A new interview with Eddie Van Halen has sparked a controversy involving past band members Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar.
While promoting his group’s upcoming North American tour in support of “Tokyo Dome Live In Concert”, the guitarist raved about his son Wolfgang’s role as bassist while downplaying original member Anthony’s talent and contributions to the band’s sound and legacy.
“Every note Mike ever played, I had to show him how to play,” Van Halen tells Billboard. “Before we’d go on tour, he’d come over with a video camera and I’d have to show him how to play all the parts.”
Anthony was dismissed from the band in 2006 without being notified – he read the news online – when Eddie announced Wolfgang as the group’s newest member. The guitarist’s rationale for removing Anthony was his friendship with Hagar, his lack of contribution to the songwriting process and that he did not phone Eddie when he developed cancer or when the Van Halen brother’s mother died in 2005.
Eddie also downplayed Anthony’s role in the Van Halen sound, saying “Mike’s voice is like a piccolo trumpet. But he’s not a singer. He just has a range from hell. Mike was just born with a very high voice. I have more soul as a singer than he does. And you know, people always talk about Mike’s voice on Van Halen songs, but that’s a blend of Mike’s voice and my voice. It’s not just him.”
For his part, frontman David Lee Roth raved about Anthony’s contributions in a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone, while still holding out hope for the original bassist’s return.
“Clearly, vocals are every bit as much a component of success as a rhythm section or a guitar solo,” said Roth at the time, “and there's an old expression saying, ‘They don't go home singing the lighting show, they don't go home singing the production.’ You're right, they sing my words and my melodies.
“And what we have at our fingertips is arguably one of the greatest high tenor voices ever – that was in Michael Anthony. In our tiny little corner of the universe, that voice is as identifiable as the high voice in Earth, Wind & Fire, as identifiable as the high voice in the Beach Boys. Van Halen is an indelicate house blend of both – that's intentionally. So I would always look forward to that reunion, and I would always look forward to writing a whole variety of material.”
Billboard asked Anthony to comment on Eddie’s new claims, to which he replied “I am proud to say that my bass playing and vocals helped create our sound. I’ve always chosen to take the high road and stay out of the never-ending mudslinging, because I believe that it ultimately ends up hurting the Van Halen fans.”
Hagar, however, was not so kind in issuing a statement of his own defending Anthony, who he has continued to work with in Chickenfoot and The Circle.
"It's really irritating to see them go after Mikey,” responds Hagar. “Mikey didn't do anything — ever — to Van Halen. Mikey was the most loyal guy in the band. He was the first guy there at rehearsal, the last guy to leave, the guy that was… the first guy at the gig, the guy that flew the… carried the banner, the flag, the VH banner… he carried it every night. And the horseman with the flag, the flagman on the horse in the calvary. That was Michael Anthony, okay?! [He was] a hundred percent dedicated. [He] never did anything to hurt those guys. And they try to hurt him again, and again, and again.
"For Eddie to say he had to show Michael what to play and had to teach him all those songs, that is the biggest line of BS I've ever heard in my life,” Hagar continued. “I was in that band for eleven years, and there was never a video camera involved of Eddie showing him what to play. Eddie would tell him what to play once in a while, and say, 'No, Mike, don't play with that many notes. Just stay on one note — boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom — so that I can f-up and nobody will know it.' It was that kind of shit.
“And I am telling you straight up, especially on the '04 reunion tour, if Mike would have played any more than one note, it would have been showing that Eddie wasn't playing the right chords again and again and again; I couldn't sing to 'em, you couldn't play bass to 'em. So… that is a lot of BS.
"I don't know why they go after him like that,” he added. “He doesn't deserve it. He's one of the greatest rock and roll bass players ever in the world. Michael Anthony is Top 5 rock and roll bass player in the world. Any bass player will tell you that, any musician will tell you that. Listen to him play on The Circle. He ain't going 'boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom' unless it was called for.
"Michael Anthony is a bad m-f-er. F-you, Eddie Van Halen, for saying that about Mikey. You're a liar."
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