“RED: MY UNCENSORED LIFE IN ROCK.”
Sammy Hagar. 2011. It Books. Trade Paperback. 248 pages. $16.99
was one of the most successful unknowns in the world of rock.
Before the Red
Rocker helped turn Van Halen into one of the biggest bands in the world, he’d
been the front man for ex-Edgar Winter guitarist Ronnie Montrose. For all of
two albums. After that, he set out on a successful solo career with several
albums that never saw a top 10 hit but generated album sales in the hundreds of
thousands. And then came his 11-year run as the vocalist and front man for Van
Halen, replacing original vocalist David Lee Roth.
Sammy tells his story: From the years as a poor kid growing up in Fontana,
Calif., to his first guitar, his marriages, having the guts to approach Ronnie
Montrose as an unknown singer and walk away with the job, his topsy-turvy ride
with the Van Halen brothers and beyond.
In many ways,
it is a typical success rags-to-riches story: A hungry kid from a poor family
finds his passion in music, and that gives him a way out of the poverty he’d
known all his life. He works hard at it, makes many sacrifices for his art, and
finally makes it big. And in Sammy’s case, he made it very big.
his story, sparing no one – not the Van Halens, his first wife, his various
managers over the years, or himself. In fact, when he relates his reactions to
his first wife’s mental breakdown, he comes across as an unsympathetic ass. In
capital letters. In that section of the book I hated him, flat out hated him.
But it takes a gutsy writer to show himself in such a negative light. So he
gets points for honesty.
And yes, he
does talk at length about his time in Van Halen. It began as a dream, and Sammy
was excited beyond words. Eventually, Eddie’s drinking and drug use made it a
nightmare, ending in the highly publicized split. (Evidence of Eddie’s
continued instability can be seen in the band ending their 2012 tour – after
reuniting with Roth and producing a great album – after about 10 shows with the
excuse of personal injury, and then nothing more to be heard about the tour or
talks in more detail than any other music memoir I’ve read about the business
side of the music business – costs, managers and management and their effect on
the artists. Those big flashy shows look great but often keep the artists doing
them broke. Just ask the Van Halen brothers or David Bowie.
Sammy has an eye for the business side and how to manage it. He was able to
help Van Halen make more money than they’d ever made with Roth. Even in the
early days, he branched out into several commercial ventures – one of the three
largest fire sprinkler system companies in the country, a mountain bike store
and manufacturer, two successful restaurant chains and his highly successful
Cabo Wabo Tequila brand.
In general, I
enjoyed the book, but I have to say one of the most irritating things about it
is the language. I know this ain’t no Sunday school picnic, but it grates on
the ears, eyes and mind after a while. Even if there were some other terms it
would be less grating, but almost all of it is a variation of the infamous
F-bomb multiple times in almost every paragraph. You know he’s got to know not
everyone talks like that, but he goes ahead and cusses worse than a sailor. To
date, only one rock memoir I’ve read has been honest while still avoiding
gutter language – Pat Benatar’s “Between a Rock and a Heart Place.” So Sammy
comes in second in the rock memoir class for me.
“THE CANDY SHOP WAR: ARCADE
CATASTROPHE.” Brandon Mull. 2012. Shadow Mountain. Hardcover. 426 pages. $18.99
Nate and all
his friends from the first “Candy Shop War” title really do appear to be living
in magic central. After helping prevent a couple of dark magicians from
obtaining the Fountain of Youth in the first title, they find something fishy
is going on at the new arcade in town.
matters worse, their two friends – John Dart and Mozag, a pair who have policed
the magical world for more years than both care to remember – have gone
missing. And something that can take out two such powerful wizards is something
to worry about, indeed.
So the kids
are down at the arcade trying to discover its secrets. The friends are quickly
drawn into the investigation surrounding the disappearance, and they discover
another magician is looking for another magical artifact that is rumored to be
found in their area.
Like I said,
instead of magic candy, the temptation is stamps that give the kids memberships
in four clubs, and the numbers for each club are limited to four.
As with the
first “Candy Shop War,” author Brandon Mull takes a lot of time setting things
up. But once the action gets going, it flies along like the members of the Jet
or Racer clubs. (This same thing makes me suspect that while Mull enjoys the
Candy Shop War stories, his favorites are the Fablehaven books, which flow
better and move more quickly.)
definitely inventive in his creation of magics and things, but one thing here
that dissipated the enjoyment of the story is that he never answers the big
question: Why? Why was the artifact created in the first place? That unanswered
question left me with a sense of frustration, as did the flashing neon sign
epilogue, telling us there is another book in the works and the source of the
danger. I assumed the former and I would have liked some suspense as to the
This is a
decent book and one you wouldn’t mind your kids reading. But Mull can do better,
and has done.
questions and comments from readers. You can reach him through this paper or by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.