Mitch Malloy will always hold a distinct place in rock history as the almost-frontman of Van Halen. Now the singer has further detailed his brief tenure with the group and his negative reaction to the songs for Van Halen III.
In 1996, following the departure of Sammy Hagar, Malloy was linked to Van Halen by their respective managers. Impressed with the singer’s work, the band decided to fly him from Nashville to Los Angeles for an audition. “When I pulled up [to the studio], the band was lined up waiting for me,” Malloy recalled in a conversation with Rolling Stone. “So I get out and they’re standing there. There’s Van Halen there to greet their new singer. It was frickin’ awesome.”
The first day was something of a get-to-know-you session, with Malloy jamming out with the band on some of its best-known hits. “It was amazing, because, of course, they sounded exactly like Van Halen, because they are," he said. "And they were playing through the studio where they made their records. So basically, it’s almost like a Van Halen record coming at you through those speakers. So for me, the adrenaline was like, 'Oh, my God.' I don’t think I was actually touching the ground.”
The next day, Malloy returned to the studio where Eddie Van Halen played him some demos for the band’s upcoming album, which would eventually become Van Halen III. The singer’s response was far from enthusiastic. “My reaction to it wasn’t really that positive. Not in the sense where I said anything bad, because I’m not completely stupid,” Malloy admitted. Still, the rocker couldn’t hide his feelings toward the music. “I can’t really fake it. So if you play me some music that I’m not attracted to … I just wasn’t hearing it. I didn’t get it. He didn’t play me anything that I was excited about.”
According to Malloy, Eddie Van Halen welcomed him back to the studio on the third day and told him he was in the band. Following a moment of understandable jubilation, the singer was given another new song idea. Once again, he was unimpressed.
“They had the music for ‘It’s the Right Time,’ but it wasn’t ‘It’s the Right Time,'" he recalled. "It was a just really, really bad song. [Eddie had] written it with two amazingly talented people, Glen Ballard and Desmond Child. You would think that this is going to be an amazing song. Well, it wasn’t a good song; it was a bad song.”
Malloy recorded vocals over the demo. Then, at Eddie’s suggestion, he took the tracks home, along with another unfinished song idea, and rewrote the tune. “I completely trashed what they had and started over.," he noted. "All I used was what Ed wrote. I didn’t use the melody, the phrasing, nothing of what they had written. So that ended up being 'It’s the Right Time.'”
Listen to Mitch Malloy's Unreleased Van Halen Song 'It's the Right Time'
Despite several days working together in the studio, Malloy and Van Halen would never fully connect. When the band appeared with erstwhile singer David Lee Roth at the MTV Music Awards in September 1996, Malloy knew he’d never feel accepted in the group.
“That moment that Roth walked out behind them, I knew it was over," Malloy confessed. "I am not going to be in Van Halen.”
Though Malloy has no regrets regarding his brief Van Halen tenure, the singer’s view on Van Halen III’s song has not changed in the decades since its release. “I listened to Van Halen III once,” the singer admitted. “I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now.”