Drumming I Love – Van Halen, “Panama”

I’m not going to lie – I didn’t used to like Van Halen very much.

I don’t know what it was.  Maybe it was their frat boy image or the fact I had heard “Jump” approximately 670 times a year on the classic rock stations.  But for a long time, I dismissed them.

I first started coming around in late 2009, when my interest in drumming began to bloom.  I heard “Everybody Wants Some!!” on the radio and really dug the tribal beats.  After that, I started paying more attention to the band. I don’t want to say I started appreciating them more after I started drumming, even though that’s what happened.  That sounds really pretentious, right?  And I mean, let’s face it – their songs are either about sex, partying, or a combination of the two.  It’s not math rock.  But even if the lyrical content can be a little lowbrow at times (“Dig that steam/giant butt”), the musicianship is really top-notch.  I think that’s what I was ignoring for a long time, and it’s not something I really appreciated until I started drumming.

I bought the first album later that year and became more of a fan.  But I didn’t hear their seminal album 1984 in its entirety until earlier this year.  I mean, their most popular singles comprise at least half of that album.  I’ve heard “Panama,” “Jump,” “Hot for Teacher” and “I’ll Wait” countless times before.  But as I listened to the album, I revisited each of these songs with a clean slate, as if I were really hearing them for the first time.

It’s amazing what approaching a song with a fresh attitude can do.  “Panama” used to be one of my least favorite Van Halen songs, but now I love it.  The guitar riff is pretty sexy, but you know what sold me? Alex Van Halen’s drumming.  And I know you may find this surprising.  There’s nothing technical about the drum part for this song.  (It’s definitely no “Hot For Teacher.”)

But sometimes the simplest beats and fills are the best.  You know what my favorite section of the drum part is for this song?

Those tom hits right before the chorus – I LOVE THEM.  And I don’t know why I love them so much.  I think because the beat evokes so much fun and a wild sense of abandon – I really just want to jam this song with the guys, or play this at a party.

I return to drum lessons next month; I think this song will be at the top of my list to learn.


2 thoughts on “Drumming I Love – Van Halen, “Panama”

  1. “classic rock” (turns up nose). I bought this Cassette when IT CAME OUT. And probably nearly wore it out! Can’t remember if I saw them just once or twice, but pretty sure it was Van Hagar and not Van Halen, still good stuff. Still Eddie and Alex. Even Michael was good on bass. (listen to Chickenfoot).

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