|Single by Van Halen|
|from the album 1984|
|Released||April 1984 (UK)|
June 18, 1984 (US) 
|Studio||5150, Hollywood, California|
|Van Halen singles chronology|
|Alternative cover art|
Despite its name, the song is not about the country. Instead, the song was reportedly written about a car. 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.
Roth wrote the song after being accused by a reporter of "singing about only women, partying, and fast cars". He realized he had never written a song about fast cars and decided to write one.
During the bridge of the song where Roth says "I can barely see the road from the heat comin' off," Eddie Van Halen can be heard revving his 1972 Lamborghini Miura S in the background. The car was backed up to the studio and microphones were attached to the exhaust pipe to record the sound for the song.
The music video for the song, directed by Pete Angelus, primarily features 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. Portions of it were filmed at the tour dates prior during performances at the Providence Civic Center in Providence, Rhode Island.
In popular culture
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. It is also featured in Superbad during a parking lot escapade with McLovin’.
The song is also featured as in-game music for the video game Gran Turismo 4, with the song prominently featured in the game intro.
- David Lee Roth – lead vocals
- Eddie Van Halen – guitar, backing vocals
- Alex Van Halen – drums
- Michael Anthony – bass guitar, backing vocals
|Australia (Kent Music Report)||74|
|Canada Top Singles (RPM)||15|
|UK Singles (OCC)||61|
|US Billboard Hot 100||13|
|US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)||2|
|US Hot Rock & Alternative Songs (Billboard)||12|
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The album also featured plenty of guitar-dominated heavy metal, such as "Hot for Teacher" and "Panama." which became hits in their own right.
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