Van Halen’s Michael Anthony Looks Back on Recording Band’s Controversial Album, Recalls Weird Things Eddie Did to ‘Priceless Guitars’

It’s not uncommon for Van Halen fans to spend their time arguing whether David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar was a better fit for the band. However, it seems that everyone keeps forgetting about that one album with Extreme’s Gary Cherone on vocals. “Van Halen III” didn’t strike critics, or fans, as a particularly solid record. And even the band members themselves weren’t happy about it, although the tour with Cherone on vocals did bring an interesting twist.

In a recent appearance on The Jeremy White and Mitch Lafon Show, Van Halen legend Michael Anthony looked back on the said album and why it turned out the way it did. During the chat, the bassist said (transcript by Ultimate Guitar):

“And just getting back really quick when you were talking about Gary Cherone being in the band, that you liked that. I don’t even [want to] go into the recording process on that album, because that album just took us frickin’ everywhere. Alex Van Halen was going through divorce at that time, and Ed played drums on some of this. I mean, it was just the craziest thing that the band had ever done. He played bass on some of it as well. There was some stuff that our producer that was… I don’t even like to talk about it.”

“There were only a couple songs on that whole album that we, as an actual band, played together in the studio, when we were recording. It’s sad because it could have been a lot better. Going on that tour was a breath of fresh air. Gary wanted to play the new Van Halen, the old Van Halen, all of it. And we were playing some of the earlier Van Halen stuff that we hadn’t played in years that you will never hear.”

Van Halen - Van Halen III (Full Album)

Elsewhere in the interview, Anthony also discussed whether record companies ever pressured Van Halen to make hit songs while Hagar was the frontman, to which he replied:

“It wasn’t so much start writing hits as much as just ‘Keep writing, keep writing, put another album, put another album, go on tour, write, tour, record, tour…’ And I don’t know how many years we did that. We would actually hit the road, pretty much before the album even came out, and then we would get back home, and everybody would want a break, and they were like, ‘Well, when are you guys going back into the studio?’ But it wasn’t until the later albums where we really took the reins. We always work with producers, work with everybody. Obviously from Ted Templeman to Mick Jones [Foreigner guitarist].”

“And the reason we did that was that we wanted to see another producer look at the band, and how they would perceive the band and record us. Nothing more than that, nothing like ‘Well, we gotta bring Mick so we can get some hits.’ It was never like that. It was always just because we wanted to try something new.”

Michael then drew a parallel between this practice and what Eddie Van Halen was doing with various guitars. In fact, as the bassist explains, plenty of guitar players would cry when they saw what Eddie did to some guitars. He said:

“It’s what Eddie was always doing with his guitars. I mean, I’ve seen him take some of the most priceless guitars that a guitar player would have, and he’d make a lot of these guitarists cry when they’d see some of the stuff he would do, ‘What are you doing Ed?’ ‘I’m just seeing if I open the hole up this pickup a little bit more, I can put this in here.’ ‘Oh, but that’s a frickin Gibson ES-335 It’s worth bla, bla,’ he goes, ‘Ehhh,’ [laughs]”

Photo: Kristy Fox (Michael Anthony), Abby Gillardi (Van Halen-8597 (20643101375))