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Van Halen - Panama (1984)

  • Video Views 38,783,855
  • 80's Score 80's score: 1.2
  • Find this song on: Music Stack

“Panama” is a song by the American hard rock band Van Halen. It was the third single released from the album ...

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


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.

Panama was also the name of Roth’s Opel Kadett. 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.”

Roth wrote the song after being accused by a reporter of singing about only women, partying and fast cars. He realized he’d never actually 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,” guitarist 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 car seen in the music video is a heavily customized 1951 Mercury convertible – notably not “Panama Express”, the Opel or the Miura.

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.

Music video

The music video for the song, directed by Pete Angelus, features mostly on-stage performances by the band. The video was shot at Providence Civic Center in Providence, Rhode Island during a soundcheck and concert.

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