Why Hagar Pulled Out His, Umm, ‘Red Rocker’ When Opening for KISS
Back in 1977, Sammy Hagar had a disastrous show opening for KISS, which culminated in the “Red Rocker” basically throwing a tantrum onstage, smashing his guitar and, regrettably, pulling his penis out and shaking it in the direction of the crowd. In a new interview, Hagar details what went down that prompted the ill-advised stunt.
As noted by UCR in 2016, Hagar recalls in his Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock autobiography that he was more or less an unknown figure to KISS fans. He had only played New York during his time in Montrose and, as a solo artist onstage opening for KISS at Madison Square Garden as the band supported their Rock and Roll Over album, that he was met with a barrage of booing before even stepping onto the stage.
So, he had quite a hole to dig himself out of to win the audience over before they even got their first impression of him and his music.
It all went down on Feb. 18, 1977 on the first of what was intended to be 10 dates with Hagar opening for the mighty KISS.
Now, in an interview on the THAT Rocks! YouTube series hosted by That Metal Show veterans Eddie Trunk, Jim Florentine and Don Jamieson, Hagar dives back into the details of that memorable-for-the-wrong-reasons night.
The “Red Rocker” tells them (transcribed by UCR), “It was beautiful in its own way because it gave me drive. It made me angry and I said that fucking shit is never going to happen again.”
Someone came out to introduce Hagar and, instead of fans being greeted with the iconic bellow of, “You wanted the best, you got the best — the hottest band in the world… KISS!,” the crowd learned Hagar was up first, which netted a venue’s worth of boos.
“They didn’t even know who the fuck I was,” adds Hagar.
He mentions that he opened with two hard/heavy songs, followed by a ballad, which was pretty standard practice of rock acts at the time. But the crowd didn’t take well to the ballad and “went off” as Hagar recalls.
That’s when he knew something had to change and fast.
“I just stopped the song and said, ‘I’m so glad they flew in a special audience from Los Angeles for me.’ Then I pulled my pants down, fucking shook it [his penis] at them and then smashed my guitar to bits and walked off the stage saying, ‘Fuck you.'”
It turns out smashing the guitar wasn’t the most sound move, financially.
“That was a ’61 Strat. I believe that thing would be worth half a million bucks probably, but I smashed it to pieces, that’s how pissed off I got,” the “Red Rocker” reveals.
What did KISS think of this?
“And Paul Stanley‘s going ‘Sammy! Oh, my God, you can’t fucking do that, man.’ They were freaking out, the KISS guys, and I said fuck it. I told my manager I’m not doing one more show ever with those guys again. And I never have. I’ve went to see them because we’re friends, but I wouldn’t ever try to open for them again,” he recalls.
Hagar then confesses that he’d be open to supporting KISS at Madison Square Garden before the band stops touring for good. “Let’s go to Madison Square Garden and I’ll open for you,” he muses, “Let’s have another crack at this!”
Watch the full interview below.