"Panama" is a song from Van Halen's album 1984. It was the third single released from that record and is one of their most recognized songs.


 [hide*1 Background


The song was reportedly written about a car.[1] According to David Lee Roth this was because critics accused him of writing about nothing more than partyingsex, and cars, but Roth realized that he had yet to write a song about cars.[citation needed] In an interview with Howard Stern, Roth explained the meaning behind the trademark song. Although the song features some suggestive lyrics, it is about a car that Roth saw race in Las Vegas; its name was "Panama Express", hence the title of the song.[citation needed] This, however, is contradictory to a previous remark made by Roth during a backstage interview during Van Halen's 1985 tour. There was no mention of the song being about a car and not more of the usual Van Halen material.

Panama was the name of Roth's car.[citation needed] He had the hood and bumper mounted in his hallway, which can be seen in his video for "SHOOBop". He has a stuffed deer's behind crashing through the front windshield. A plaque underneath reads, "Your First deer, courtesy of PANAMA."

During the bridge of the song where Roth says "I can barely see the road from the heat comin' off of it," guitarist Eddie Van Halen can be heard revving his Lamborghini in the background.[1] The car was backed up to the studio and microphones were attached to the exhaust pipe to record the sound for the song.

Music video[edit]Edit

The music video for the song, directed by Pete Angelus, features mostly on-stage antics by the band.[2] It heavily uses shots of band members flying through the air attached to a cable. During the breakdown, Roth is seen sword dancing and ribbon dancing. Bassist Michael Anthony's Jack Daniel's whiskey bottle bass guitar is also seen.


Cover versions[edit]Edit

Pat Boone recorded a swing version of the song in his 1997 album In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy.

Eddie Van Halen played an instrumental version on Late Night with David Letterman.[3]

The Smashing Pumpkins also released a cover of the song in their Live Smashing Pumpkins album series.

The band re-recorded the song for the video game Guitar Hero: Van Halen.

Christian parody band ApologetiX did a spoof of the song called "Santa Claus".

The band Bloodhound Gang sometime covered the bridge of the song during live performances of "Kiss Me Where It Smells Funny", while doing so, singer Jimmy Pop would drop his pants and rub his genitals, saying "I feel like fucking Van Halen!", and continue speaking the lyrics.[4]

In June 2012 Seattle-based comedian and musician Reggie Watts recorded a live a cappella version with looped vocals for The A.V. Club's A.V. Undercover series.[5]

In popular culture[edit]Edit

"Panama" is featured in the opening title for the American version of the PlayStation 2 game Gran Turismo 4 (along with part of "Moon Over The Castle") and in the film Superbad.

"Panama" is used as introduction music for the conservative talk show The Mike Gallagher Show.

"Panama" is featured in the episode "A House Reunited" of The Drew Carey Show. Thanks to a crooked land deal and refusing to move from what is left of his house to make way for a mall, Drew is subjected to a campaign of harassment conducted by Mimi, with blinding lights pointed at the house and "Panama" blasted (on repeat) in his direction.[6]

"Panama" was one of the requested songs for Operation Just Cause, and subsequently, Operation Nifty Package. "Panama" was reportedly one of the songs played outside Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See in order to coax Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega, for capture.[7]

Chart positions[edit]Edit

Chart (1984) Peak


Irish Singles Chart[8] 30
UK Singles Charts[9] 64
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[10] 13
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