In the pantheon of music videos of the 1980s, the video for Sammy Hagar’s breakout solo single “I Can’t Drive 55,” has got to be near the top of the heap. Here are nine facts you probably didn’t know about the song and the video:
NBC Sports commissioned a new version of the song in 2001 to reflect the increase to 65 miles an hour across the country. NBC Sports used the song for the Budwiser Pole Award presentations on NBC and TNT. The networks used the song from 2001 to 2003.
You can hear that version here:
It Wasn’t Sammy Hagar’s Biggest Solo Hit
This sounds crazy, because the summer it came out in 1984, “I Can’t Drive 55” was ubiquitous, blasting out of the Kraco speakers of every primered Camaro in America, and has gone on to be used in countless movies, TV shows and commercials. Nevertheless, the song only reached #24 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy” off his 1982 album Three Lock Box has the distinction of the only Sammy Hagar solo record to crack the top 20, reaching #13 in 1983. Have you heard that song more than once in the last 25 years?
Hagar Got Busted for 62 in a 55
Hagar had a home near where his son was attending boarding school near Lake Placid, New York. After 24 hours of traveling from Africa, Hagar rented a car at the Albany International Airport and set out on the two hour drive from Albany to Lake Placid at 2:00 in the morning.
Hagar said a “cop stopped me for doing 62 on a four lane road when there was no one else in sight. Then the guy gave me a ticket. I was doing 62. And he said, ‘We give tickets around here for over 60.’ and I said, ‘I can’t drive 55.’ I grabbed a paper and a pen, and I swear the guy was writing the ticket and I was writing the lyrics. I got to Lake Placid, I had a guitar set-up there. And I wrote that song there on the spot. Burnt.”
The Director Also Directed TV in The Fall Guy, BJ and the Bear and Knight Rider
The song’s music video was directed by Gil Bettman. Bettman had something of a career directing car-oriented television. His IMDB credits include two episodes of BJ and the Bear, one episode of The Fall Guy, and two episodes of Knight Rider.
The Race Track Was a Former Rodeo Ring and Has Been Closed Since 1995
It looks like it could be a road course somewhere, but the video was shot on location at the 1/3-mile former rodeo arena known as Saugus Speedway in Saugus, California.
The track closed on July 19, 1995 in the middle of the season after the grandstands were condemned by the County of Los Angeles. It’s since been used for swap meets and carnivals.
Hagar’s “Mechanic” Was the Guy Behind the Cizeta V16T
The mechanic in the video is Claudio Zampolli. Aside from his star turn in the video, Zampolli was involved in a joint venture with music producer/1980s instrumental music icon Giorgio Moroder to build the Cizeta V16T.
The supercar was introduced in 1988 by Cizeta-Moroder, after it was penned by Marcello Gandini, the famous Italian designer who had also styled the Lancia Stratos, Bugatti EB110 and the Lamborghini Miura.
Only eight examples of the Cizeta V16T were made before the company ended initial production, but according to the New York Times, the car was never approved to be driven in the United States, because it never met environmental or DOT crash standards.
In 2009, one of the few Cizeta V16Ts was stored in a warehouse in Fountain Valley, Calif. On a tip from an investigator at the California Air Respurces Board, ICE agents located the car at Family Classic Cars in San Juan Capistrano and seized it.
Sammy Wasn’t Driving
It’s Zampolli behind the wheel of the black Ferrari BB512i as the video opens.
Hagar’s Date of Birth Is Wrong, Twice
On the Wanted poster offering $1,000 for Hagar’s capture, his date of birth is listed as February 14, 1923 in Billings, Montana. His Hagar’s license in the video lists his day of birth — October 13 — correctly, but the year is listed as 1954. Hagar was born in 1947 in Salinas, California.
The Judge Helped Launch Hagar’s Solo Career
The judge at the trial — Judge Julius Hangman — is John Kalodner.
In the 1970s, Kalodner was a powerhouse A&R exec with Atlantic Records. He signed Foreigner, AC/DC, Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins to Atlantic before David Geffen poached him over to Geffen Records. He worked with bands like Madness, XTC, Whitesnake and Aerosmith at that time.
He’s credited with helping Hagar’s solo career after he left the band Montrose.
Look Who’s Getting Hanged
The character in Judge Hangman’s gallows is a 1970s-era Kenner Han Solo action figure.
The Props Appeared in Another Great Car Movie
The gallows and guillotine props were borrowed from the set of the Robert Zemeckis film Used Cars, starring Kurt Russell and “Grandpa” Al Lewis as the sadistic judge.
By the way, if you haven’t seen Used Cars, you’ve missed a classic primer in sales strategy only rivaled by Glengarry Glen Ross.