Why Patty Smyth turned down Eddie Van Halen’s offer to front his band
Twenty-eight years after her last studio album, Patty Smyth comes rocking back with “It’s About Time,” out Friday. As lead singer of Scandal, the Brooklyn native scored ’80s hits “Goodbye to You” and “The Warrior” before finding solo success with 1992’s “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough,” a top five duet with Don Henley.
Now 63, Smyth shares her memories of Eddie Van Halen, the secret to her 23-year marriage to John McEnroe and why Patti Smith haunts her.
How you doing?
I just found out that Ed Van Halen died, so I feel pretty bummed out right now … In the ’80s, we were good friends. He played with us. His wife then was Valerie Bertinelli, and she was a big fan of mine and dragged him out to one of our shows, and then they came on the road with us. They got on the bus and traveled with us for a few days. We just stayed up all night jamming and laughing and drinking. He came into the studio with me years after that. I have a version of “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough” with him playing guitar on it. He played so great.
And he once asked you to replace David Lee Roth in Van Halen.
I declined. It was not the right time. I think I regretted it for a couple years, mostly just because they were having all these hits and making a lot of money. But I was eight months pregnant when he asked me. We remained friends, he was fine with it, but then he was like, “I’m not gonna tell anybody I asked you. I don’t want Sammy [Hagar] to look like I asked him second.”
Your new album is called “It’s About Time.” Is that how you feel about this record?
My manager was like, “What should we call this record?” and I was like, “Uh … how ’bout ‘It’s About
F - - king Time’?” But then what’s funny is, the music is also kind of about time. That’s a prevalent theme in this record.
So what took you 28 years?
I raised six kids [in a blended family]. I was drowning in kids. My husband traveled, and I was home, you know, just trying to keep my head above water … But I was also writing songs the whole time. I was getting together with people and going into the studio and trying to record stuff. But for whatever reason, it never really felt right.
You and John have been in Malibu since COVID hit, but you haven’t officially moved from New York, right?
No, no, no. We’ve had a home here forever … I’ll never abandon New York. Are you kidding? I definitely miss it. But, you know, it’s sad there right now. It doesn’t feel right there because all the things that New York is about, you can’t really do. The only good news is that the tourists are gone, ’cause I was fed up with that s - - t.
How do you guys make your marriage last? What’s your secret?
Who knows? It is a big mystery to me. If John was here, he’d be screaming in the background, “A lot of sex and compromise!” That’s his recipe.
Do people still confuse you with Patti Smith?
It happens all the time, and it’s insane that it still happens. To tell you how far back she’s been haunting me … when I was a teenager, I was getting her mail in the East Village. And I’m not kidding. I had no idea what she did or who she was, but I knew that she existed.
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