Which Van Halen songs do you think should have gone to number one but didn’t? If you said “Panama” you’re in good company.
The Professor of Rock hosts a series of videos devoted to the greatest classic rock artists of all time. In his most recent episode (above) he makes the argument for “Panama” as being the Van Halen song that should have topped the charts.
“‘Panama’, the third single from ‘1984’, should have been their second number one hit from the album,” said The Professor, who noted that the song came after the release of the band’s only number one single – “Jump”. “Once you heard ‘Panama’ the song’s buzz saw one word chorus rings in your head forever!”
“Panama” was released on June 18th, 1984 and reached #13 on the US Billboard Hot 100. As The Professor mentioned, it was the third single from the ‘1984’ album with “I’ll Wait” (also a #13 single) and the chart-topping “Jump” coming before it.
The Professor goes on to break down the story behind “Panama” while continuing to support his argument.
“‘Panama’ is unmistakably…undeniably…about HEAT,” he said. “The heat of passion, the heat of an advancing tryst, the heat of a dopamine need for speed which, really, was what the decade of the 1980s pretty much ran on 24/7 if you think about it. And the BLINDING heat of the open road as DLR narrates in the bridge of the song, ‘I can barely see the road from the heat comin’ off of it.. Love that.”
“It is in THAT riveting segment of the song that the late Eddie Van Halen cranks up more than just the blazing guitar licks from his Kramer 5150,” The Professor continues. “During the bridge Eddie can be heard revving his 1972 Lamborghini Miura S. The perfect guitar for the perfect guitarist.”
“‘Panama’ is one of the most thrilling rock and roll joy rides ever recorded and most assuredly number one in our hearts,” he concludes.
Later in the video The Professor talks with Skid Row guitarist Dave “Snake” Sabo to get his thoughts on the song “Panama” and Eddie Van Halen.
“I’ve never seen another guitar player that made something so complicated seem so effortless,” said Sabo. “That guitar was truly an extension of his spirit and his soul. Everything he felt within him he was able to articulate through the guitar. And through his songwriting. He doesn’t get enough credit as a songwriter because his guitar playing is just otherworldly. He doesn’t enough credit as a great, great songwriter.”