David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 348: Sammy Hagar (I Can't Drive 55)

May 9, 2024

If rock and roll is truly so anti-establishment, really so dangerous, a lot more musicians would have followed Sammy Hagar's 1984 lead to refuse to drive 55 MPH, or at least to break other laws. We all remember this classic, right? "Take my license and all that jive/I can't drive 55," or the greatest use of hyperbole ever (well, before I wrote that statement), "when I drive that slow, it's hard to steer/and I can't get my car out of second gear."

Throw in the yellow jump suit and the cheesy video, where Hagar adds assaulting a police officer to his "f* the establishment" anthem, while also turning the court room into a mockery that even Donald Trump can't imagine, and we have the boilerplate for rock and roll rebellion. Hagar certainly appealed to a lot of listeners with that song. Why haven't we had more of this since 1984? After all, not only did Hagar make good money off of the song (more than he had likely made previously), he probably eventually parlayed it into replacing David Lee Roth in Van Halen. 

In the end, why didn't more artists follow the lead of Hagar The Adorable?

Where was "I Don't Need To Wait (To Turn Right on Red)?" In my eyes, the me-first American society began when we allowed right turns on red. (I'm looking at you, 1975's Energy Policy and Conservation Act.)

Or, "I Won't Wait (Until She's Eighteen)?" Then, again, we have had more subtle, if that can ever be said with a straight face, versions of that for decades. The number of songs about men desiring underage girls is embarrassingly long, none worse than Ted Nugent's "Jailbait."

Or, "I Have A Right (To Yell 'Fire' In A Theater)?" Or, something even more profane (and insulting) in the rapidly growing anti-cancel culture?

Or, "You Can't Take A Gun (That I Haven't Registered As Mine)?" Then again, maybe Nugent has written about gun law loopholes. I don't exactly know the depths, pun intended, of his canon. (See above note regarding "Jailbait.")

Or, "I Will Text And Drive 'Cause It's My Life?" Maybe Billy Joel can just amend his hit "My Life."

Or, "It's My Head, Helmet-less, Alive or Dead?" The rhymes on these things frankly write themselves.

Or, "Don't Dare Harass Me (For Not Paying My Taxes)?" It might be easier than fleeing to live in foreign lands as a lot of 60s bands seemed to have done to avoid high taxation.

Musicians have a treasure trove of "breaking the law" potential songs. What's stopping them? Maybe Hagar, himself. After all, after joining Van Halen, Hagar was singing (probably writing, although the whole group was credited with the song-writing) such tripe as "When It's Love," with it's never-ending "na na nas" through the on-going chorus, or "Can't Stop Loving You," where our radical guy is being "true" to his heart, but not about essential freedoms. Just because you are playing with a guitar god doesn't excuse you from sacrificing your rebellious attitude. Maybe Sammy should have stuck with "Bad Motor Scooter," from his Montrose days, with his imploring of the farmer's daughter to get on her "bad motor scooter and ride up to my place and stay the night." As indicated earlier, this lyrical territory seems much more fertile.

Hagar, Sammy. VOA. Geffen, 1984. Link here.

Day 347: Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band "Still The Same"

Day 349: St. Vincent "The Power's Out"

See complete list here.