Why Sammy Hagar’s Standing Hampton Album Was A Turning Point

Standing Hampton Album Review

Feature Photo: TDC Photography / Shutterstock

Sammy Hagar released his legendary album Standing Hampton in 1982. The album was a true turning point in Sammy Hagar’s solo career. It’s actually correct to call it a solo career because Sammy Hagar was indeed the lead singer of the band Montrose about seven or eight years earlier. Of course, Standing Hampton was not Sammy Hagar’s first album, it was his sixth studio album. Sammy Hagar released his first album titled nine Nine on a Ten Scale back in 1976. It was followed up by the classic red album in 1977 titled Sammy Hagar. It was that album that had him opening up for Boston when we first discovered the red rocker. We became huge fans right away and followed his career album by album.

After the great Red album which was just simply called Sammy Hagar, the red rocker followed up with three more albums that didn’t sell very well. Musical Chairs was released in 1977, Street Machine in 1979, and Danger Zone in 1980. None of the albums were heavily promoted by his record company at the time. Sadly, despite there being some really great rock and roll music on those records, Sammy Hagar had not yet had the hit solo single that would elevate him to mass culture success. Street Machine and Danger Zone had sort of a flat sound to them. They were pure and genuine, but they just were not commercial. Danger Zone even featured Neal Schon and Steve Perry from Journey on the album. Great record, great songs, but it didn’t have that big sound that was starting to shape the decade of the 80s. Capitol Records really failed to promote it. It was time for a change.

The change had come when Sammy Hagar signed with Geffen Records in 1982. Geffen Records was also a new label, so there was a hunger there from both artist and label to make things happen.  Sammy Hagar’s first album for the label would become the Standing Hampton album. The album would present a fresh sound for Sammy Hagar. While Gary Pihl and Bill Church were still on board in the band, Sammy Hagar hired a new drummer called David Lauser who would play a significant role in changing the sound of the band. Armed with a new drummer and a new label, Sammy Hagar seemed determined to take that next step into letting the world know he had one of the most powerful voices in rock and roll.

No matter how great a band can play, or a producer can produce, an album is only as good as the songs that are written for the record. In the case of Standing Hampton, Sammy Hagar had come up with some of the best written songs of his career. The Standing Hampton album opened with one of the best songs that Sammy Hagar had ever written. The album opener “I’ll Fall in Love Again” was defined by the perfect blend of pop music meet rock and roll. Sammy Hagar’s penchant for writing rocking melodies with a bit of sugar on top really starts with this song. Sammy Hagar fans loved it.

“I’ll Fall in Love Again” was the type of song that Sammy Hagar needed to find a bigger audience. Rock radio embraced the song as it hit number two on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts. It would be the highest-charting song from the album on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts. A few years later the song would also be placed in the motion picture Vision Quest which starred Mathew Modine and Linda Fiorentino, The album soundtrack was a huge seller because of the Madonna song “Crazy For You.” Regardless of chart success, Sammy Hagar had found a sound that defined his talents as a rock singer that could also appeal to a mass audience.

As successful as  “I’ll Fall in Love Again” would become, it would be the album’s second track that would become one of Sammy Hagar’s signature songs.  The roaring rocker “There’s Only One Way to Rock” would satisfy the old Sammy Hagar crowd while turning many more new heads. This was a great one. It’s one of the only Sammy Hagar songs that Van Halen used to play when Sammy Hagar became the band’s lead singer. It was fun listening to Eddie Van Halen play those guitar licks. Don’t miss the video below.

After opening the album with two amazing tracks, Sammy Hagar kept the house rocking with another sensational pop-rock nugget called “Baby’s On Fire.” A straight ahead rocker, the song was fueled by great guitar licks and killer vocals, and harmonies. This was just one of those great driving songs. In fact, the entire album was just a pure joy to listen to in the cassette deck cruising around with the windows down in the summer of 82.

While the album was loaded with so many great tracks, one of the strongest cuts was the inclusion of the track “Heavy Metal,” which was used in the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal. This one easily contained one of the all time great Sammy Hagar guitar licks. The song opened up the Heavy Metal Soundtrack album as well as being included on the Standing Hampton album in a slightly different version of the song.

Sammy Hagar’s album contained ten great cuts. The album contained nine originals with the only cover song being the album closer “Piece Of My Heart,” which had been made famous by Janis Joplin a little over ten years earlier. It seemed appropriate to close with a Janis Joplin number since there has always seemed to be a piece of Janis Joplin in Sammy Hagar’s vocal performances. He seems to have been inspired by her. How could any genuine rocker not be inspired by the passion of Janis Joplin?

Sammy Hagar’s Standing Hampton album was a breakthrough album by Sammy Hagar. It helped him achieve more commercial success, but also set the tone for his next series of albums in which he managed to merge pop sensibilities with passionate rock performances that helped him find a huge audience that still follows this true legendary rocker forty years later……

Why Sammy Hagar’s Standing Hampton Album Was A Turning Point article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022

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