Van Halen stickers

It’s always been tough being a Van Halen fan. There’s the obvious historical stuff — like the revolving singers: David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, Gary Cherone and then brief stints with returns of Hagar and Roth.

But the most frustrating thing to us die-hard fans is the seeming lack of regard for the band’s legacy. But 2024 has and is slightly little better on that front. It’s better, but still lacking compared to some other bands of similar size and stature.

Van Halen fans have gotten very used to a greater level of dysfunction than nearly every other band out there — the lead singer revolving door, the large number of quiet periods, and an original member being replaced by another Van Halen. On that last one, don’t get me wrong. Wolfgang is a highly gifted musician on multiple instruments including drums, guitar and bass, and I absolutely love Mammoth WVH’s pair of albums (and have seen him live twice). If it weren’t for Wolfgang Van Halen, Van Halen 3 may have been the last full studio album we got out of the band. But it’s still weird to have a founding member of the band in bassist/backing vocalist, Michael Anthony left out of multiple tours and an album.

The Van Halen brothers Alex and Edward are also notoriously private, and have had multiple struggles with substance abuse. Both have had divorces as well. All of that has made the output of the band uneven at best. So us fans have gotten used to long periods of nothing Van Halen related coming out.

Hagar Re-Released Albums

In 2023, the Hagar-era albums got remastered and re-released, dubbed, The Collection II, with the first collection consisting of the Roth-era first six albums. All of the songs have been remastered from the original master tapes by the band’s longtime engineer, Donn Landee. While it’s great for me (and likely others) to have some of these on vinyl for the first time, and remastered, it feels lazy and the bare minimum that could have been done. There’s a “bonus” album with “The Collection II,” called “Studio Rarities 1989-2004.”

But there’s not a thing that wasn’t officially released somewhere prior. “A Apolitical Blues” was on the CD version of OU812. “Crossing Over” was on the Japanese release of Balance, also available with the “Can’t Stop Loving You” single. “Baluchitherium” is laughable to be included on this disc/album, as it was a standard part of the Balance CD. It just wouldn’t fit on the Balance remastered vinyl, as it was released originally in the time of CDs. It’s an amazing instrumental track, that’s a favorite in our household.

Both “Humans Being,” and the instrumental “Respect The Wind,” both were on the Twister soundtrack. “Humans Being,” is notorious as the song that broke up the band in the Hagar era. The final three songs — “It’s About Time,” “Up For Breakfast, “Learning To See” are all from the original release of the Best of Both Worlds greatest hits album.

So all in all, there’s absolutely nothing new here, besides the songs being remastered. It’s all stuff I’ve had in my collection for years and years. Again, it just felt like the lazy way out when we all know there are so many recordings holed up in the Van Halen 5150 studio.

Newest Release

At the end of May, announcements were made about an expanded edition of the Hagar-era For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album, to be released July 12. This “new” release includes a two-album vinyl remastered version, a two CD set with the original album remastered plus rarities and live versions, along with a Blu-Ray that consists of the 12/4/1991 Dallas, TX show and and the music videos released for the album. It also has a new 32-page booklet with new photos.

That Rarities and live consists of just new new versions of existing songs from the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge – an organ/single mix version of “Right Now,” an instrumental version of “The Dream is Over,” and a guitar version/single mix of “Right Now.” The rest of that second CD looks to be audio versions of what’s on the included blu-ray.

I love that we’re getting another live album from the Hagar era, but like the Hagar remastered “Collection II,” this still feels lazy. The booklet with never-before-seen photos is great — but we die-hard Van Halen fans are aching for unreleased tracks from these sessions. There have to be tracks from most of the Van Halen studio album recording sessions that didn’t make it to the albums, but are in some form of completion — demos would be fine. Like “Collection II,” we instead get mainly things us die-hards already have in our collections. Sadly, from what was shown in the photos at the Van Halen Store page, multiple pages of that 32-page booklet are just shots of the vinyl 45 singles, following the sad but unsurprisingly lack of effort and vision in anything released as of late.

Alex Van Halen’s Book

Brothers by Alex Van HalenThe real big news though for Van Halen fans in 2024 is the announcement of drummer Alex Van Halen’s book being released later this year (October 22, 2024) called, Brothers. Since the passing of Edward Van Halen, Alex has been completely out of the public eye. At one point, there were some attempts by him to do a tribute show or tour, but those fell through. He recently also auctioned off a ton of his drums, memorabilia, etc. The older Van Halen brother took the passing of his brother really hard, and it looks like he’s done playing drums.

Between the auction, the lack of a tribute for his brother, it’s looking like the upcoming book may be the last real bit we get from Alex Van Halen, who rightfully wants to enjoy his retirement in relative silence and tranquility. The book is likely to be a lot about the two growing up together in the Nethlerlands, immigrating to the States as children, and playing music together. It’ll be interesting to see how much the band plays into Alex Van Halen’s book. It’ll also be interesting to see how much press Alex does leading up to, and after the release.

5150 Vault

EVH at 5150 StudiosPrior to the release of the last David Lee Roth album, 1984 (before returning for 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth release in that is), Edward Van Halen built his own studio next to his California home, giving him more control over the recording process, and ton more access.

Over the years, fans have gotten all kinds of glimpses of the studio Edward Van Halen built. It’s also been the backdrop for band interviews, including one MTV’s Chris Connelly conducted in 1998 during the recording of Van Halen 3 — the sole studio album with Gary Cherone as the band’s singer.

Wolfgang with FrankensteinRecently, 5150 has been the backdrop as well in Wolfgang Van Halen interviews. In many of these interviews, the subject has come up about how much unreleased recordings are present at the studio. It’s been illustrated by shelves of tapes, as well as confirmed by both Edward Van Halen and Wolfgang. Michael Anthony also confirmed everything they did at 5150 was recorded.

So at some point, the hope is someone goes through some, if not all of the recordings to find the gems, the stuff closest to done, etc. At this point, it’s going to have to be Wolfgang, or someone he hires. Wolfgang, rightfully so, is focused on his own career, but 5150 Studios is a vault overflowing with possibilities — especially as albums are being re-released, remastered, etc. The hope is someone sooner rather than later starts the process of sifting through this stuff.

Cherone Second Album

Included in the 5150 recordings is a second Van Halen album with Cherone. After the poor reviews and sales of 3, the album was never released, but Cherone confirms it exists. While there’s little acknowledgment of this part of Van Halen’s career, us die-hards would love to hear this album at some point.

Hungry For More

EVH and WVH at 5150 StudioOverall, the theme is we want more. The bits and pieces we’ve gotten are things we already have heard, and for the most part, already had in our collections. In the near future, as a die-hard Van Halen fan of all eras and albums of Van Halen, I’m pleading for there to be more care in celebrating the music and legacy. Take the time and effort to go through 5150 studios. Tapes get old. Natural disasters happen. Please catalog, share and celebrate Edward Van Halen, and the Van Halen legacy.

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