Roundtable: David Lee Roth’s Debut LP vs. Van Halen’s First with Sammy Hagar

The Sammy Hagar vs. David Lee Roth debate will likely go on forever, but the first time any real comparison could be made was when the latter dropped his debut solo LP, Eat ‘Em and Smile, in July 1986, a scant few months after Van Halen released their first effort with Hagar at the mic, 5150. At the time, the smart money was on Roth to come out on top; after all, he was the master of linguistics and the bravado behind the first six VH albums. Yet Eddie Van Halen and co. weren’t going to just fade away now that their original frontman had left them, and made a sonic statement that went in an entirely new direction on 5150.

While it’s clear Van Halen won the war, it was pretty even back in 1986, the only time a true measurement of the dueling factions could fairly take place. Over at Ultimate Classic Rock, I sat down with a handful of fellow writers to hash out some of the more important questions about the two works. How did we feel about them when they came out, and how has it changed in the years since? Did Roth make a smart move in eschewing keyboards on Eat ‘Em and Smile? Which album holds up better?

Head over to UCR to check out the piece and, below, see one of my answers in a Spotify playlist if I could only choose 10 tracks between the two records to make up one LP.

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