Part 186: The Van Halen Tin

RECORD STORE TALES Part 186:  The Van Halen Tin

March 17, 1998.  The wait was over – Van Halen 3 was out!

Van Halen’s 3 was kind of like The Phantom Menace for me:  I was really excited about it, so much that it clouded my judgement of the music.  I wanted new Van Halen so bad I would have taken just about anything I guess.  Just like I would take Phantom Menace the following year.  T-Rev, always the level-headed one, questioned whether I was enjoying the album more simply because of the absurd money that I had paid for it.

I paid $45 for the “collector’s tin”.  I was hoping for bonus tracks, but there was nothing like that.  A pick, a tin, some paper stuff, a sticker.  It was still pretty cool to look at, and collectible.

I was living with T-Rev at the time.  I was and still am very “OCD” about my CD collection.  I don’t lend discs out anymore for example.  Back then and today I am very fussy about the condition of the album.

A day or two after Van Halen came out, our buddy Neil came by to play N64 and have a beer.  I was working the night shift that night, so I didn’t get in until after 9.  When I came in, I played some N64 with Neil and headed off to bed.

The next day I woke up and wanted to play the new Van Halen.  I grabbed it off my CD tower, and noticed something…not right.  A fingerprint!  On the tin!  I could see it!  But it wasn’t mine!  Before I filed it, I distinctly remember wiping the tin.  It had no fingerprints!

When T-Rev got up I asked him, “Hey, I know you wouldn’t have done it, you know me too well, but did Neil happen to look at my Van Halen 3 yesterday?”

T-Rev grinned and asked how I knew.  I explained the fingerprint.

“The funny thing,” said T-Rev, “is that I told Neil you were going to notice if he touched it!  He didn’t believe me!”

Trevor assured me that Neil was very careful with it, and didn’t touch the CD itself, etc. etc.  We couldn’t help laughing at the fact that I did notice.  That’s the OCD!  I had a lot invested in that Van Halen disc, emotionally and monetarily.

Listening to it today with fresh ears, it’s not the disaster that some (cough cough Craig Fee cough) think it is.  But it’s certainly not worthy of the praise that I gave it back in ’98.  If it were an Extreme album, it wouldn’t be the best Extreme album.  As a Van Halen album, well…




  1. Mike, you have a keen eye (regarding your spotting of the fingerprint on the CD tin). Years ago, when my CD collection was “only” in the 1,000 range (it’s now 7-8 times that size), a couple of friends decided to be “funny” and swap the position of two CDs thinking I would never notice. The next day I was laying on the couch, glancing at the wall of CDs, and I just felt like something was off. Within a minute I found one of the misplaced CDs and quickly figured out which one had been swapped out. Needless to say, my friends were impressed and frightened in equal measure when I told them. I think my collection is too sprawling now to notice the difference, but I rarely have people in my man-cave now, besides my wife, so it shouldn’t be an issue. I may not have OCD as acutely as you do, but it’s definitely in my DNA.


    1. That is a great story Rich! I can completely relate! In highschool, my sister’s friends did that with my tape collection as a prank. Then it turned into a challenge. They would swap cassettes from box to box, and I’d have to find all the moved tapes. I never failed to do so! And they weren’t alphabetical back then, I had them arranged so that each box was maximized with whole collections by a single band.


  2. I do enjoy your write-ups of the many collector’s editions that were out there during the glory days of record shops! Believe me, I bought many of these editions, and strangely, lost many of them in a bad CD break-up (she knew how to REALLY hurt me!). I always had a strange attraction to this Van Halen disc, but the sound is kinda harsh to me, though I am no stuffy audiophile! If I recall, the producer was Mike Post, he of “Miami Vice” TV soundtrack fame (and many other shows). Gary Cherone just seems to be really straining throughout this disc, trying to fit into the drama and music provided. What coulda been…


    1. You nailed it! Mike Post is correct. It sounded to me like they went for a raw sound, with amp hum and all that stuff, I personally like the sound. Just my taste though.

      As for Cherone, I was absolutely shocked to hear him try to shout like that on every song. He had been such a great vocalist in Extreme.

      Thanks for your comments on the collector’s editions and whatnot…I plan on rolling out a whole lot in the near future so stay tuned!


      1. I am heading back into “III” to do a fresh assessment! Now that I think about it, one of my problems with this disc was not the production, it was a lack of hooks. I think I may need to spend some more time with these songs to let them sink in. I suspect Cherone’s theatrics, both vocally and on-stage, may have been a little too much for VH’s skeptical-and-shrunken fan base at the time. Cherone’s wiry frame, prancing around the stage, was a big change from Sammy’s tequila-soaked. acid-washed jean shorts, and Tommy Bahama “Party Hearty” look!


        1. Eager to hear your assessment.

          Once again agreed on the Cheronery! He was more of a rock geek, and that worked with Extreme. Just because both bands had the same manager and a hot guitar player didn’t mean the transition would work and obviously in hindsight it didn’t.

          The 90’s were such a weird time. But also a rich time, for oddball experiments like Van Halen 3.


  3. I always wondered about Cherone with VH… I saw Extreme in concert back in the day, they were great. But VH is a whole other animal… Still, good on him for trying. I don’t think I would have paid $45 for a tin then, and I wouldn’t wanna know what it is now. ;) You’re a true collector, man. Me, I’d have let it go.


    1. I was a lot more obsessive then, believe it or not, about collecting. The internet has since broadened that world where I’ve had to let certain concepts go. Such as, “I have to own the best version of everything.” Can’t be done on my budget. Today this VH would not have got the nod.


  4. Van Halen 3 was for them and me somewhat a dud.
    Reason being for the most part is the production is brutal ,just listen to the sonics from Balance to 3 and it’s a step back.
    The songs aren’t bad,me and my buddies called it the Halen b sides album,all these songs sound like they could have been good unreleased b side songs….except for How Many Say I,I don’t think I’ve listened to that track since 98.
    When you have a back catalogue like Halen does its a tough compare…Cherone is a fine singer but like the Mötley Corabi album they should have called it sumthin different like Starfleet Project 2 .ha. Remember that one?!
    Plus at the time i was hearing that Eddie was taking over the bass and its like u start losing that band component all four one for all concept…..


    1. Yeah I want a copy of Starfleet Project in fact! I remember that the Van Halen magazine had a CD edition for sale with something like 8 live bonus tracks of Brian May and Cozy Powell. I want that.

      Michael Anthony only played bass on 3 songs, and you can barely hear him sing any vocals at all. I said to T-Rev, “Something about this doesn’t sound like Van Halen,” and it turns out that the missing ingredient was Michael.

      This had potential to be better, I think.


  5. Actually have gone back and enjoyed some of this disc, but I am not completely sold on this being a lost or misunderstood gem in my collection. What is really bizarre is going around the Internet and viewing some of the live footage with Cherone on the microphone. Sadly, he looks like an aerobic instructor jumping around the stage, prancing and preening, though I find it strangely intriguing to listen to him run through the DLR-era VH songs.


  6. I bought this album as a new release and like Lebrain, I was excited, wondering what the hell its going to sound like? I was in for a major disappointment, the songs and production were just not there. Mike Post writes great music for tv shows, etc, but producing a metal/hard rock band, especially one as legendary, and mid transition, he was out of his element.

    Liked by 1 person

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