Billy Sheehan Remembers Almost Joining Van Halen
If the only way you could join your favorite band was by costing one of its members their job, would you still want to do it? Bassist Billy Sheehan had to answer that question the hard way after getting an enticing invitation from Van Halen.
Sheehan, whose early band Talas opened for Van Halen in 1981, recalled his brush with joining the band during a recent appearance on Eddie Trunk’s podcast. Noting that he found himself on their radar after their shared dates, Sheehan says he’s always had seriously mixed emotions about the prospect
“For many years I never said anything about it, because I thought it was a little bit denigrating to Michael Anthony,” Sheehan admits. “But they did ask me to join Van Halen a couple of times. It never panned out, and in a way I’m glad it didn’t pan out, because I love Michael Anthony and I hate it when a band changes members. But then again,” he laughs, “in the back of my mind, Van Halen was my favorite band in the world. It would have been amazing.”
According to Sheehan, the question of whether to join became moot after “they passed on me; they decided they didn’t want to make a change,” but things still turned out pretty well for him — he was a member of David Lee Roth‘s solo band after Roth split from Van Halen, and has managed to remain cordial with all of its members, past and present. In fact, as he tells Trunk, “I believe I’m the only person in the world who’s played with every member of Van Halen.”
Of course, later in his career, Sheehan became personally acquainted with the difficult decision a band faces when personality or professional conflicts arise between members, and they’re forced to make membership changes or break up entirely. Noting that he and the other members of Mr. Big felt an outpouring of fan affection after their recent reunion, he drew parallels to the portion of the VH fanbase that was disgruntled after Wolfgang Van Halen replaced Anthony in the lineup.
“You see that to some degree with Van Halen,” muses Sheehan toward the end of the episode. “I wish Wolfie well, and he’s doing a great job, but it’s not the original band. It’s a tough call. I wish him well, but as a fan, I kinda wanted to see Michael in there, you know? As a fan, it tears you up.”