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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)
Lita talks about how they wrote songs in The Runaways, and how she feels about her biggest hit being written by somebody else.
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash
The Wishbone Ash guitarist on how touring with The Who inspired one of their most enduring songs, and why they moved to America at the peak of their powers.