Did Sammy Hagar’s ‘Unboxed’ Lead to Van Halen Split?
Sammy Hagar said his bandmates in Van Halen understood that he was contractually obligated to release Unboxed.
Trouble followed, however, when Hagar decided to add two new solo songs to this greatest-hits collection, which otherwise focused on his '80s solo career. Hagar now believes Unboxed is where "all the bad blood started" that ultimately led to his 1996 departure from Van Halen.
Hagar had been required to deliver one more full-length LP to Geffen in order to leave his platinum solo career behind and join Van Halen in time for 1986's 5150. He dutifully released I Never Said Goodbye in 1987, with new bandmate Eddie Van Halen on bass duty.
The contract also allowed Geffen to release a best-of album from Hagar's time with the label. He wasn't obligated to contribute any new music, but was offered enough extra money that he could resolve a personal financial situation.
"By including two new songs for the Unboxed project, I got Geffen to pay me exactly the amount of money I owed my wife for our divorce settlement," Hagar told Guitar World magazine in 1997. "I paid her off with all the money I received for that album and didn't make a dime off it."
Listen to Sammy Hagar Perform 'High Hopes'
Hagar says he got approval from his bandmates for this plan, and Unboxed arrived without incident on March 15, 1994. Things got messy a couple of years later, however, when he objected to Van Halen's plan to release their own hits compilation. Hagar said it was a move that bands only do at the end of a career stage, not while riding a hot streak of four straight No. 1 albums.
The Van Halen brothers accused Hagar of being a hypocrite, he says. Instead, they pressured him to contribute additional material – including a new song and "Human Beings," which also appeared on the Twister soundtrack – during what was supposed to be an off period for the group.
Hagar ultimately quit or was fired, depending on which side you believe, during an angry phone call on Father's Day 1996. So, Unboxed wasn't the solo career-capping statement Hagar intended it to be. Meanwhile, the two new songs ("High Hopes" and "Buying My Way Into Heaven") were both catchy but hardly legacy enhancing.
"I'm telling you this as an honest man," Hagar told Guitar World. "If I would have ever dreamed that I wouldn't be in Van Halen anymore and was going to have resume my solo career again, I would have never contributed anything towards my own greatest-hits package, even for the money."
Hagar would vent much of this frustration on his first post-Van Halen solo album, 1997's Marching to Mars. Left unanswered along the way: the intentional and somewhat perverse decision to exclude 1982's "Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy," Hagar's highest-charting hit to date, from Unboxed.
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