself, Sammy Hagar is now mentally preparing for a reunion with Eddie, Alex and Michael.
"I think a reunion is inevitable," the self-proclaimed "red rocker" said backstage at last week's MTV Video Music Awards, shortly after presenting an award with David Lee Roth. "I mean come on, how could it not [happen]?"
Hagar confessed that he hasn't spoken with either of the Van Halen brothers in quite some time, though bassist Michael Anthony has been joining him onstage of late.
"Mikey hasn't even heard from Eddie or Alex," Hagar explained. "I just think when they're ready to surface, they'll do it."
Roth, whose own attempt at a Van Halen reunion fell apart shortly after the 1996 VMAs, said he hasn't spoken to them either.
"Eddie Van Halen may catch up with us at some time in the future," he said. "I'm an optimist. Most people hope for the best, I actually expect it. When I go fishing, I take a Nikon and a frying pan. And I only hold positive visions for Eddie Van Heineken as well."
Hagar joined Van Halen in 1986 when Roth, the band's original, highly charismatic frontman whose voice soared over such early hits as "Runnin' With the Devil," "Panama" and "Hot for Teacher", left (or was fired, depending on which story you believe) to pursue a then-burgeoning solo career.
Hagar brought his considerable guitar prowess, slightly more serious lyrical presence and a back catalog of solo hits like "I Can't Drive 55" into the Van Halen fold. Hagar's seemingly more congruent personal and musical chemistry with guitar hero Eddie helped take the band to its greatest commercial heights, though admittedly many fans and critics alike long held out hope for a reunion with Diamond Dave.
Their wish seemed to have come true when Van Halen?s management issued a statement in June 1996 announcing that Hagar had left the band and that Roth was collaborating with them on two new tracks set to be included on a greatest-hits package.
Roth appeared with Van Halen at the 1996 VMAs to present an award to Beck, though he declined to ease into the background (as is customary at such events) while Beck accepted, and proceeded to soak up much of the moment's spotlight for himself instead. Soured by his antics, Eddie fired Roth before ever officially even rehiring him, and subsequently recruited former Extreme frontman Gary Cherone for 1998's Van Halen 3 (see "Van Halen Set Listening Party, Track Listing For III").
A battle of words ensued between the Van Halen brothers, Sammy and Dave in the press. As each singer resumed their respective solo careers, Eddie accused them both of having "lead singer's disease," and Van Halen proceeded to tour with Cherone. Van Halen 3 was a critical and commercial failure that sent Cherone packing, though his split was (strangely, perhaps) uncharacteristically amicable.
Things have been relatively quiet on the Van Halen front ever since. Warner Bros. severed ties with the band (see "First No Singer, Now No Label For Van Halen"). Eddie successfully fought cancer (see "Eddie Van Halen Says He's Fighting Cancer"), and rumors abounded that the band was attempting a new reconciliation with Roth (see "Van Halen Fans Plagued By Hoaxes"). Last year, Eddie surfaced to say that the group had a lot of songs, but no singer (see "Eddie Says Van Halen Loaded With Songs, Short On Singers").
Michael Anthony eventually found his way back into the studio with Hagar (see "Sammy Hagar Makes Tracks With Van Halen Bassist, Journey-Men"), who has kept himself busy with his various solo outings and the unlikely tour with Roth that just wrapped (see "David Lee Roth Shakes It In Spandex, Sammy Hagar Bashes Eddie At Tour Debut").
"It's not that I'm crying for [a reunion]," clarified Hagar, who also sells his own brand of tequila. "I'm happy. I'm totally happy. [But] I don't think I could say I am never going to play with those guys again and it will never happen. And God forbid something happened to one of us and then it could never happen. I'd be very regretful.
"So I think it's inevitable," he reiterated. "So I think we'll do it. And hopefully we'll do it like right here in the VMAs sometime or something."
— Ryan J. Downey, with additional reporting by SuChin Pak