One of the most popular songs of the Sammy Hagar Van Halen era, "Right Now" is a message about living in the moment. It came at a time of worldwide political change, especially in Eastern Europe and The Soviet Union.
Eddie Van Halen wrote the music for "Right Now" during the David Lee Roth era, but Roth had no interest in it. It wasn't until 1991 that the song finally came together. Sammy Hagar, determined to write an inspiring lyric with no trace of sex or hedonism, came up with the "Right Now" title and concept. Eddie would play the piano riff in the studio while they were making the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, and one day it clicked that it was the right music for the lyric Hagar was working on. The pair completed the song together when the album was almost done.
In 1993, this was used in commercials for Crystal Pepsi
, a clear cola. The commercials were good, but the product was a huge flop as consumers decided they would rather not see through their soft drink. The group was criticized for "selling out" when the ads came out, but they did it because Pepsi was going to use the song with or without them. Pepsi got the rights to the song, and would have had a sound-alike group record it. Van Halen figured it was best to let them use their version and at least get paid for it.
The For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album, their third with Sammy Hagar, was out for eight months before "Right Now" was released as a single. It didn't chart well, but the album went to #1 in America and sold three million copies there.
The first letters of the album title spell out a naughty word. This was intentional.
The video displayed socially conscious messages about safe sex and other hot-topic issues of the time. Sammy Hagar hated the idea because he thought the subtitles would distract attention away from the song. "I said, 'I am not doing it,'" he told the UK TV show Video Killed the Radio Star. "I said, 'I wrote the best lyric I've ever written in Van Halen, I'm trying to upgrade this band's image with lyrics to where we're finally not just a party band that can play instruments, and they wanna put words underneath? Why don't they use the words I wrote? They're great words. It's a statement. It's gonna be confusing!'"
Hagar retreated to South Carolina and wouldn't return anyone's phone calls until Warner chairman Mo Ostin called him and convinced him to do it. Unfortunately, Hagar ended up getting pneumonia and had a miserable time shooting the video - and it shows. "If you look at my attitude in the video I'm like [crosses arms]. I wouldn't even cooperate."
The video won for Best Video, Best Editing, and Best Direction at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards.
Around this time, the British band Jesus Jones had a popular song out called "Right Here, Right Now
," which has a similar theme but is slightly more political. Van Halen's song is more specifically about personal empowerment.
Carolyn Mayer Beug, who also worked with Rod Stewart and Dwight Yoakam, co-directed the video with Mark Fenske. She was on board flight 11, which was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
As the closing credits roll on the 1984 movie The Wild Life
, starring Eric Stoltz and Chris Penn, an instrumental version of "Right Now" is playing, and sure enough the music credits include Eddie Van Halen. All of this eight years before the song is released, this time with lyrics, on For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
Bill - Clinton, IL
The old phone number of a friend of the band was written on the album cover. It belonged to a family in Tulsa, who got besieged by phone calls and sued the band.
In 1993 Van Halen released their first live album and named it after this song, calling it Live: Right Here, Right Now.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, "Right Now" was played at a Republican Party rally following Sarah Palin's introductory speech, after she'd been chosen as John McCain's running mate. A statement was made regarding its use by an unnamed member of Van Halen's management, which said: "Permission was not sought or granted nor would it have been given [to use the song]."
Sammy Hagar, who co-wrote and sang the song, was more positive. He said in a statement: "When I wrote the lyrics to 'Right Now' I intended them to inspire people to not sit around and wait for something they believed in but to go out and get it - to make a change however they needed to. Whether it was McCain who used the song or if Obama had chosen to use the song, with the current political climate, the lyrics still have the same meaning, and we all need to do something to make a difference, every action counts."
This wasn't the first time the song was used in a political setting. George W. Bush used it during at least one rally in 2006.
In 2011, Time magazine called it "the most misused song in GOP politics," pointing out that in the video, the graphic "Right now oil companies and old men are in control" flashes on the screen.
Speaking with Guitar World
in 1991, Eddie Van Halen talked about how Joe Cocker would have been a great vocalist on this song. "If there was any other vocalist I'd like to make a record with, it would be Joe," he said. "That song has that classic 'Feelin' Alright