With a nickname like “the Red Rocker” and a home in the San Francisco Bay Area, could the Clash have mistaken Sammy Hagar for a left-wing militant? No. But by the time David Lee Roth dismissed the Clash as too serious for rock and roll, the man who would succeed him in Van Halen had already left his mark on the punk group, like a time-traveling vandal.
Writer Greil Marcus heard some of the Clash’s second album, Give ‘Em Enough Rope, in the studio, and he was disappointed by Sandy Pearlman’s production of the finished record. Not only was it thin, but Pearlman had neutered the best song to cover up its debt to Sammy Hagar, Marcus wrote:
Mick Jones had picked up the central, explosive guitar riff of “Safe European Home,” the album’s strongest song, from the live version of Sammy Hagar’s “I’ve Done Everything for You,” on the radio constantly as the band worked in San Francisco. Pearlman erased the riff from the final master, fearing it would sound like a cheap cop, and thus erased the voice of the tune.
The riff may have been erased, but the resemblance between the two songs is unmistakable, and can never be unheard. From All Night Long, here’s the live version of “I’ve Done Everything for You” Capitol released as a single:
And here’s “Safe European Home” as produced by Sandy Pearlman:
(Never forget the Minutemen’s elegant refutation of “I Can’t Drive 55” in the form of a double album.)