Panama (song)

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"Panama"
Van Halen - Panama (US).png
Single by Van Halen
from the album 1984
B-side
  • "Drop Dead Legs" (US)
  • "Girl Gone Bad" (UK)
ReleasedJune 18, 1984 (1984-06-18) (US) [1]
Recorded1983
Studio5150, Hollywood, California
Genre
Length3:31
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Ted Templeman
Van Halen singles chronology
"I'll Wait"
(1984)
"Panama"
(1984)
"Hot for Teacher"
(1984)
Audio
"Panama" on YouTube
Music video
"Panama" on YouTube
Alternative cover art
European release
European release

"Panama" is a song by the American rock band Van Halen. It was the third single released from the album 1984.

Background[edit]

The song was reportedly written about a car.[8] In an interview with Howard Stern, lead singer David Lee Roth explained the meaning behind the 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.[9]

Panama was also the name of Roth's Opel Kadett.[10] He had the hood and bumper mounted in his hallway, which can be seen in his video for "SHOOBop". He has a taxidermized deer's behind crashing through the front windshield. A plaque underneath reads, "Your First Deer, courtesy of Panama."

Roth wrote the song after being accused by a reporter of singing about only women, partying, and fast cars. He realized he'd never written a song about fast cars, and decided to write one.[11]

During the bridge of the song where Roth says "I can barely see the road from the heat comin' off," guitarist Eddie Van Halen can be heard revving his 1972 Lamborghini Miura S in the background.[12] The car was backed up to the studio and microphones were attached to the exhaust pipe to record the sound for the song.[8]

The song is in the key of E major, having a moderate rock common time tempo of 144 beats per minute.[13]

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song, directed by Pete Angelus, features mostly on-stage performances by the band. The bulk of the video was shot at The Spectrum in Philadelphia over two nights both during the show and at soundcheck.[14] Portions of it were filmed at the tour dates prior during performances at the Providence Civic Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

The car shown in the music video is a heavily customized 1951 Mercury Eight convertible - notably not "Panama Express", the Opel or the Miura.

At 1'41" a pop poster by Milton Glaser (File:Milton Glaser WOR-1965.jpg) is featured on the wall by the left of the piano at which EVH is seated while blowing rings of smoke with his mouth. The poster resembled the art of Heinz Edelmann who was involved in the Yellow Submarine (film) and was the inspiration for the cover of the later 1989 LP Oranges & Lemons (album) by XTC.

Reception[edit]

Chuck Klosterman of Vulture.com ranked it the fourth-best Van Halen song, calling it the "strongest pure riff in the catalogue."[15]

In popular culture[edit]

The song was used in season 4 episode 15 of The Drew Carey Show, when Mimi Bobeck tried to drive Drew Carey from his house using bright lights and the song Panama on loop for three consecutive days.

The St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball play the song after home wins at Busch Stadium.

The song is featured in the racing game Gran Turismo 4, included in the North American release and is played during the game's opening movie.[16]

The song was prominently featured in "Coma Guy," a 2020 episode of the animated TV series Family Guy, in which Peter mistakes the album 1984 for a book-on-CD of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and becomes addicted to the song.[17]

This song was also featured in the 2007 Judd Apatow film "Superbad".

Personnel[edit]

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1984–85) Peak
position
Australia (Kent Music Report)[18] 74
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[19] 15
Irish Singles Chart[20] 30
UK Singles Charts 64
US Billboard Hot 100[21] 13
Chart (2020) Peak
position
US Hot Rock & Alternative Songs (Billboard)[22] 12

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Eddie Van Halen Spotted in 1972 Lamborghini Used in "Panama"". VHND. Retrieved May 14, 2016.
  2. ^ "The Ultimate Hair Metal Party Playlist". Kerrang!. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
  3. ^ Popoff, Martin (2014). The Big Book of Hair Metal. Voyageur Press. p. 58. ISBN 9781627883757.
  4. ^ Sleazegrinder (December 4, 2015). "The 20 Best Hair Metal Anthems Of All Time Ever". loudersound. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  5. ^ Masley, Ed. "Best '80s pop-metal songs, from Def Leppard to Poison". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved February 24, 2021.
  6. ^ Bukszpan, Daniel; Dio, Ronnie James (2003). The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal. Barnes & Noble Publishing. ISBN 9780760742181. The album also featured plenty of guitar-dominated heavy metal, such as "Hot for Teacher" and "Panama." which became hits in their own right.
  7. ^ Jon Wiederhorn (January 9, 2016). "Van Halen 1984 anniversary". Loudwire. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  8. ^ a b classicvanhalen.com - 1984
  9. ^ The Super Book of Useless Information: The Most Powerfully Unnecessary Things You Never Need to Know. Amazon. A Pedigree Book. October 4, 2011. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  10. ^ The Super Book of Useless Information: The Most Powerfully Unnecessary Things You Never Need to Know. A Pedigree Book. October 4, 2011. ISBN 978-0399536960.
  11. ^ Kielty, Martin. "35 Years Ago: Van Halen Release 'Panama,' Their Last Roth-Era Hit". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  12. ^ "Eddie Van Halen Smithsonian talk (full Interview, 2-12-2015) HD". Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  13. ^ Van Halen Guitar Anthology. Van Nuys, California: Alfred. 2006. pp. 154–61. ISBN 9780897246729. OCLC 605214049.
  14. ^ Christopher, Michael. Ultimate Classic Rock '1984': A Track-By-Track Guide https://ultimateclassicrock.com/van-halen-1984-track-by-track/ '1984': A Track-By-Track Guide Check |url= value (help). Retrieved February 28, 2021. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ Klosterman, Chuck (October 6, 2020). "All 131 Van Halen Songs, Ranked From Worst to Best A look back at the band's formidable legacy". Vulture.com. Retrieved October 9, 2020.
  16. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zb8rbEmCn90. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ Trapp, Philip (April 29, 2020). "Van Halen's 'Panama' Featured in 'Family Guy,' Puts Peter Griffin in Coma". Loudwire. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  18. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  19. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 6820." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
  20. ^ "The Irish Charts". irishcharts.ie. Retrieved February 27, 2010.
  21. ^ "Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Retrieved February 27, 2010.
  22. ^ "Van Halen Chart History (Hot Rock & Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved October 13, 2020.

External links[edit]