Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"Panama" by Van Halen

Song#:  1955
Date:  06/23/1984
Debut:  52
Peak:  13
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Over time, Van Halen's 1978 self-titled debut album would be a diamond seller (10 million). It was bookended by their second diamond LP 1984, which was their last album before David Lee Roth left the band. The difference between the two albums is that Van Halen featured no major Pop chart hits (the best was "You Really Got Me," which reached #36), while 1984 would have a string of them that included the #1 "Jump" and this third single. Skipping the synths for this song, the guitar-driven tune was more in-line with their past efforts and it rocked right up to #2 on the Rock chart. It was also received well at Pop and became their fifth Top 20 hit.

ReduxReview:  Although this song was more similar to their classic Van Halen sound, it still had a great lean towards commercial rock. The guitars are crunchy as hell, Alex's drumming is spot-on, and Roth's vocals are appropriately cocky and smarmy without being over the top. I love the quiet bridge that leads up to the last explosion of chorus. It's a big shot of rock adrenaline and one of their best singles.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) By most accounts, this song is either about a car or a stripper - or both. The Panama in the song is not the country, but apparently refers to a car. There are possibly two cars involved. The first one was David Lee Roth's 1969 Opel Kadett Caravan, of which the front end is on display in his house. The second was a race car that Roth saw in Vegas named the Panama Express. Apparently, Roth wrote the lyrics about one or both of the cars. Later on, he realized the lyrics were also about a stripper he once met in Arizona. Either way, it seemed to work out fine. However, the car that is actually featured in the "Panama" video is neither. It was Roth's own red '51 Mercury that was named "California Girl."  2) During the bridge of the song, you can hear a revving engine while Roth recites a few lines of lyrics. The car that provided the sound was not one of Roth's vehicles, but the one owned by Eddie Van Halen. Wanting an engine sound for the track, Van Halen backed up his 1972 Lamborghini Miura S to the studio and microphones were place on the exhaust pipe. Van Halen revved up the car and the sound was recorded. Van Halen still owns the car and will drive it around on occasion.


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