If you grew up in the ’70s or ’80s and happen to have a passion for automobiles, you already know the story behind Van Halen’s ‘Panama’. If not, go on and open Spotify, listen to the track, and keep an ear out for the bridge toward the end of the song.
Done? Good. Anyway, the song was inspired by a race car named the Panama Express, and the revving sound you hear is emanating from the V12 engine of a ’72 Lamborghini Miura owned by legendary rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen, one of the band’s founders and one hell of a car guy.
Van Halen passed away earlier today at the age of 65 following a long battle with cancer.
While blasting an anthem featuring revs from a classic Lambo V12 is a rocking way for car nuts to pay tribute, we think looking back at the memories Van Halen left is just as proper—and less likely to piss off the neighbors, too.
In a story by Rolling Stone, fellow musician and Foreigner Guitarist Mick Jones revealed how he and the Van Halen boys used to kick back following recording sessions for the band’s 1986 album 5150.
Jones, who was producing 5150 at the time, shared that working on that album was a complete blast and that Eddie Van Halen was one of the nicest people he’s ever had the pleasure of working with.
“I remember Sammy [Hagar] told me, ‘Mick, we’ve worked with a lot of crazy people in our lives going back to the days of [the Small Faces’] Steve Marriott,’ but there was a certain madness that was going on up at 5150, and it was a little crazy. But those were the times when things were crazy, and I guess we were all willing to be a part of that,” Jones told Rolling Stone.
“But Eddie, from the moment I met him, was one of the sweetest people I’d ever met. He was just a great guy, very humble. No pretense or airs or anything or attitude. He was just a lovely guy.”
Part of the magic while working on the album was what took place after recording sessions: Races in supercars. Jones says he, Hagar, and Van Halen would take their rides down to Mulholland Drive after leaving the booth for some fun behind the wheel.
“We just had we had a good time together. We used to race cars after the sessions. We used to race a selection of high-end sports, racing cars and zoom along Mulholland,” he shared.
“I think he had a Lamborghini. I think Sammy had a red Ferrari. And I had a good old American car. And I have to say, I whipped him several times.”
No word on whether or not the Lamborghini Van Halen would race was the same one used in recording ‘Panama’, though. We lost one of the good ones today. Rest in peace, Eddie. You will be missed.