May 1996: Van Halen and Sammy Hagar Spin Apart in a 'Twister'

Van Halen in 1996
Photo Credit
Robert Knight Archive/Redferns

Tornadoes can cause severe damage - but only once did they cause a rock band to change line-ups.

On May 10, 1996, the blockbuster Twister opened in theaters. Part of a disaster movie revival in the late '90s that saw multiplexes packed with movies about asteroids, volcano eruptions and even rainstorms, the movie remains beloved thanks to fun performances from its ensemble cast (including Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt and Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and its eye-popping special effects. (Who can forget the flying cow?)

The film's soundtrack was packed with tracks by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Goo Goo Dolls and even a reunion of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac - but the crown jewel may have been "Humans Being," a hard-driving track featuring Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar firing on all cylinders. Behind the scenes, though, it seemed like the band was running on empty.

At the time, Van Halen had finished touring in support of Balance; Hagar's wife Kari was expecting a child that spring, and the Van Halen brothers were dealing with medical issues. The plan was to complete two songs - a rocker called "The Silent Extreme" and a ballad named "Between Us Two" - for the soundtrack. "The Silent Extreme" eventually became "Humans Being" after a series of disagreements about the lyrical content - reportedly, nobody could agree how much the song should actually be about tornadoes.

READ MORE: How Sammy Hagar's Ferrari Led to His First Van Halen Album "5150"

"De Bont was like, 'Uh, Sammy is a little strange. I kept telling him that he shouldn't write any lyrics about tornadoes, but he still kept insisting that I fax him tornado-related technical jargon. Does Sammy just want to learn about twisters for his own personal reasons?'" Eddie told Guitar World in 1996. "I said, 'Beats the hell out of me.' And so what does Sammy come back with? 'Sky is turning black, knuckles turning white, headed for the hot zone.' It was total tornado stuff!"

"From what I saw on the screen, I thought the movie was about the infatuation people have with fear and how it can suck you in," Hagar countered in a Guitar World interview in 1997. "So 'The Silent Extreme' was a song that talked about being right in the middle of all this, and I wrote this really cool lyric I thought said it all."

Tensions escalated after Hagar asked to record his vocals in Hawaii, where his wife's birth would take place. He reluctantly returned to Van Halen's 5150 Studios but had already flown back by the time the filmmakers asked them to replace "Between Us Two." It ended up replaced by "Respect the Wind," an instrumental credited to Eddie and Alex alone.

READ MORE: Alex Van Halen Rates David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar in Rare Interview

Hagar finally decided to leave Van Halen in June 1996, unhappy with the band's decision to plan a greatest-hits album among other concerns. The Best of Volume 1 included "Humans Being" as a new track as well as two cuts with original singer David Lee Roth - a reunion that ended before the record hit stores. Van Halen then recruited Gary Cherone for lead vocals on the ill-fated Van Halen III (1998) before one last tour with Hagar from 2003 to 2005 and a reunion with Roth from 2007 until Eddie's passing in 2020.

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