AXS TV is getting in the original programming business and it’s an exciting adventure with Rock & Roll Road Trip with Sammy Hagar Presented By Mercury Insurance, a six episode original series featuring the Red Rocker driving across the country to interview and jam with some of music’s biggest names including Tommy Lee, Bob Weir, Alice Cooper, Nancy Wilson and more. The series also presents Hagar’s personal experiences and rules of the road, as he tours with his new super group, The Circle.
“Something that’s always bugged me is that fans get to see us either onstage in concert or in interviews, and that’s about it,” Hagar said. “There’s so much cool, history-making stuff that happens off stage that fans have never really had access to, but I do. And that’s where this show takes viewers! I’m hookin’ them up with a real backstage pass. So, in San Francisco, we’ll meet up with my old friends Bob Weir and Mickey Hart to jam at Mickey’s home studio, and in Phoenix we’re at Cooper’stown with Alice Cooper. And I’ll even turn the cameras on myself at the Birthday Bash in Cabo, and on tour with The Circle. It’s a blast.”
I received a screener copy of the first two episodes and the show does not disappoint. It does its job by leaving me wanting more. I wanted to marathon all six shows right away! I love shows like this that give viewers an ultimate backstage pass into the life of rock and roll. In the first episode of Rock & Roll Road Trip, Hagar flies from San Francisco to Los Angeles to take viewers on a history lesson of the famous Sunset Strip and then onto Calabasas, CA to jam with Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee.
Hagar teams up with his longtime pal and bandmate, Michael Anthony, for a tour of the Sunset Strip. Driving in a shiny red sports car, the pair point out some of the Strip’s most famous venues such as The Whisky A Go Go, The Rainbow Bar & Grill, the Viper Room and the now defunct House of Blues.
While stopped in traffic, Hagar and Anthony recount their memories of the Strip in the Seventies and Eighties.
“People in the old days, in the ’70s and ’80s, they’d be walking down this thing, everybody looked like a rock star!” Hagar claims as a tour bus of fans acknowledge them.
“You knew you were in Hollywood as soon as you hit the Tower Records,” explains Anthony. “As you come around the bend, there was Tower Records right there. That’s when you knew you were in Hollywood.”
The first stop on the tour is the World Famous Whisky A Go Go where Hagar and Anthony reminisce about a secret gig Van Halen tried to play in 1993 before being shut down by the fire department after only performing four songs.
“No advertising, nothing. If anybody’s walking by, they could come into the place and watch us play. That was the whole thing,” Anthony states.
“That was pre-internet,” Hagar interjects.
“So, instead of everybody tweeting about, like the day before the show, they put it up on the marquee: ‘Van Halen here, tomorrow night’,” recalls Anthony.
“Ten thousand people tried to get into this motha,” Hagar recalls laughing. “They blocked the whole Strip off. The fire department came and shut the whole thing down. News teams, cameras, helicopters, police, and then they shut us down. We played four songs.”
The pair wrap up the Sunset Strip tour with a little more history inside of the Whisky before driving up the famous Highway 101 to Tommy Lee’s Atrium Studios. Inside, Hagar and Lee share stories and cook lunch before meeting up with Anthony for a jam session on rock staples “Rock Candy” and “Jeff Beck’s “Going Down.”
The second episode of Rock And Roll Road Trip with Sammy Hagar takes place in San Francisco with a special Grateful Dead episode. Hagar is joined by founding members Bob Weir and Mickey Heart as they relive the glory days of the Peace & Love Movement on Haight-Ashbury, delve into musical influences, discuss what made the Grateful Dead so special, and bring the house down with a Hagar/Weir duet on the Grateful Dead classic “Loose Lucy,” followed by a jam session with Hagar and Hart at Hart’s home studio.
The episode starts in Mill Valley, CA at where Hagar meets up with Weir at Sweet Water where the band got its start. Weir and Hagar discuss the band’s origins and the influence they had on everyone, including the Beatles.
“We’d wait for that wave to come and catch it. We’d listen to what was on the radio, Wilson/Pickett, whatever, and [say] ‘That’s great, let’s see if we can comp that groove,’ or Buck Owens,” Weir states to an outburst of laughter from Hagar who calls Weir, “the most open minding musicians I’ve ever met.”
Weir and Hagar continue to discuss the band’s origins, musicians’ preference for San Francisco back in the day, and when Weir learned to play rock and roll from Johnny Johnson, before taking the stage for an acoustic duet of “Loose Lucy.”
Next, Hagar heads to drummer Mickey Hart’s studio where the pair takes you on a “journey through space and time,” as Hart states. Hart gives Hagar a history lesson about one of his favorite instruments, the Monochord where all twelve of its strings are tuned to a single note, before they begin to jam.
“Now, Mickey and I have done this stuff before. This is the way we wrote [Hagar’s] ‘Marching To Mars’. This is the way we jammed for three days being held up in this same studio right here, and Mickey played all of these electronic things and dance rhythms from all over the world, and I just jammed to them and we made them up,” Hagar says holding his guitar.
The pair jam for several minutes before being interrupted, but no spoilers here, you’ll have to watch to see what happened.
During the interview segment, Hagar talks about the influence Hart has on his own music and how he was “unceremoniously thrown out of Van Halen” in Hart’s driveway. The show wraps with Hagar blowing Hart’s loud train whistle.
If you love all things rock and roll, then this show is for you! Sammy Hagar is not only very personable in the series, but very energetic and knowledgeable as a rock historian. He gives fans an in depth and inside look into the history of rock and roll by providing entertaining commentary and performances. Kudos to AXS TV for becoming the new MTV, by providing music lovers with an outlet to exclusive backstage content of rock and roll’s history!
Author: Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.