35 Years Ago: Sammy Hagar Hits Solo Stride With ‘Three Lock Box’
Sammy Hagar hit a nerve with his sixth album, 1981’s Standing Hampton, led by the high-octane “There’s Only One Way to Rock” and driving “Baby’s on Fire.” Its follow-up, Three Lock Box, would prove not only that its predecessor wasn’t a fluke, but that the Red Rocker was in a legitimate groove when the album was released on Nov. 30, 1982.
“I love this album a lot,” Hagar said in 2016. “Working with [producer] Keith [Olsen] was more comfortable the second time around, and I had a lot more freedom to experiment.”
His testing of the musical waters worked. The synth-heavy single “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy" remains Hagar’s only Top 20 hit, reaching No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 the following February. There's also the veterans anthem "Remember the Heroes," which features vocals by Loverboy singer Mike Reno.
But the catchy title track created the most debate, with most fans thinking the often lyrically provocative singer was referencing something sexual. From day one, though, Hagar defended the song, claiming it had a much deeper meaning than it was credit for.
“You guys are assuming that I’m talking from the lowest common denominator, which is sex,” he told a radio station in 1983. “I am not speaking of that. But the problem is, I was talking about something else, but as soon as a band and a crew and a producer and record company and all these male people get together, what do they do? They drag everything down to the lowest common denominator. So they just assume I was talking about the three choices you would have in a situation with a lady. My real concept behind ‘Three Lock Box’ is – in all honesty – I’m talking about spirit, the mental and the physical nature of a human being. If you have a key to all three of those things, then you’ve really found something.”
The song showed a deeper side of Hagar, one he would explore more in both future solo outings and when he took over as Van Halen's singer in 1985. There were still other early indicators on Three Lock Box's deeper cuts, like “I Wouldn’t Change a Thing,” “Going Up” and the dark and moody slant of “In the Room.”
Still, it wasn't all spiritual sensibility, and Hagar wasn’t above a bit of in-your-face honesty about his physical needs, evident on the closing track “I Don’t Need Love” where he not so subtly declares, “Hey, I'm just lookin' for some sex … yeah!" Some things never change.