Panama (3:31)

Cover of 1984

From 1984 and 35 other releases

“Panama” is a song from Van Halen’s highly successful album 1984. It was the third single released from that record and is one of their most recognized songs.

The song was written about a car. According to David Lee Roth this was because critics accused him of writing about nothing more than partying, sex, and automobiles but Roth realized that he had yet to write a song about cars. 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”, hence the title of the song.

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. 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, features mostly on-stage antics by the band. It heavily uses shots of band members flying through the air attached to a cable. During the breakdown, David Lee Roth is seen sword dancing and ribbon dancing. Bassist Michael Anthony’s Jack Daniel whiskey bottle guitar is also seen.

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