35 Years Ago: Van Halen Leave Planet Earth on ‘Love Walks In’
"Love Walks In" wasn't the first Sammy Hagar song about aliens. In fact, his interest in extraterrestrial life traces back well before the third single from Van Halen's 5150 arrived on July 23, 1986.
There was "Space Station No. 5" from Montrose's debut album and "Space-Age Sacrifice" from their second. Subsequent solo songs with similar themes included "Silver Lights," "Hot Rocks," "Little Star," "Returning Home" and "Someone Out."
"So, my whole career I've been writing about these kinda things," Hagar confirmed during a 2011 interview with MTV, "but they've never been the hits."
"Love Walks In" changed that, nearly cracking the Top 20. Of course, it's possible that many radio listeners simply missed this synth-driven power ballad's references to an otherworldly memory – or maybe they decided Hagar was being metaphorical. Either way, this objectively pretty single had "love" right there in the title, so it quickly became a slow-dance favorite.
Actress Valerie Bertinelli was perhaps its first big fan; Hagar said she was initially drawn to husband Eddie Van Halen's signature turn on the keyboard. "When she heard 'Love Walks In,' she just [said], 'Oh, my God,'" Hagar told SiriusXM in 2020. "And Eddie's going, 'Oh, man. My wife's happy, so I'm happy.' And I'm going, 'Well, I'm happy.'"
That's because "Love Walks In" gave Hagar the chance to openly discuss something that changed his life forever, as he goes on to reference a visit from "some kind of alien" with "silver lights shining down," then travels "far across the Milky Way."
Listen to Van Halen's Studio Version of 'Love Walks In'
"I'm a firm believer – have seen, have felt, have been contacted three or four different times," Hagar later told Guitar World. "I have received information that has been valuable in my life from those people, and they have used me. I'm gonna sound like a complete nut here, but they have used me in an experimental fashion. The easiest way to put it is that they downloaded my brain information."
One of his first, most memorable experiences actually traced back to the late '60s, Hagar noted. "I saw a ship and two creatures inside of this ship," he said in the autobiography Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock. "And they were connected to me, tapped into my mind through some kind of mysterious wireless connection."
He said the visitors spoke through telepathy, as his bedroom became suddenly illuminated. "As soon as I woke up – it was probably three o'clock in the morning – my whole room was so bright that I could hardly keep my eyes open," Hagar told Guitar World.
"I was wide awake; I could not move – eyes open, white room, they were still disconnecting. And when they did, it just went bang! Everything went back to normal, back to black. I was shaking; I almost passed out. I was sick to my stomach and almost had to throw up, it was so scary."
Hagar was struck by their interest in our world but also by their advanced technology. "It was a download situation," he told MTV. "This was long before computers or any kind of wireless. There weren't even wireless telephones. Looking back now, it was like, 'Fuck, they downloaded something into me!' Or they uploaded something from my brain, like an experiment, [to] 'see what this guy knows.'"
Red cowriter Joel Selvin ended up cautioning Hagar about telling too many of these stories in the autobiography, leaving some key moments on the cutting-room floor. "Another thing happened when I was about four that I didn't put into the book," Hagar added. "One time I saw what I considered to be – well, at the time I thought it was a car with no wheels. We lived out in the country, and I saw this thing floating across a field, creating this big dust storm."
Listen to Van Halen's Live Update of 'Love Walks In'
How Hagar connected all of this with Eddie Van Halen's initial synth line remains, like the visits themselves, something of a mystery. But it all came together in the blink of an eye. "One night after everybody left, Eddie said, 'Let me just play you something I've got on this piano,'" Hagar said in a 2019 look back at 5150.
"He goes to the piano and starts playing, and I went, 'I love that.' I had goose bumps. So I actually wrote the lyrics and did the whole thing that night on a cheap mic. That was used on the record, and everybody else overdubbed. Things happen like that, and there's nothing you can do to make it better."
For Hagar, the one-off nature of their original demo echoed a process used by Ruth Montgomery, the author of Aliens Among Us. Hagar would later credit her as an inspiration while introducing "Love Walks In" during Van Halen's Right Here, Right Now concert movie.
"She was an automatic writer, she used to go into a trance," Hagar told the A.V. Club in 2011. "And she would just start typing information – and then she would come out of her trance and read it and go, 'Wow,' and that was just the way she wrote her books. There are a lot of people going around where an alien took over their body, and their soul will actually leave and be, like, in a sleep or in a near-death situation. She called them 'walk-ins.' That's kind of what happens when you fall in love."
"Love Walks In" wasn't the last time he dealt with these memories. In fact, Hagar said the experience sent him on a "course of curiosity. I bought a telescope, and I started reading UFO books, and I just got into the whole thing," he told Guitar World, adding that he now believes the interactions were with visitors from the Ninth Dimension. "It's a crazy thing, man," Hagar admitted.
"But to me, anyone who thinks we're the only ones here, despite the vastness of the entire universe, is fucking crazy. Those people gotta be put away – not the guys having these contacts."
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