Van Halen fans are well aware of the different eras of the band - the classic era featuring lead singer David Lee Roth, the "Van Hagar" period with Sammy Hagar, and the less successful lineup with former Extreme singer Gary Cherone. But many fans are unaware that for a brief period, it seemed likely that well-respected AOR singer Mitch Malloy would take over for Hagar as Van Halen's lead singer. Some previously lost audio from Malloy's audition has surfaced online, featuring him jamming with the members of Van Halen on "Panama."
The informal recording took place at Van Halen's 5150 studio in 1996, according to UltimateClassicRock. It's interesting to hear Malloy - whose voice is closer to that of Sammy Hagar than David Lee Roth - performing on the track, which is a glimpse of what might have been.
Had he landed the gig, he might have needed a lyric sheet; Malloy doesn't appear to know all of the words to the iconic "Yeah, we're runnin' a little bit hot tonight" voiceover. But it's still a rockin' version of the song, which the band members were apparently happy with; after it ends, they can be heard laughing and cutting up, with somebody saying, "That was fun!"
Melodic Rock reports that after three days of hanging out and jamming with Van Halen, Malloy was offered the job by the band, but their management instead insisted on Gary Cherone - which ushered in the relatively ill-fated "Van Halen III" era.