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How Montrose wrote Rock Candy, by Sammy Hagar

Montrose
(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images )

“When I was 25 I knocked on Ronnie Montrose’s door and asked if he wanted to start a band with me. I’d seen Ronnie the night before at a sold-out show Winterland with Edgar Winter, who had the number one album in the country, and so to me he was a big rock star and my ticket to the big time. 

"I had some songs – Bad Motor Scooter, One Thing on My Mind, I Don’t Want It and Make It Last - and Ronnie put guitar riffs in I Don’t Want It and One Thing On My Mind which were better than what I had, so they became co-writes. We had nine songs when we were going in to make the first Montrose record with [producer] Ted Templeman, and he said, ‘Have you guys got anything else?’ 

"It was our last day of rehearsals – we were basically ready to tear the equipment down and go to LA to make the record - and we were in this little room and Ted was sitting there making notes. We had two songs that I thought were stinkers, one was called Shoot Us Down and the other was called You’re Out Of Time, but all of a sudden Denny Carmassi started playing that iconic drum beat, Ronnie joined in and we all fell into it, and we wrote Rock Candy right there, on the spot. 

"I was singing, ‘You’re rock candy baby, light, sweet and sticky’, making up stupid words, but kinda jotting them down in my head at the same time as we’re jamming. And Ted was going, ‘That’s great! That’s great!’ So we refined it in and then went into that meat locker that became Sunset Sound, where Zeppelin recorded and Little Feat recorded, and it became Rock Candy." 

"When the chemistry is right in a band, writing together produces great results, but it didn’t happen often enough in Montrose. That band never got past the sophomore stage, never graduated: what you heard from us was infantile, barely hatched out of the egg. I think if we’d held it together and grown up together, we could have made some great music and become a great, great band. But Ronnie decided otherwise, which was a punch in the gut.

"At the time, as with that whole Montrose record, I had no idea how legendary Rock Candy would be. When I talk to the guys in Def Leppard or The Cult or other guys in bands, they all know Rock Candy. If Billy Duffy comes to my bar Cabo Wabo, and we get up to jam, I say, ‘What do you want to play?’ Rock Candy. Chad Smith comes in, same thing, Rock Candy. Tommy Lee walks in, Rock Candy

Joe Elliott once said to me, ‘If you come to Britain and play fucking Rock Candy guys will be whacking off in the fucking seats mate!’ I’m like, ‘Er, okay, I’m not sure I really want that, but good to know Joe!’"

Sammy Hagar was speaking with Paul Brannigan. Tickets for Hagar's upcoming residency at The Strat in Las Vegas are on sale now (opens in new tab).

Paul Brannigan
Paul Brannigan

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.