Tom Petty – Here Comes My Girl

This song was on Tom Petty’s third album Damn the Torpedoes.

This was written the same week as “Refugee.” Both songs started as demos written by Heartbreakers guitar player Mike Campbell on a 4-track recorder in his house…Petty liked both and they finished them off…not a bad week when you get these two songs. Petty later said the chorus was inspired by The Byrds.

The song peaked at #59 in the Billboard 100, #82 in Canada, and #41 in New Zealand in 1980. I would have bet that it charted higher than that.

Mike Campbell:  “It’s very similar to “Refugee” – those two were written the same week. I made some demos and Tom liked those two. “Here Comes My Girl” was interesting because we had the chorus and Tom wasn’t sure how to do the verse, he kept trying to sing it different ways and he finally came across sort of half-talking it, and that’s when the song seemed to come to life.”

Tom Petty: “I struggled with that song for a little while.” “I felt, ‘I have to learn this thing. I’m not going to let it get away from me. And then I got the idea for the narration. And once I started that, it started falling into place.”

From Songfacts

In this song, Petty keeps getting torched by a girl, but he keeps going back to her, as he can’t resist her charms when she’s near. He half-sings the verses, where he tells himself he can’t keep doing this. The chorus is full throated, reflecting his excitement when his girl comes by, making him forget all that other stuff he said about her.

In our interview with Mike Campbell, he explained: “‘Here Comes My Girl’ was interesting because we had the chorus and Tom wasn’t sure how to do the verse, he kept trying to sing it different ways and he finally came across sort of half-talking it, and that’s when the song seemed to come to life.”

Damn The Torpedoes was the first album the band released on a major label. Their first two albums came out on a small label called Shelter Records, which was acquired by MCA. After some legal maneuvering where Petty filed for bankruptcy and the label sued the band, MCA set up a label called Backstreet Records, which was dedicated to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. This didn’t end the tension between Petty and MCA. Petty held back the tapes for their next album, Hard Promises, when MCA tried to raise the price from $8.98 to $9.98. Petty won that battle and the album came out at the lower price.

The song predates MTV, but Petty still made a video for it, something few American bands did. Along with “Refugee,” the video was directed by John Goodhue and is simply footage of the band performing the song in a studio setting. Petty went on to deliver some incredibly innovative videos to MTV, earning him their Video Vanguard Award in 1994.

This plays on the series finale of The Office when Jim and Pam are dancing at Dwight and Angela’s wedding.

Here Comes My Girl

You know sometimes, I don’t know why
But this old town just seems so hopeless
I ain’t really sure, but it seems I remember the good times
Were just a little bit more in focus

But when she puts her arms around me
I can somehow rise above it
Yeah, man when I got that little girl standin’ right by my side
You know, I can tell the whole wide world to shove it, hey

Here comes my girl
Here comes my girl
Yeah, and she looks so right, she is all I need tonight

Every now and then I down to the end of the day
And I have to stop and ask myself why I’ve done it
It just seems so useless to have to work so hard
And nothin’ ever really seems to come from it

But then she looks me in the eye and says
We’re gonna last forever
And man, you know I can’t begin to doubt it
No, ’cause it just feels so good and so free and so right
I know we ain’t never goin’ to change our minds about it hey

Here comes my girl
Here comes my girl
Yeah, and she looks so right, she is all I need tonight (watch her walk)

Every time it seems like there ain’t nothin’ left no more
I find myself having to reach out and grab hold of something
Yeah, I just catch myself wondering, waiting, worrying
About some silly little things that don’t add up to nothin’

But then she looks me in the eye and says
We’re gonna last forever
And man, you know I can’t begin to doubt it
No, ’cause it just feels so good and so free and so right
I know we ain’t never gonna’ to change our minds about it, hey

Here comes my girl
Here comes my girl
Yeah, and she looks so right, she is all I need tonight

Tom Petty – Refugee

The album Damn The Torpedos broke Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to the masses.

In the US, Damn The Torpedoes was a big success and helped the band grow a huge audience. The album peaked at #2 in the Billboard 100, held out of #1 by Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

The song peaked at #15 in the Billboard 100, #2 in Canada, and #3 in New Zealand in 1980.

Tom Petty: “This was a reaction to the pressures of the music business. I wound up in a huge row with the record company when ABC Records tried to sell our contract to MCA Records without us knowing about it, despite a clause in our contract that said they didn’t have the right to do that. I was so angry with the whole system that I think that had a lot to do with the tone of the Damn the Torpedoes album. I was in this defiant mood. I wasn’t so conscious of it then, but I can look back and see what was happening. I find that’s true a lot. It takes some time usually before you fully understand what’s going on in a song – or maybe what led up to it.”

 

From Songfacts

Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell wrote the music and Petty added the lyrics. In a Songfacts interview with Campbell, he told us about the recording process: “That was a hard record to make. It was a 4-track that I made at my house. Tom wrote over the music as it was, no changes, but it took us forever to actually cut the track. We just had a hard time getting the feel right. We must have recorded that 100 times. I remember being so frustrated with it one day that – I think this is the only time I ever did this – I just left the studio and went out of town for two days. I just couldn’t take the pressure anymore, but then I came back and when we regrouped we were actually able to get it down on tape.”

Mike Campbell:  “When we were at the studio mixing it, I remember this one girl who was working in reception, she came in and heard the mix and she said, ‘That’s a hit, that’s a hit,’ and we looked at each other and said, ‘Maybe it is.’ You don’t always know. Sometimes you think certain things are surefire and people just don’t latch on to them and other things they do. You know when it’s good or not, but you don’t always know if it’s a hit. A hit record a lot of times is more than just the song, it’s the timing, the climate you put it out in, what people are listening to and what they’re expecting to hear and if it touches a nerve at a certain time.”

Campbell and Petty teamed up to write many of the band’s songs, including “Here Comes My Girl,” “Jammin’ Me,” and “You Got Lucky.” Mike also wrote the music for Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” and “The Heart Of The Matter.” When we asked him what was his favorite song he’s written, he said: “Refugee always makes me happy. Maybe because it was so hard to get on the tape, there was a time when I thought it would never come out, that we just can’t do it. It always sounds like it really captured a moment. If I had to pick one favorite, I’d probably pick that first.”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed this in 1979 on their first Saturday Night Live appearance, where they also played “Don’t Do Me Like That.”

The band closed out their Live Aid set at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia with “Refugee.” The massive 1985 benefit concert was also staged in London the same day.

The band shot a music video for this song because they didn’t want to appear on The Merv Griffin Show in person. It did the trick, and the video aired on the show, allowing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to promote the song without showing up. This was the only place they thought the video would air, but when MTV launched in 1981, it got lots of play on the network, which craved rock videos from American artists. The band became one of the most popular acts on MTV, feeding the network with cinematic productions for songs like “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and “Free Fallin’.”

During a Twitter Q&A in December 2011, Petty disclosed that Melissa Etheridge doing “Refugee” was the best cover of the song he ever heard. Etheridge’s version was recorded for her 2005 compilation album, Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled.

Refugee

We did somethin’ we both know it
We don’t talk too much about it
Ain’t no real big secret all the same
Somehow we get around it
Listen it don’t really matter to me baby
You believe what you want to believe
You see you don’t have to live like a refugee (don’t have to live like a refugee)

Somewhere, somehow somebody
Must have kicked you around some
Tell me why you want to lay there
And revel in your abandon
Honey, it don’t make no difference to me baby
Everybody’s had to fight to be free
You see you don’t have to live like a refugee (don’t have to live like a refugee)
Now baby you don’t have to live like a refugee (don’t have to live like a refugee)

Baby we ain’t the first
I’m sure a lot of other lover’s been burned
Right now this seems real to you
But it’s one of those things
You gotta feel to be true

Somewhere, somehow somebody
Must have kicked you around some
Who knows, maybe you were kidnapped
Tied up, taken away and held for ransom
It don’t really matter to me
Everybody’s had to fight to be free
You see you don’t have to live like a refugee (don’t have to live like a refugee)
I said you don’t have to live like a refugee (don’t have to live like a refugee)
You don’t have to live like a refugee (don’t have to live like a refugee), ah , ah