By Adam Waldman
March 24th is the date that marked the official Sammy Hagar era of Van Halen.
In 1985, Van Halen was “on top of the world.” With six albums under their belt, including the extremely successful 1984, it seemed that the band was untouchable. That was until they parted ways with their charismatic frontman, David Lee Roth, who would eventually be replaced by Sammy Hagar after a lengthy search and battles with Warner Brothers Records. This change sent shockwaves through the rock world. Hagar faced an uphill battle to win over the DLR loyalists. Although some fans never came to accept Hagar, the band never missed a beat with the Red Rocker at the helm.
On March 24, 1986, the band that many refer to as “Van Hagar” made their debut with 5150, an album named after a section of the California Welfare and Institutions Code that allows for an involuntary psychiatric hold. It’s an appropriate title, given that many thought that the band was crazy to replace DLR, but their first release without him was a tremendous success. Not only did 5150 have five hit singles, but the album also reached #1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
5150 was the first Van Halen album not to feature Ted Templeman as the producer (he was producing DLR’s Eat ‘Em and Smile solo album at the time). He was replaced by Donn Landee (who was the engineer on all of the band’s previous albums). The different production value, which took some of the focus off of Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing, was a disappointment to some fans and critics, but some of the band’s biggest hits (and most popular songs) came from that album.
It’s hard to be disappointed with the success of the album, but there is one song that wasn’t a hit single that should have been – the title track. As it says in the song…“always one for more, you’re never satisfied.” It may sound like sacrilege to many, but 5150 remains one of my favorite Van Halen albums to this day.
Check out the underrated title track below…