Stereogum spoke with former Scandal front woman, Patty Smyth, about being approached, in the 80s to join Van Halen, after original singer, David Lee Roth, departed the group . Highlights from the interview appear below (via

Smyth recounted, “They were heavy drinkers. I don’t drink. I never saw myself living in L.A. I was, like, ‘I’m from New York. We don’t move to L.A.’

“It’s all semantics because if [Eddie] had said to me, ‘Let’s make a record,’ then I would have said yes to that. But joining the band — to me then, ‘Oh god, they fight all the time, him and his brother, and I don’t want to get into a volatile situation.’ And I was probably heavily hormoned out because I was eight months pregnant, so there was a state of mind that I was in of how I need to take care of myself. But I regretted turning him down. For a long time, I regretted it. When you start to have regrets, I was, like, ‘Oh, man. I would’ve made so much money.'”

When asked if she thinks her prior negative experience in a group dynamic might have given her pause to join another way more publicly rambunctious band, she said,”Yeah, that definitely has something to do with it. I’m sure. And also just the fact that it was, like, ‘I’m going to have to move to L.A.’ I should have just had the conversation [with Eddie]. It was such a weird conversation. But if he had said to me, ‘Look, just come out for a few months and make a record. Have the baby, come out and let’s make a record.’ That to me would’ve been more doable.

And I never said anything about it for years. I got a call from Ed, and he was, like, ‘Look, I’m not saying that I asked you to join because I don’t want Sammy Hagar to look like [he was] second choice,’ and I was, like, ‘Okay.’ So I never spoke about it after that. I’m, like, all right I don’t need to tell people. If someone asked me, I didn’t lie but I didn’t really talk about it that much.”

Photo credit: Melanie Dunea 

41 Responses

  1. I like pretty much all of Van Halen. I did hear about it back in the day, but is it just the vocal change or resistance because she a woman. I always felt that doesn’t matter what sex you are if you can rock just as hard. Pat Benatar, Heart. Here is an interesting question, what women rocker could replace a front man for a band like Van Halen or Judas Priest?

    1. Hi Charles,

      I can only speak for myself, and as a woman, I freely admit, that I am partial to male singing voices, especially in rock music.

      While I like Joan Jett’s, Lita Ford’s and Pat Benatar’s voices, I prefer they do their own music, and be their own artists. I also love Kelly Clarkson, and Carrie Underwood, and have heard them sing rock songs, but again, they are usually doing it for fun with their own bands or as special guests. I, personally do not like the idea of a female replacing a male in a rock band. Let alone, an icon like the Metal God, that even another male replacement, would be very challenging to discover.

      Continuing with that train of thought, the singer is usually the hardest member of a band to replace, even if their voice is less than stellar. They are the person, people are used to hearing, and they are the one, during live performances, that people connect with the most.

      So, in a case like Van Halen, although Hagar is clearly the better vocalist, Roth had charisma, showmanship, sex appeal and swagger. Van Halen happened to be lucky that some of their fans accepted Hagar. Additionally, maybe because Sammy was already an established musician, he brought over some his Montrose, and solo artist fans with him, as well?

      There are very few instances that I can recall, where a lead singer was replaced, and the band managed to retain its success.

      AC/DC is one of the few, and that may have been, because Bon Scott passed away, as opposed to him being replaced while he was still alive?

      Black Sabbath had some success with Dio, but I am sure, sales wise, it could not compete with the Ozzy era. Ditto with Deep Purple, and all their lineups, and Rainbow, as well. Again, not to take anything away from the various Purple configurations, just pointing out, that they were probably were not as successful as they were, with the original singer, Gillan in Purple, and Dio in Rainbow.

      Another example would be, Brian Howe, who joined Bad Company. I own Holy Water, and think that is a really great album, and saw that lineup tour with Damn Yankees in the 90’s. But let’s be honest, while they may have had larger radio, and sales success with Howe, many fans felt that Paul Rogers, could not be replaced, as the voice of Bad Company.

      Again, the singer is the hardest position to replace in any band, because they are the one, the audience tends to connect with, the most.

      Finally, I was never a fan of Ann Wilson’s voice. While she has power, I always found her screechy and unpleasant, so I would never consider her as a replacement for anyone-LOL!


    2. Charles, the only scenario I could possibly see is maybe Debbie Harry in Van Halen, and Lita Ford in Judas Priest. Ann Wilson is an amazing vocalist, with unbelievable range, but she IS Heart, as is her sister, Nancy.

    3. I could not see either of those scenarios in a million years. Debbie Harry? You may as well have suggested Britney Spears-LOL!

      If you gave me no choice, only Christina Aguilera could hit Halford’s notes and do them justice. Additionally she has grit, and soul, in her voice.

      As for Van Halen, I cannot picture any woman singing Jump, without my cringing, not that I am fan of the song, to begin with.

    4. – Forgot to add, there are only 2 singers/vocalists who can do Plant/Zeppelin justice, and that’s Ann Wilson, and Sammy Hagar.

    5. Well, at least Debbie Harry can sing, unlike that plastic robot Spears or whatever her name is.

    6. I hear some similarities between Roth and Harry, neither one may be a “great” singer, but I still think Harry would’ve been good enough for Van Halen.

    7. Roth has a slightly smokey, sexy voice, Harry’s register is more like Kermit the Frog, but to each their own.

      Maybe Coverdale would manage to do the Roth ear songs justice? But again, he may have hair like a woman, but he is clearly not a woman.


    8. Coverdale is great, but VH? That’d be interesting. Kermit The Frog? Isn’t he the lead singer for Ethel The Frog? 😉

  2. I do agree replacing a vocalist is tough, especially with diehard fans. Halford, Mercury, and Dickinson are vocalists, in my book, that could not be replaced. So I’m done here.

    No, Debbie Harry in Van Halen is like a square peg in a round hole.

  3. Dana, Jack Russell was my immediate thought. The Great Zeppelin album was fantastic!
    Honorable mentions to Lenny Wolf (Kingdom Come) & Daniel MacMaster (Bonham).

Leave a Reply