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Panama by Van Halen

Album: 1984Released: 1984Charted:
13
61
Get some Geography in the Panama Songplaces
  • Panama is a country in Central America famous for its canal, but it has nothing to do with the song. The lyrics are about a stripper David Lee Roth met in Arizona. As he explained on The Howard Stern Show, the song came about after an interview Roth gave in the early '80s; the interviewer accused him of only writing lyrics about sex, drugs, and fast cars. Sometime either during or after the interview, Diamond Dave realized he'd never actually written a song about fast cars, so he started working on the lyrics to "Panama," which he later admitted in another interview that, as it turns out, he had been writing about a stripper he knew without realizing it. The finished lyrics were inspired by both the stripper and the car. (thanks, Ryan - Eaton, IN)
  • There is a Top Fuel car called "Panama" that appears in the video. (thanks, john - New York, NY)
  • In the video, Michael Anthony played a bass shaped like a bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey, which the company custom made for him. This was a product placement coup, since MTV had a strict policy against advertising within videos - they made ZZ Top remove a shot of Schlitz beer from one of their clips before they would air it. By integrating the product into Anthony's bass, there was no good way to remove it, and MTV wasn't about to turn down a Van Halen video in 1984.
  • This was one of the first songs recorded at Eddie Van Halen's 5150 studios. "5150" is California police code for a mentally unstable person causing a disturbance.
  • The album cover, which showed a baby on the cover smoking a cigarette, caused a bit of controversy. Some UK record stores refused to stock it.
  • This was one of the last Van Halen songs recorded with David Lee Roth as lead singer. He was replaced by Sammy Hagar in 1986.
  • Some of the scenes in the video where David Lee Roth is doing fun stuff like riding in a convertible, was footage shot for the "Jump" video but not used. Both videos were co-directed by Pete Angelus, who also did "Hot For Teacher."
  • This song is used in the intro video for the driving video game Gran Turismo 4. It is also used during gameplay. (thanks, Sean - Round Rock, TX)
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Comments: 42

I'm Panamanian, but this song have nothing to do with my country Panamá. Back in 1984, I was 14 year old rock brat when this song hit the radio stations and I love it from the first time (since my first record bought was VH Diver Down). There is many histories involved with this song, so I think must be taken to the point of poll, voting or discuss. During guitar solo there is a bridge where you can hear the motorbreathing (between 2'45 and 2'50 minutes) of the Eddie Van Halen's Ferrari you can hear it twice when pump the pedal to accelerate it. ["...Yeah, we're runnin' a little bit hot tonight
I can barely see the road from the heat comin' off
You know what I'm sayin'
Ahh, I reach down between my legs n' ease the seat back"]

It is about a Ferrari called Panama and and backseat sex with a stunning stripper. David Lee Roth wears like a sailor doing pole dancing using a Panama Hat on the video that also put on the map the myth that the Van Halen brother have during that time a yatch called "Panama".
Lionel Ulloa - Panama, Panama
The song Panama is about David Lee Roth's special "Panama Enema" that he administers to lucky male house guests. Listen to the lyrics, and you can clearly see what I am talking about.Tj - Boston, Ma
I dont remember where I read it or heard it, but it is definentely about a car. He was sitting at a race way when he came up with the idea for the song/or wrote it, dont remember which one. Part of being a good song writer is being able to manipulate words so that more people can relate to the song, therefore a bigger audienceMiles - Cheyenne, Wy
i dont give a damn what you guys think, this is a cool song no matter what the overall meaning!Charlie - Las Vegas, Nv
I always thought that "don't you know she's coming home with me" meant that the person racing was racing in a contest to win a car or is racing in a street race trying to win on a bet. like it's two people talking to each other

first person: don't you know she's coming home with me?"

second person: you'll loose her in the turn.

just a thought
Jesse - Bob, Aruba
I love this song, especially the chorus. PANAMA!!!Crizzle - Rincon, Ga
Great rocker!Daevid - Glendale, Ca
Sexy song. Van Halen rocks.Austin - Bristow, Va
After this song came out in the Eighties, I heard David Lee Roth in a radio interview say that he was always beeing accused of writing songs about cars, but he never wrote one. So, Panama was his first song about a car that was named Panama. This is exactly how David explained it.Sharkman - Livonia, Mi
5150 is the California Welfare and Institutions Code Section for an Involuntary Psychiatric Hold. Maybe you have seen the verb as in "Brittany Spears was recently 5150'ed"George - Gorgetownn, Barbados
Panama? Little drug runner plane in the beginning of the video, DLR flying across the stage seconds later? COCAINE!!! I mean, come on, it the was the early eighties. Even PTA moms in some of the posher suburbs in America did that stuff. In the video, three of the guys even slide down white poles- lines, rails, what have you. And all the racing, speeding imagery, well yea, if you've done coke, you know what that's all about. And the sex and booze? Well that just makes the high even better! If it were about weed, Van Halen would be all fat and laying around like the Grateful Dead, not jumping and doing high kicks! This is the early eighties, alll about amphetamines.Ohlala - Washington Dc, Dc
I just heard this song on superbad and now im hooked on van halen, awesome stuff.Sam - Thompsons, Tx
It's a asong about sex, drugs, cars and rock 'n roll. That is what VH, and especially DLR, were all about in their early days.Homzd - O-town, Nv
sorry i accidently posted that twice. + i ment to say: sporty, not sportJay - Jackson, Ms
Guys listen up, its about Eddies sport new car called panamaJay - Jackson, Ms
....Riiiiight, it's about weed...whatever. I'm more inclined to think he's using the car as a metaphor for a woman rather than for weed. And if it is just an insinuation for sex, it's a pretty good one I must say.Tarrah - Kingsville, Canada
I first herd this song in GT4 and it got me into Van Halen. VH kicks ass.Seth - New Kensington, Pa
This is a song on a video game Gran Turismo 4. it is playing in the intro also.Chris - Mansfield, Tx
Alrighty people listen up this song is about a guy singing how hes gonna get the hottest girl around in bed tonight while racing other guys.Jenni - Regina, Canada
Ok... here's the deal minions... Diamond Dave himself said in an interview after the album came out that it's simply about one of his classic cars: a candy-apple-red 1951 Mercury Low Rider... which one of his childhood friends used to drool over (and sometimes drive) when Dave didn't feel like driving it around town. So NO it's NOT about strippers, pot, or anything else!Waldo - Calumet City, Il
This song is about palindromes. "A man, a plan, a canal - Panama!"Liquid Len - Ottawa, Canada
sounds like a Racing song to me.

"Don't ya know she's coming home with me
You'll lose her in that turn
I'll get her!"

ever hear the term "pink slip"? this is racing, all the way.

high energy, loud stadium sound, God i love this band
Robert - Myrtle Beach, Sc
What led anyone to believe the song is about marijuana? The song has no references to delusions and the sound doesn't have the slightest inkling of a feeling of psychedelia.

The name of the album was "1984".
Fred - New York, Ny
ok......I never actually listened to the lyrics, I just love the whole tune and the music, it's catchy. Hmmm....maybe now i've read these comments of it being about a stripper I won't be able to enjoy it as much.Olivia - Perth, Australia
I always thought it was about sex. But that's not the only interpretation.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
No its about sex. You just proved it yourself. It says through my bedroom. It also says reach down between my legs. Now, what does that have to do with a car? It uses metaphors of the car to describe the girl and how they have intercourse. And she's coming home with me, that also is what it means.John - Wall, Nj
hmm...."Here she comes, full blast and TOP DOWN"

yeah, top down on a convertible, i know, but i dont think the stripper idea is far off, this song could be interpreted in a couple different ways.
Ryan - Ray, Mi
this is great but i like "Jump" better, i dont know why this one is more popularPhil - Niagara Falls, Canada
It is about the marijuana bud called panama red. ITs all about smoking weed.High - Ct, Ct
I know what this song is really about. David Lee Roth read in a magazine that all he wrote songs about were sex, cars, and parties. But he realized that he had never written a song about cars. So one day at the drag strip he was inspiried to write this song after a car was named " Panama ". Even check the classic VH web site.Steve - Oroville, Ca
This song was an huge part of a plot on the Drew Carey Show. The character of Mimi played this song over and over again to annoy Drew.Julian - Oakland, Ar
Definitely about sex. David had a one track mind huh?Tim - Dupont, Wa
Heard Dave Lee Roth used to jump all around the stage while they performed this song. I'm not too big a fan of Van Halen, but I love this song!Alec - Sewell, Nj
This song is great! Heard it in concert, people go crazy over this song.Tom - St. Louis, Mo
I always thought this song was about a motorcycle. Just look at the lyrics. Am I right, people?Kurt - Downers Grove, Il
Like the Songfacts say, I'm pretty sure the song's about a stripper. Just look at the lyrics...he's singing about a woman.Billy - Pittsburgh, Pa
Their song amsterdam mentions panama redNate - Buffalo, Ny
Following the guitar solo before the hook the noises you hear are Eddies Lamborghini being revved.Rob - Bayonne, Nj
seems like a sex metaphor to me not weedJason - Wylie, Tx
Ironically this song was covered by gospel singer Pat Boone :it's on his album "In a metal mood".Travis - Blicksburg, Va
No, it's about sex (get it, canal?).Brett - Edmonton, Canada
this song is about panama red...a dank type of marijuanaLee - Durham, Nc