Any red-blooded teenaged male of the nineteen-eighties, myself partially included, held Van Halen as their personal moniker of coming of age. They embodied the idea of fast cars with Edward Van Halen’s lightning fast uber-riffing, hot girls in David Lee Roth’s sublimely pubescent lyrics that often fused sex, guitars, fast cars, and teachers with a hit-the-keg-‘til-you-drop philosophy that was backed up by the band’s own personal antics.
There were even girls who liked Van Halen, or at least we thought there were, because the band had chicks in their videos and they wore the tight leather pants of course. The music was fun. Eddie was a genius. We respected the fact that Alex took the time to put tape on his snare drum. Even Michael Anthony got a solo on the live album.
Then one day something amazing happened. Van Halen grew up the day Sammy Hagar joined. Well, maybe not became adults, but they had a love song and new direction in sound. They encouraged us to look beyond the teenaged party years to the college party years.
Hagar often gets the rap that he ruined Van Halen, but I think he helped the guys evolve and in return helped Van Halen fans evolve. I believe this even more after talking to him about his songwriting and the dedication he has put into his entire career. A great example of this is on his new live CD, Hallelujah, which includes many Van Halen favorites as well as some of his best solo material. I thought it would be fun to talk with Sammy about the stories behind some of the great songs, so we started with the catchy and the apparently often misunderstood “Three Lock Box.”
“It’s not a sexual reference,” Hagar immediately stated, “It refers to the three things you have to get together in order to be a full person. It means mind, body and spirit. If you get those three things going you can do anything. I compare it to Arnold Schwarzeneger when I first saw him. I thought, this guy is out of balance, he’s got the body, you know the physical, but I’m not sure if he has the rest going. Or with Einstein, he’s got too much mind, or the pope, who is too spiritual. I wanted to get all three things going in my life. If you can do that, you can accomplish anything.”
Sammy went on to explain that the image of a three-lock-box comes from buried treasure novels where the Queen has a three-lock treasure chest and three people all had a separate key to the box on board in case they were attacked. Hagar said he was reading these kinds of books at the time he wrote the song and worked that into his idea of a fully realized existence. Whoa!
The first song Van Halen released as a single from the OU182 album was “Why Can’t This Be Love.” Right away, Hagar’s influence was present in the lyric that wasn’t directly sexually derogatory. It actually talks about a relationship.
“When I joined the band, Eddie had two song ideas, ‘Summer Nights’ and ‘Good Enough.’ He also had a keyboard riff that he was embarrassed to play for anyone but I was really impressed and I came up with the melody to the lyric first. I thought it was a great music chord change and jumped at the opportunity to write a love song.”