It's seems that Van Halen always had two clicks - the Van Halen brothers and everybody else. So, given that environment, it's hardly surprising that vocalist Sammy Hagar and bassist Michael Anthony would pal around. When Hagar split from Van Halen, Anthony did the unspeakable and kept contact. Not only that, he backed Hagar on several occasions. This 'disloyalty' eventually led to Anthony getting bounced from the Van Halen (replaced by Eddie Van Halen's son, Wolfgang - yet another Van Halen).
Over the years, Hagar, both as a solo performer and in Van Halen (yes, we know he was also in Montrose), built a reputation as a hard living, fun loving guy - just a shade more reserved than Van Halen's original vocalist, David Lee Roth. But even that can get old.
"The whole party thing I created, I just got tired of doing that," explained Hagar. "You need to eat and feed yourself in order to grow and the best way to do it for me is to start new projects."
Hagar and Anthony added guitarist Joe Satriani (solo, G3 and Deep Purple) and drummer Chad Smith (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) to form Chickenfoot - a name taken from a dominoes game.
Chickenfoot first performed together in '08 during a Hagar concert in Vegas but it was over a year before the group launched a brief club tour. In the meantime, they recorded their self-titled debut album that was released exclusively in the U.S. through Best Buy stores. The CD version had a heat-sensitive cover that, when touched, morphed from the band's logo to a photo of Chickenfoot.
"The style is high-energy, kick-ass Rock 'n' Roll," said Satriani. "We all bring to the table some unusual influences and then we also share a lot of roots."
As part of the promotional effort, Chickenfoot graced the cover of Guitar World and made their television debut on the Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien.
How did the Chickenfoot experience compare with Van Halen? Hagar had a definite answer. "It's ten times Van Halen, because it's functional - we all like each other."
The group issued their sophomore set "Chickenfoot III" (they skipped "II") in '11. However, there was a logistical snafu. With the Red Hot Chili Peppers about to tour in support of their 10th album, "I'm With You," Smith announced his temporary departure from Chickenfoot. Former John Mellencamp percussionist Kenny Aronoff filled in. "I've got my day job to go to," said Smith. "But only for a little bit - I'll be back."
In its debut week "Chickenfoot III" was lodged between Switchfoot and Mastodon to hold the #9 slot on the Billboard 200.
2011 Chickenfoot III
Supergroups rarely achieve "a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts." And that's Chickenfoot's fate. Their debut is a journeyman effort - no embarrassments but few soaring moments.
"Sexy Little Thing," a romp that plays to Hagar's strengths, and "My Kinda Girl" put Chickenfoot in the best light. "Learning To Fall" is the obligatory power-ballad but it's pretty good. The rest is entertaining if not particularly inspired.
Two albums in and it's clear that Chickenfoot is a lot closer to Hagar's solo career than it is to Van Hagar. That's not a criticism as much as just noting the difference - although Van Halen/Hagar sold a gazillion more CDs than Sammy did on his own. But this is not a Hagar solo venture.
On "Chickenfoot III" the band dials it up for "Last Temptation" and the set's killer track "Different Devil." No one expects social commentary - Chickenfoot are just a bunch of fun-loving party mongers - right? But "Come Closer" comments on the mess the world is in while "Three And A Half Letters" deals with the angst of unemployment. Who would have thought?