Panic is a single by British alternative band The Smiths. The track was released by Rough Trade Records as a non-album single in 1986, reaching number 11 in the UK Singles Chart. This was the first of 2 singles featuring rhythm guitarist Craig Gannon.
The Smiths recorded "Panic" at London's Livingston Studios in May 1986. It was the group's first recording sessions since they completed work on their third album The Queen Is Dead six months earlier. During the interim period, bassist Andy Rourke had been fired due to his heroin addiction. The band hired Craig Gannon to replace him, but after they rehired Rourke, guitarist Johnny Marr offered Gannon a position as rhythm guitarist.
The now five-piece band worked with producer John Porter at Livingston Studios; this was his first work with the group in two years. Porter added several layers of tracks by guitarists Marr and Gannon. Porter was concerned that the song was too short, so he copied the band's first take from 5 May and spliced a repetition of the first verse at the end to increase its length. The group opted to leave the song as they originally structured it however.
A story circulated as the basis for the song is that days before recording the song, Marr and Morrissey were listening to BBC Radio One when a news report announced the Chernobyl disaster. Straight afterwards, disc jockey Steve Wright played the song "I'm Your Man" by pop duo Wham!. "I remember actually saying, 'What the fuck does this got to do with people's lives?'" Marr recalled. "We hear about Chernobyl, then, seconds later, we're expected to jump around to 'I'm Your Man'". While Marr subsequently stated that the account was exaggerated, he commented that it was a likely influence on Morrissey's lyrics. The band even commissioned a t-shirt featuring Wright's portrait and the phrase "Hang the DJ!"
Journalist Nick Kent described "Panic" as a mandate for "rock terrorism". Musically, the song is based around a rotation between the G and E minor chords that mimicks "Metal Guru" by the glam rock band T.Rex. The song begins with Morrissey mentioning chaos unravelling throughout Britain (specifically naming locales such as Dundee, Carlisle and Humberside). In the second part of the song, Morrissey reveals that the source of this chaos is pop music, which in his words "Says nothing to me about my life". In reaction, Morrissey implores listeners to "Burn down the disco" and "hang the DJ", the latter lyrics repeated with the addition of a chorus of schoolchildren. Morrissey considered the fact that the song appeared on daytime British radio a "tiny revolution" in its own way, as it aired amongst the very music it criticised.