The supergroup – Hagar, guitarist Joe Satriani, former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony and the Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith – came out big on its self-titled 2009 debut. Born from a jam at Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina in Mexico, Chickenfoot bowed with a Top 5, gold-certified album and took the show on the road.
There was clamor for a follow-up, but the nature of supergroups means one or more members are hard to pin down – in this case, it was Smith, who went right from the Chickenfoot cycle into making the Chili Peppers’ I’m With You.
Hagar, in fact, was ready to go on vacation when he got the call that Smith had time to go in the studio during early 2011. “The reason Chickenfoot had to go in was because of Chad,” Hagar told this writer at the time. “We had a window where he was available, and I was going, ‘Fuck, I don’t want to be rushed into it.’ I was just planning my time off. I had my feet deep in the sand, and I was going to vacation this whole summer. Everybody was trying to get me to go in and do this Chickenfoot record, but I just didn’t feel like going into Chickenfoot mode.”
Fortunately, other voices – the other band members and Hagar’s manager, John Carter – prevailed to bring Chickenfoot III to life. And in hindsight Hagar was happy to be talked into it.
“We were so comfortable making the music,” said the singer. “We got to know each other on the first album and then touring for it. Joe and I got to know each other as writers. We made a really giant step forward.” Hagar noted that because of the group’s prowess, he had to “struggle my ass off on the lyrics, ’cause the music is so good. I can’t just start talking about girls and cars, you know? Not for this band. So I wrote ‘Up Next’ five different times. I wrote ‘Different Devil’ five different times … and once everything was done I could look at it and go, ‘Fuck, this is good.'”
Satriani recalled that Chickenfoot III “was even easier than the first album. “We knew each other better as a band,” he said. “We knew what the band was capable of – which was a lot. Everybody’s a great player, and when you’ve got a front man like Sammy … if you can’t make that work, you have no business trying, you know?” Chickenfoot III certainly worked. The album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Hard Rock Albums chart, No. 4 on the Top Rock Albums survey and No. 4 on the Billboard 200, while “Big Foot” and “Different Devil” made plenty of noise at rock radio.
“We have a chemistry thing that really makes Chickenfoot what it is,” Hagar explained. “It’s the best thing that I do, musically. It makes me sweat. Just being with players this good … I can’t just get by.”
The Chickenfoot III title, meanwhile, came from a group discussion. “From the day we started, we said, ‘We’re not calling this Chickenfoot II, no way. The first guy who says this is Chickenfoot II gets fired,'” Hagar recalled. Smith suggested Chickenfoot IV as a joke, “and of course we all laughed. A couple hours later we’re still laughing about it, and everybody’s like, ‘Yeah, why not?'” The group went so far as to create a Chickenfoot IV cover, but it eventually switched to III when because the group’s peace sign-referencing chicken-foot logo, with its three toes, was deemed more appropriate.
Chickenfoot releases a live album, LV, in 2012 and a Best + Live compilation in 2017, which featured a new song, “Divine Termination.” Smith didn’t make the tour to support III, recommending Kenny Aronoff (John Fogerty, John Mellencamp, Melissa Etheridge) to fill his seat. The original lineup played two shows in May 2016 in South Lake Tahoe, and talk of an odd song here and there has never come to fruition. Satriani, for one, isn’t holding his breath that it will happen again.
“I think it’ll always be upsetting to me, the fact it’s under-realized,” Satriani said in 2019. “It befuddles me. However, the other guys do have plenty of things going on. I get it. But when I think about it from an artistic point of view, it just seems ridiculous that we didn’t do more. It just seems completely wrong. It’s just one of those things you have to look at it from two different perspectives and accept the fact that those two conclusions don’t actually jibe with one another, and … be happy we got to do what we did.”
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