Why Sammy Hagar’s 1977 ‘Sammy Hagar’ LP Was One Of His Best

Sammy Hagar Album Review

Album Cover art used under Fair Use laws of Section 107 of US Copywrite Law for review purposes.

I first became a big-time Sammy Hagar fan after I saw him open up for Boston in 1977. It was a concert I will never forget. Boston was good, but Sammy Hagar just completely blew me away because I basically had never heard of him before. I wonder how many people first discovered Sammy Hagar from that tour. When you think about it, that’s one of the reasons why record companies put up-and-coming artists as opening acts on tours for major bands.

Now, of course, Sammy Hagar had already made a name for himself in the music business as the lead vocalist for Montrose. Nonetheless, if you weren’t a Montrose fan or didn’t pay much attention to album credits, you probably never heard of Sammy Hagar. Capital Records and, of course, the Red Rocker himself were out to change all of that. The one song I remember the most from that night was “Red.” The next day, I went to Sam Goody’s record store at the Smith Haven Mall, and there it was.

It made perfect sense. Everything on the cover was red, the car, the buildings, the people on the street and the clothes that Sammy Hager wore. I never understood why they didn’t call the album Red. It was just called Sammy Hagar. However, over the years, most Sammy Hagar fans have referred to it as the Red Album. Just like Beatles fans referred to the White Album as The White Album even though it was just called The Beatles.

The cover for Sammy Hagar’s self-titled debut album was shot on location in London on Stockwell Road. The buildings in the background were actually all red. The outfit, that is the red outfit that Sammy Hagar was wearing was borrowed from Foghat’s Tony Stevens. And, of course, we don’t really know who owned the car, but it’s a cool-looking car. The reason the photograph was taken in London was because Sammy Hagar recorded his self-titled album at the legendary Abbey Road Studios.

The Sammy Hagar album opened up with what would become one of his signature songs called “Red.” This was exciting rock and roll music with a fantastic opening. The way the bass and drums created that driving groove set it all up for those power chords that hit you rapid-fired as if an invasion had just begun. It sounded so good, every instrument thriving in its own space with power and emotion. I still get pumped up every time I hear this song. Scott Mathews was incredibly powerful on this track. David Lewark and Sammy Hagar’s guitar work was extraordinary, while Bill Church’s bass playing provided pulsating eighth-note patterns that took it home. Alan Fitzgerald’s keyboard work wrapped it all up with some special effects that drizzled all over the track at some very key moments.

The album’s second track was a cover of Donovan’s “Catch The Wind.” For myself and probably many other young 16-year-old rock fans, that was the first time I had ever heard of that song.  The third track to appear on the album would instantly become a fan favorite. Sammy Hagar’s own composition “Cruisin’ & Boozin'” was a testament to the times. It was common place for young people to get in their cars, stop at a local 7-Eleven, pick up a few six-packs of beer, and drive around all night looking for fun or trouble. What a great song this was, though. The rhythm change from the grooving verse to the half-tempo party atmosphere in the chorus was very effective. It just made you want to have a good time like the song said. We used to play this one all the time in the car.

Sammy Hagar and the band put on the breaks for at least a moment with his cover of Patti Smith’s “Free Money.” This was an exceptional cover of the song. You can hear the sound of Abbey Road studio on this track. The piano sounds and the orchestra is stunning. John Carter did a fabulous Geroge Martin-like production job on this track. It’s one of Sammy Hagar’s greatest moments on vinyl. The ballad arrangement eventually explodes into a furious epic ending that is just jaw-dropping in its serious tone. The mood turns much lighter again as the album’s first side is closed out with another party-like tune called “Rock And Roll Weekend.” Songs like that were just pure gold for young teenagers like myself. Rock And Roll Weekend had a bit of a Montrose feel, which made sense because Sammy Hagar, Alan Fitzgerald, and Bill Church had all been former members of Montrose.

Side two of the Sammy Hagar album opened up with one of my favorite songs from the Album. The track “Fillmore Shuffle” was a cover of a Bruce Stephens song that was released in 1972 by a band called Pilot. Once again, myself and many others had never heard the song before. For us, this was just another great Sammy Hagar song. This one was a lot of fun. Many people have wondered what the meaning behind the song was, with the most common description being based on the idea of trying to quit using drugs.

The word Fillmore may have been related to the city of San Francisco, where there was a lot of drug use in the 1960s and pretty much every decade since. The composer Bruce Stephens was from the San Francisco area and had played with the band Blue Cheer for a year in 1969. I always thought it was about not being able to break up with a girlfriend, but in the end; it’s possible that the song was not about a female but rather about drug use.

Sammy Hagar followed up the “Fillmore Shuffle” with the track “Hungry” written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and originally recorded by Paul Revere & the Raiders. The opening of the song echoed a bit the arrangement of “Red.” You can hear the sound of the 1960s in the song’s melody, but of course, Sammy Hagar made this one his own, establishing the sounds of 1977 rock all over it. The album’s final three songs were all Sammy Hagar and John Carter compositions. “Love Or Money” was the standout track among the final three on the record. You can hear where Sammy Hagar was headed musically in this one. “Love Or Money” really stood out. I think this was the song that they should have opened side two with because it kind of got buried deep on the album’s second side.

Over the years, Sammy Hagar has brought us great joy with his brand of passionate rock and roll, fuelled by one of the greatest voices in classic rock history. He may have gotten his start with Montrose, but it’s on this album Sammy Hagar where I believe he really started to grow the loyal fan base that has stuck with him from 1977 to 2024.

Why Sammy Hagar’s 1977 ‘Sammy Hagar’ LP Was One Of His Best article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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