Michael Anthony Got Fired by the Van Halen Brothers for Not Hating Sammy Hagar Enough
Here's a fun game I've been playing for the last two weeks: watch every single interview with Van Halen or members of Van Halen you can find on YouTube and then try to figure out which member ISN'T an asshole. Good luck with that. But after about 20 hours of research, I'm pretty sure that if I had to pick one dude from Van Halen not to hate, it would be bassist Michael Anthony. By all accounts, he seems to be just some dude.
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"So yeah, I play bass and do backing vocals. Sometimes I eat pizza and drink beer. I like TV. And yeah, that's about it."
But to truly understand how craptastic Van Halen's firing of Anthony was, you need to get the full picture of how the Van Halen brothers operate:
Part One: The split with David Lee Roth
When the VH boys and Diamond Dave split in 1985, it was easy to blame David Lee Roth. He's made a career of being a professional narcissist, a hyperbolic cartoon of a man. It was quite easy to believe that Eddie Van Halen was dying to be an artist and Dave only cared about testosterone-driven silliness. But as another 30 years would reveal, that's probably very wrong. Instead, it seems there's a lot of truth to that DLR clip below. It might be the only clip of Roth where he is so completely focused, articulate, and angry. It's Dave minus the "boz-de-boz-de-bop" goofiness, and he makes a very compelling argument that the Van Halen brothers are little brats who make people needlessly pick sides and draw battle lines.
Part Two: The Split With Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone
So the Van Halen boys hooked up with new singer Sammy Hagar -- a man with seemingly less ego than Roth, and more of a traditional musician. A man who embraced Eddie Van Halen's desire to continually wimp up Van Halen with cheesy keyboards. So problem solved, right? Nope. After a successful decade with Sammy, it seems the boys hated him, too, and he was surprise-fired. Then came a bullshit publicity stunt where the band pretended to bring back David Lee Roth to help sell their greatest-hits album. Oh, that's only if you believe Roth instead of the VH boys, and I totally do. The band then hired ex-Extreme lead singer Gary Cherone. And then they fired him, too.
Part Three: The Firing of Michael Anthony
So Van Halen's doing nothing, Eddie's health is failing, and nothing's going on with the band. Michael Anthony says, hey, sure I'll play some dates with Sammy Hagar while nothing's going on with the band I played with for 30 years. And guess what? Anthony gets fired. As Anthony said in 2010:
"The major reason why I'm not in Van Halen is because I became friends with Sammy again. The Van Halen brothers never got over that. If they hold a grudge, they hold it forever."
Now, some may say that's bullshit, because Wolfgang Van Halen (Eddie's son and Anthony's replacement) is a far better musician. Sure. Why not? It's not hard to be a better bass player than Anthony. He's merely serviceable, but, y'know, good enough to play bass for the band for 30 years, so it's not really clear why that matters. Also, anyone who says that is missing Anthony's real value: his killer high-end vocal. David Lee Roth gets it, and has spoken openly about wanting Anthony back in the band for precisely that reason:
"What we have at our fingertips is arguably one of the greatest high tenor voices ever and 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 ... so I would always look forward to that reunion."
So after reviewing the footage, my verdict is that the VH boys are guilty of putting their own personal line-in-the-sand petty spiteful mentality over the music, just like Roth said they did 30 years ago when this whole thing started.
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