Having survived a noisy separation from Van Halen last year -- whether by choice or by pink slip apparently remains a matter of debate -- veteran singer Sammy Hagar, already a successful solo act before he hooked up with the brothers Van Halen, has beat his old partners back to the record racks with a new album, called "Marching To Mars," and a single, "Little White Lies," [from video, 608k QuickTime] that entered the "Billboard" mainstream rock chart this week at number one. The song title may sound innocuous, but, as Abbie Kearse discovered firsthand, it's not.
ABBIE KEARSE: I heard you wrote this song while you where still in Van Halen?
SAMMY HAGAR: No, well, I had the idea for the song and it was actually about racism. It was originally a little acoustic blues idea, I never finished it, I just had the chorus "Little white lie, say what you got to." So anyway, to make a long story short.
KEARSE: So you had the music idea?
HAGAR: I had the music idea and the chorus of "little white lie," meaning in a racist sense as in a "Southern Man" Neil Young song. Like in the deep south, there is still a lot of racism, you know, trying to hold blacks down with lies in a way. But, I was in the studio working on my record and my guitar tech comes running and says "Sammy, Sammy! Ed and Al are on MTV! You got to come and see them!" And I go. He goes, "Man, they're talking trash about you."
EDDIE VAN HALEN, 1996: Bottom line, his work ethic sucked.
HAGAR: So, I took that song and re-wrote it.
KEARSE: This ain't about racism anymore.
HAGAR: No, this song is about Ed and Alex Van Halen on MTV!!!
EDDIE VAN HALEN, 1996: He put out a press release saying, "I quit." A week later, he says I kicked him out. Now, you stickin' to both stories Sam? I'll take a lie detector test.
HAGAR: I'm not proud of being kicked out of one of the greatest bands in the world. I'm not going to go
around saying -- it's more flattering to say, "Yeah, I quit those guys." I didn't quit the band. I would have never quit the band. It was a great, great band.
KEARSE: Do you think there will ever be a point when you can actually move past this, where you'll be Sammy Hagar, solo artist, doing your thing, and people aren't going to ask you about Van Halen? Or is going to be a lifetime thing?
HAGAR: I don't know, I won't tell this story over and over again. After this tour, it's the last time I'll talk about it. But if someone wants to talk about the good times in Van Halen, I'll be glad to share that with anyone, because that's what I want to remember. It was ten great years, one bad one, for me. That band taught me a lot. I'm a better singer today, better songwriter, guitar player. What more could anybody ask for?
As for Van Halen, the band, with new frontman Gary Cherone of Extreme fame, is at work on its next album, with producer Mike Post of "Hill Street Blues."
It may be out this winter.