Sammy Hagar and Mick Jones Explain How Van Halen’s ‘5150’ Tapes Were Almost Destroyed
Last year, in an exclusive interview, Foreigner's Mick Jones mentioned in passing that tensions were so high during the recording of Van Halen's '5150' that the band's longtime engineer Donn Landee "locked himself in the studio for a day and threatened to burn the tapes." During a recent chat with Sammy Hagar about the history of HSAS, we couldn't help but ask him if he remembered the circumstances of that event.
"Donn was producing the record with us," Hagar explained. "And then I decided that I really wanted some help, because I didn’t know these guys that well and they didn’t know me that well. I didn’t want to run into an uncomfortable situation... but I just thought, 'Let’s bring in a producer and make sure that we’ve got our eye on the ball here. This is way too important.'"
Feeling the pressure, Hagar called up Jones, who understood that he was the odd man out. "Ted Templeman had done all of the albums up to that point," he said. "And Donn Landee was the engineer who was running Eddie’s studio and he’d done every album they had done and here was I, walking in from a completely different place in a way and stepping in [with a] 'Who’s this guy?' kind of thing. I got that feeling at the beginning from Donn Landee. He wasn’t particularly thrilled to see me, I don’t think."
Regardless, Jones did was he was hired to do, and took control of the sessions. As Hagar said, "[Jones] came right in to do it and started making decisions about mixing and stuff, like, 'No no no, we need the vocals louder,' or, 'No, hey, Ed’s guitar has got to be on the left and not the right,' I think Donn freaked out or something. I don’t remember why, but yeah, that happened."
Jones admitted that the situation was "was a real standoff, you know? It was touch and go whether the tapes were going to survive." Still, he says that after it was resolved, "[it] all ended up great and everybody ended up [being] really cool and happy with what had happened" and that he "ended up being good friends with Donn Landee, who is a great engineer."