For over 20 years, the rock star Sammy Hagar has celebrated his birthday with an annual concert and party for fans at his nightclub in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. This year, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic made the usual festivities impossible, so Sammy came up with an alternative that was arguably better: a pay-per-view performance that anyone could see, not just the lucky few who could make the trip to Cabo. The actual performance was recorded on October 8 on Catalina Island, with Sammy, his current band The Circle, and a couple special guests (Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon and my main man, Rick Springfield) playing on the beach to a socially distanced audience of boaters anchored in the harbor, and then the event was streamed online a week later.
As fate would have it, Sammy’s former bandmate, Eddie Van Halen, passed away two days before the birthday bash concert. Eddie was acknowledged during the show with a moment of silence followed by the Van Halen hit “Right Now.” It was a fitting tribute… but for my money, the better one took place during the rehearsal the night before with a song that didn’t make the final playlist.
“Eagles Fly” was the third single from Sammy’s 1987 solo album I Never Said Goodbye, which was cut in just ten days to fulfill a contractual obligation after he’d already joined Van Halen. Ironically, considering the circumstances of its recording, the album became his highest-charting solo effort, no doubt boosted by the popularity of “Van Hagar” at the time. The big singles from it, “Give to Live” and “Eagles Fly,” both had a similar sound to Sammy’s work with VH and would be integrated into Van Halen’s live shows during the years he spent with them. It also finally came out in 2015 that Eddie had, in fact, played on the studio version of “Eagles.” But even without all those Eddie connections, the overall tone of the song is just perfect for a eulogy: spiritual, yearning, a bit melancholy but also hopeful. I’ve always liked this one. It came out during my freshman year of college, another of those songs I remember from the hours I spent in the student union watching MTV on the big projection TV and also one that resonated with personal issues I was experiencing at the time. All of that history came flooding back as I watched this clip, and I’m not ashamed to admit I got a little teary. Of course, it probably didn’t help that Michael Anthony — the former bassist for Van Halen who now plays with The Circle — was visibly fighting to hold it together.
Ladies and gentlemen, raise your glasses and flick your Bics (take it old-school, none of that new-fangled smartphone lighting!)… for Eddie…