By Mike Faloon
Election Day 2011. Ohio voters defeated Issue 2. Overwhelming support for collective bargaining rights. I should have celebrated. I'm a public school teacher. I did celebrate but my joy was tempered because I didn't vote in my local elections here in New York. I didn't do my part. I intended to but at 6:30, as I was driving home from work, I realized I hadn't changed my registration to our new town. Not voting locally left me on the sidelines, outside looking in, at least in the political sense.
I did vote for super groups, though. I downloaded the new Chickenfoot album, Chickenfoot III. Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, and Chad Smith all under one roof. A marketer's dream. It's Van Halen and the Red Chili Peppers and whatever Joe Satriani represents! It's chocolate and it's peanut butter! It's a hybrid and it's an SUV! You get tax-free clothing and you fight terrorism! You need not choose! You need not deny yourself! You get it all! The days of “or” are dead! Long live “and”!
I expected Chickenfoot III to be a party album. Not my idea of a party, but Sammy Hagar's idea of a party. Fritos, Cabo Wabo tequila, cocaine, football, Gears of War 3 . I expected lyrics filled with plural pronouns—once a teacher, forever a teacher, even when goin' Hagar—a strong sense of dudes hanging out, “we” over “I.” For whatever other flaws might exist, “we” lyrics at least convey a sense that everyone in the audience is invited. You have the right to decline but at least the invitation has been extended. Sammy doesn't take that tact. He leans heavily on the singular pronouns to open Chickenfoot III.
The record opens with “Last Temptation.”
I've been a sinner
All of my days
Been a certified hellhound
I changed my ways
It's the Sammy show. The record would have better served with a big dose of “we,” dudes chillin', dudes rockin', dudes indulgin', maybe even taking it to the boulevard. The third line is my favorite: Been a certified hellhound. I picture the bumper sticker on Sammy's Hummer, “Proud member of Hellhound Local #909.” I understand lawyers and plumbers needing to be certified, seeking the approval of a governing body so clients and customers will know they can be trusted. But hellhounds? Certified? I thought part of what made them such raisers of ruckus was their disregard for authority, their hearty contempt for things such as certification. Did Sammy ring up bar owners and former flames to get their recommendations, convince them to attest to his bad boy ways?
But maybe Sammy has a good use for the spotlight. After all, he's claiming to be a different man. Then he sings the next lines.
She's crawling on the floor on her hands and knees
Rolling on her back trying to show it to me
Long black hair swinging out of control
All that temptation's messing with my soul
Getting back to the pronouns. Sammy reverses things on “Different Devil.” This is his “strongly suggesting that his lady rethink things while the audience takes out their lighters” power ballad.
If you think there's someone better
Into the arms of something new
You can stay
If you think he'll treat you better than I do
Turn around babe
I'll be right here waiting for you
The lyrics are from his point of view and he might be down on a knee but I get the strong sense that the rest of the ‘Foot is right there with him, that when he's saying “I'll be right here waiting for you” he means “I'll be over at Joe's house waiting for you, chillaxin' by the pool. And Mike and Chad and about 20 other people will be there too. We'll be rockin' and drinkin' tequila and eatin' Fritos—Scoops are awesome for dippin'—but swing by if you want, babe.”
Also, in the last line, I love the choice of “here” rather than “there.” “There” is standard in such songs. “Baby, I'll be there for you. Go where you will. I'll follow and when you realize the error of your ways, when it dawns on you that I was the right one, that we were right, then I'll be within arm's reach. I'll make it easy for you to come back.”
Sammy's take is different. “You want ol' Sammy? He'll be here. You know where to find him. Come on by. We'll talk. Just know this: he won't be comin' after ya.”