Sammy Hagar – VOA (Album Of The Week)

Today it’s time to look at one of the crown jewels in the career of the Red Rocker. After a slow grind to relevance as a solo artist, Sammy Hagar began making waves in the 1980’s and would launch the album with his most successful hit just before going on to mega-stardom with Van Halen.

Sammy Hagar – VOA

Released July 23, 1984 via Geffen Records

My Favorite Tracks – Burnin’ Down The City, I Can’t Drive 55, VOA

This marked Hagar’s third album with Geffen Records after a string of modestly-performing solo records with Capitol. On production was Ted Templeman, who’d worked with Hagar previously with Montrose and of course is also long associated with Van Halen.

It’s not a terribly long album here with 8 tracks at 36 minutes so let’s get to it.

I Can’t Drive 55

The opener was also the lead single and also the signature song from both this album and Sammy’s solo career overall. The speed limit on US highways was 55 miles per hour for a long time to offset oil consumption in the 1970’s. Sammy got a ticket for going over that and wrote the song right after.

The song is a nice power rock track backed by keyboards and cuts its message in simple and effective fashion. This wasn’t a social issue that would draw the attention of the likes of Bono, but a lot of people were fed up with the federally-mandated speed limits and this song resonated with a great deal of the country.

Aiding in the song’s popularity was its goofy and fun music video, which sees Sammy and his “pit crew” band get busted for speeding. The courtroom scene is especially funny, featuring famed Geffen A&R man John Kalonder as the judge. And the mechanic in the video’s intro is Claudio Zampolli, who also worked on Eddie Van Halen’s cars and was the one to suggest to Eddie to hire Sammy for Van Halen.

Swept Away

Going on a tropical island getaway here with some lovely gal, the verses open with an atmospheric portion but then kick into a pretty rocking riff. Not a typical verse/chorus structure here but still a pretty simple song that does its job well.

Rock Is In My Blood

Sammy always likes to make songs about rock and metal and here we are again with another choice cut of that nature. It’s a heavy riff with the keyboards accenting the song rather than being the driving force and that works very nicely. I still remember the first time I heard this and being taken aback at how Sammy worked “blood transfusion” into the lyrics and how it fit in rhythm without actually making any sense lyrically.

Two Sides Of Love

The album’s other single did modestly well on the charts and wasn’t actually all that far off of I Can’t Drive 55, but this song didn’t slam into the public consciousness quite like the other one did. This is a song about love but not a “love song,” this deals more with the complications of long-term relationships and life. It’s certainly a product of the ’80’s but it doesn’t quite fall into cliché.

Dick In The Dirt

Side two kicks off with a funny song about Dick and Jane and all the double entendre stuff they get up to. This is one of those songs that could go south real quick but again there’s a very nice riff backing it all up and it holds together pretty well.


The title track is a hard rocker with the keyboards more up front in true ’80’s power rock fashion. And in keeping with 80’s USA themes, the subject matter is American exceptionalism. There was conflict in the Middle East and also the Cold War with the Soviets was in its final stages and this song sums up the US side of things pretty well. This song might seem silly now and maybe even was back then, but it fit the times very well.

Don’t Make Me Wait

Heading toward the end we get a fairly simple love song that still stays out of real “ballad” territory and keeps with the sound and feel of the album. This one is kind of paint-by-numbers but there’s nothing wrong with it.

Burnin’ Down The City

The album closes with a real monster of a tune and my favorite on the album. The mood goes far more dark here than what’s found elsewhere on the record. The song was inspired by New York City’s street artists according the album’s liner notes. The track goes beyond street art and embraces chaos and destruction in heavy fashion. Had this song been out some years earlier it could have made the soundtrack to The Warriors.

VOA was the realization of success for Sammy Hagar. He had an album that went platinum within a year and the song that would come to define his career. I Can’t Drive 55 would blare across radios and MTV all through the ’80’s as the speed limit remained, and would become a part of auto racing culture even after the speed limit was repealed in 1995. It resonates even today in a culture of bad drivers who used the Grand Theft Auto games as driver’s ed.

The trick for Sammy would be to pull this off again and follow up his success with another hit album. He’d sidestep that issue entirely when he joined Van Halen in 1985 and saw massive success with them. He’d do one more contractually obligated solo record in 1987, but it would be another decade and his split with Van Halen before he resumed his solo career and found a different form.

Sammy Hagar arrived in 1984 with the perfect record of melodic hard rock to get on the scene and score a victory lap after his prior success in the early decade. It’s a fitting end cap to the first phase of his solo career and a launch pad to his time fronting one of rock’s greatest acts.

10 thoughts on “Sammy Hagar – VOA (Album Of The Week)

  1. I caught this tour in Duluth Minnesota back in October of 84 with Krokus opening. Great show and Sam brought it live as this was my first Hagar album I ever bought back at that time. My go to fav tracks on here are Swept Away, Two Sides of Love, 55 and like yourself Burnin Down The City…
    Great stuff man

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I went back and read what I wrote about this album and it’s a case of great minds think alike. However, I do think the title cut is the weakest of the song and I get a big kick out of “Dick in the Dirt.” You’re spot on about the closer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One other point, like Deke, I saw Sammy on this tour and he was brilliant! So much energy. Okay, two points, when I saw him with Van Halen two years later, they played “I Can’t Drive 55.” It’s my favourite SH song.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I guess VH played that one a lot when Sammy was in the band. At least according to, VH actually played the song more than Sammy has solo. I won’t vouch for the accuracy of that, though.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. VOA is pretty silly but I can’t help but be nostalgic for that goofy sort of Americana from back then. Of course these days that kind of USA display is a worse parody that doesn’t hold its charm anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

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