In 1976, soon to become legendary rock and roll vocalist Sammy Hagar released his first solo album entitled Nine On A Ten Scale. At the time, Sammy Hagar was not a household name in the rock and roll business. However, he was known among fans of the band Montrose because of his role as the group’s lead vocalist. Sammy Hagar had recorded two albums with the band Montrose as the group’s lead singer. The band’s debut album spawned the rock and roll classic “Rock Candy,” which Sammy Hagar sang lead vocals on and was also given co-writers credit along with the rest of the band. So in the end, Sammy Hagar’s voice had been heard on rock and roll radio for years before he went solo.
When Nine on A Ten Scale was released, the album did not garner any significant airplay. The album also did not sell really well. There was no big hit single released from the album and so it was pretty much ignored by the rock and roll business. That’s unfortunate because the album at the time not only stood as a fresh-sounding rock and record, it also contained some material written by other legendary musical artists that the world had not even heard yet.
Nine On A Ten Scale opened up with the song “Keep On Rockin’.” The song was a tribute to the musical heroes that Sammy Hagar had grown up with like Elvis Presley, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The song even contained a quick lick of the Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash.” The song was fueled by the background vocals of Venetta Fields, Maxayn Lewis, and Sherlie Matthews. These were legendary backing vocalists going back to the Motown days. “Keep On Rockin’ really captures the sound of early to mid-1970s rock and roll productions in which there was few sound effects added to the sound of the band and the vocalist. It sounds a little dry now, but that’s what rock and roll sounded like during this time period before bands like Boston and Foreigner came along and changed the sound of rock productions.
The song “Keep On Rockin,” was later released on Sammy Hagar’s first compilation album entitled Rematch which was a greatest hits collection of his Capitol years. We loved the cover as it took first place on our Sammy Hagar Albums Covers list. The LP was later released on CD with five more tracks than the original vinyl album.
While the song’s opening track paid tribute to the sounds of Motown with its light rock sound, the album’s second track changed musical direction instantly. The song “Urban Guerilla” tilted more towards a Motorhead style sound, especially in the song’s intro. This was killer rock and roll. It was what we would come to expect from Sammy Hagar for the rest of his solo career. “Urban Guerilla” is a standout track on his debut album. It rocks with an intensity that is also fueled by fantastic chord changes that even echo a bit of a progressive nature. The song was written by John Carter who produced the album and Sammy Hagar.
The third song on the album entitled “Flamingos Fly,” was truly one of the gems of the record. The song was composed by Van Morrison. Anyone familiar with the music of Van Morrison could easily hear Van Morrison’s signature songwriting style instantly on this one. That style of music would also become prevalent throughout Sammy Hagar’s solo career at times. For every kicking hard rocking song that Sammy Hagar would release like “Red,” or “Heavey Metal,” there would be the ones like “Give to Live” or “Fillmore Shuffle.”
Sammy Hagar had originally intended to record the song as a duet between Sammy and Van Morrison which in the end never worked out. However, Van Morrison would later record the song on his own and release it on his album A Period of Transition in 1977. Yet, it was Sammy Hagar who would first introduce the world to this incredible new Van Morrison song that was wonderfully recorded by Sammy.
The fourth track on the album was another song written by a rock and roll veteran who was already a huge star. The sensational Bob Welch had made a huge name for himself with his work in the band Fleetwood Mac before Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined in 1975. After leaving Fleetwood Mac, Bob Welch would enjoy a successful solo career that was defined by some pretty big hits singles like “Hot Love, Cold World”, and “Ebony Eyes,” and of course his classic “Sentimental Lady,” which he re-recorded during his solo career.
Sammy Hagar would record the Bob Welch song “China” for his debut album. This was a cranking song that contained those signature Bob Welch songwriting riffs that Sammy Hagar just blew out of the ballpark. Sammy Hagar could make any song great, but if you gave him a great song, you knew he was going to hit a grand slam with it. Bob Welch would later release the song on his own, but of course, it was Sammy Hagar who released its first.
Closing out side one was the song “Silver Lights” which was written just by Sammy Hagar. Side two of the album opened up with another solo Sammy Hagar penned song entitled “All American.” This one was fueled by a lick that was a little similar to Sammy Hagar’s classic Montrose song “Rock Candy.” Simply a perfect choice to open up the album’s second side. Side two continued with the track “Confession (Please Come Back).” The song was written by Ronald Nagle. The song’s style was similaiar to the album’s opening track let loose by those killer backing female vocals.
The fourth song on side two would feature another one of the album’s highlights with the song “Young Girl Blues.” The song was written by Donovan. Sammy Hagar must have been a huge Donovan fan because he recorded another Donovan song called “Catch the Wind” on his very next album. Sammy Hagar’s cover of Donovan’s “Young Girl Blues,” proved that Sammy could sing the ballads just as well as the rockers. “Young Girls Blues,” would also become one of the highlights of Sammy Hagar’s live shows when he used to blow Boston off the stage every night opening up for the band.
The album closed out with another Sammy Hagar and John Carter song entitled “Rock ‘N’ Roll Romeo.” It was a mid-tempo rocker with some great bass licks by Bill Church. The rest of the band on the album featured a mix of musicians including Scott Quick and John Blakely on guitars, Alan Fitzgerald, Joe Crane, Stan, and Wizard on keyboards, Jim Hodder, Jerry Shirley, Dallas Taylor and the great Aynsley Dunbar on drums.
The various lineup of musicians on the record explains how many of the songs sounded different from each other as Sammy Hagar seemed to be experimenting with different musical styles on his debut album. Despite the variations in material and arrangements, looking back at the album reveals a record that was never given the credit it deserved, and pretty much stands as a lost golden nugget in the Sammy Hagar catalog. It would be on his next album often called The Red Album released in 1977 in which Sammy Hagar would stick with a band in recording the entire album that would turn him into……. the red rocker!
Sammy Hagar: Nine On A Ten Scale Album Review article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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