Tom Petty – Don’t Do Me Like That

This song was on the great Damn the Torpedos album that was Petty’s breakthrough album. Petty wrote this after his first group Mudcrutch moved from Florida to Los Angeles in 1974.

Tom Petty was going to give the song to The J. Geils Band because he thought it had their sound. (Petty and the Heartbreakers had opened for the J. Geils Band on tour). However, J. Geils turned him down as they were already deep in the mixing process for their album and producer Jimmy Iovine persuaded Petty and his bandmates to record it themselves.

They were glad as it became the group’s first Top 10 hit.

The song peaked at #10 in Billboard 100, #3 in Canada, and #17 in New Zealand in 1977.

The album had 4 known radio songs on the album. Damn the Torpedos peaked at #2 in the Billboard 100, #2 in Canada, and #57 in the UK in 1980.

Peter Wolf of the J Geils Band: It was in the midst of stuff. Maybe we thought we had the songs for our album: “We can do it for the next one.” I called up Jimmy and, I think, Tom and said, “Love the song. I’m not sure we’re gonna get to it. But I do like the song.” Tom wasn’t sure of it for himself for some reason. It was almost like, “As soon as I finished writing it, I thought of sending it to you.”

I always heard it as having a Lennon-esque quality, especially in the bridge – just the way Tom puts the edge on his voice. There is also a Dylan-esque quality [in the lyrics]: “Well, you’re gonna get yours. In the public eye, you’re gonna humiliate me? Baby, your time is gonna come.” That was a theme in Lennon’s work too – [the Beatles’] “No Reply.” But the way Tom recorded it, it just became so Tom. I always felt, “Man, I wish we’d jumped on it sooner.”

It’s funny – it came up in our last conversation. Tom and I were together in his dressing room in Philadelphia last July. I said, “Tom, I gotta tell you, ‘Don’t Do Me Like That’ …” And he goes, “Oh, yeah! Whatever happened?” I explained the whole thing – we were in the mix process or something. And he said, “I gotta thank you for that. When you didn’t end up doing it, everybody talked me into putting it on the record. And it became one of my big, big hits.” 

From Songfacts

The song finds him warning (or at least asking) a girl not to dump him, as he has a friend who recently had his heart broken. Not one of the group’s more meaningful songs, Creem magazine called it a “throwaway romp.”

Many listeners enjoyed this romp, making it one of Petty’s most popular songs.

When Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers made their first appearance as musical guests on Saturday Night Live November 10, 1979, they played “Refugee” and “Don’t Do Me Like That.”

Don’t Do Me Like That

I was talking with a friend of mine
Said a woman had hurt his pride
Told him that she loved him so
And turned around and let him go
Then he said, you better watch your step
Or your gonna get hurt yourself
Someone’s gonna tell you lies
Cut you down to size

Don’t do me like that
Don’t do me like that
What if I love you baby?
Don’t do me like that

Don’t do me like that
Don’t do me like that
Someday I might need you baby
Don’t do me like that

Listen honey, can you see?
Baby, you would bury me
If you were in the public eye
Givin’ someone else a try
And you know you better watch your step
Or you’re gonna get hurt yourself
Someone’s gonna tell you lies
Cut you down to size

Don ‘t do me like that
Don’t do me like that
What if I love you baby?
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t

Don’t do me like that
Don’t do me like that
What if I need you baby?
Don’t do me like that

‘Cause somewhere deep down inside
Someone is saying, Love doesn’t last that long
I got this feelin’ inside night and day
And now I can’t take it no more

Listen honey, can you see?
Baby, you would bury me
If you were in the public eye
Givin’ someone else a try
And you know you better watch your step
Or you’re gonna get hurt yourself
Someone’s gonna tell you lies
Cut you down to size

Don’t do me like that
Don’t do me like that
What if I love you baby?
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t

Don’t do me like that
Don’t do me like that
I just might need you honey
Don’t do me like that

Wait
Don’t do me like that
Don’t do me like that
Baby, baby, baby
Don’t, don’t, don’t

No
Don’t do me like that
Don’t do me like that
Baby, baby, baby

Oh, oh, oh, oh

Tom Petty – Breakdown

Breakdown is one of the first songs that I ever heard by Tom Petty. In my band days, my friend Chris showed me the intro to this on guitar…I still know most of it. The dynamics of this song makes it a great song to hear live.

At first, Mike Campbell’s guitar lick was only used at the end of the song. Dwight Twilley came by the studio when Petty was playing it back and suggested they use it throughout the song. Petty liked the idea and called the band back to the studio in the middle of the night to re-record it.

This was Petty’s first single. When it was first released in January 1977 it went nowhere, but after months of touring, it was re-released in October and it hit. It peaked at #40 in the Billboard 100 and #40 in Canada in 1977.

From Songfacts

Dwight Twilley, who had a hit in 1975 with “I’m On Fire,” was signed to the same label as Petty, and was on the same career path for a while. Petty sang on some of Twilley’s songs, including his 1984 hit “Girls.”

Lyrically more sparse than most Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers tracks, “Breakdown” finds Petty ready to end a union that has become toxic. “Go ahead and give it to me,” he tells her.

When the band first recorded this song, it was 7-minutes long, with an extended guitar solo at the end. The final version clocks in at a tidy 2:43.

This was featured in the 1978 movie FM. About a radio station in California, the movie was the basis for the TV show WKRP in Cincinnati. This was also included on the soundtrack.

Breakdown

It’s alright if you love me
It’s alright if you don’t
I’m not afraid of you runnin’ away, honey
I get the feeling you won’t

You see, there is no sense in pretending
Your eyes give you away
Something inside you is feeling like I do
We said all there is to say

Baby, breakdown, go ahead, give it to me
Breakdown, honey, take me through the night (baby, baby, breakdown)
Breakdown, now I’m standin’ here, can’t you see?
Breakdown, it’s all right
It’s all right
It’s all right
Yeah, it’s all right
It’s all right

Breakdown, go ahead, give it to me
Breakdown, honey, take me through the night (baby, baby, breakdown)
Breakdown, now I’m standin’ here, can’t you see?
Breakdown, it’s all right
It’s all right
It’s all right
Yeah, it’s all right

Gotta feelin’ it’s all right
Yeah, it’s all right
It’s all right
Well, is it all right?
I wanna hear you in the studio
Way back there
Is it all right?
Is everybody sure it’s all right?
Yeah, it’s all right
‘Cause if you leave if you want to
Baby, I don’t mind
Been standin’, facin’
Livin’ with it every day of my life
It’s all right
Can walk on out that door, baby
It’s all right
Baby, breakdown
It’s all right
And if you want to leave
It’s all right
I don’t mind
It’s all right
It’s all right

 

Stevie Nicks and the Heartbreakers – Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around

Steve Nicks visited Atlantic Records’ president Doug Morris and made her pitch for her first solo record: “So, listen, what I’d really like to do is be in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ band. He said, ‘No. That’s not going to happen.'” She then asked: “So I can make, like, a Tom Petty girl album?” And she made Bella Donna

Tom Petty met Nicks while he was recording his group’s album Damn The Torpedoes. She asked him half-jokingly if he could write her a song that she could record for her first solo album. Petty didn’t take her request seriously at first, but Nicks reiterated her request a year later as Petty was putting together his Hard Promises album. Petty wrote a ballad called “Insider” at his home, played it to the Heartbreakers (to their approval), recorded a demo with his band, and sent the demo to Nicks. After listening to the demo of “Insider,” Nicks visited Petty at his studio, taped the song with Petty and the Heartbreakers, then gave the tape to Petty, saying, “You love this so much… YOU take the song.” He did, and included it on Hard Promises.

Shortly after Insider was finished, Petty and company recorded a song that he and guitarist Mike Campbell composed about a year earlier…”Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” – and sent that demo to Nicks’ producer, Jimmy Iovine. She loved it, saying, “That’s what I wanted all along.” Nicks and Petty ended up doing it as a duet.

The song peaked at #3 in the Billboard 100, #5 in Canada, and #11 in New Zealand in 1981.

Chrissie Hynde would often play the Petty role in this song when she toured with Nicks in the ’00s. They would have a lot of fun with the song…I have it at the bottom.

 

From Songfacts

This song is about a couple with a complicated relationship. She wants to get rid of him, but he has a hold on her heart. When she tells him to stop dragging that heart around, he explains that he’s just trying to protect her, as “you need someone looking after you.”

Many of the songs Nicks has sung over the years involve hearts in different states of breaking, and many are about her intimate relationships, written either by her or her Fleetwood Mac bandmate/soulmate, Lindsey Buckingham. This song is one of the few she could sing without dealing with the emotional baggage behind it, as it has nothing to do with her personally.

Nicks wanted Petty to produce Bella Donna. He gave it a shot, but it didn’t work out and Jimmy Iovine was brought in. This created an interesting dynamic as Iovine and Nicks began living together while they were making the album.

This was the biggest hit for either Stevie Nicks (as a solo act) or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (who had a competing single out – “Woman In Love” – that didn’t chart). Five years later, they joined forces again and hit #37 with a live version of the Springfields/Searchers classic “Needles and Pins.”

In addition to being The Heartbreakers’ guitarist, Mike Campbell has played on albums by many other artists, including several by Stevie Nicks. He told us how this came together: “I had written the music and Tom had written the words. The Heartbreakers had recorded a version of it with Jimmy Iovine, and Jimmy being the entrepreneur that he was, he was working with Stevie, and I guess he asked Tom if she could try it, and it just developed from there. We cut the track as a Heartbreakers record and when she decided to do it we used that track and she came in and sang over it.” (Read more in our interview with Mike Campbell.)

This had the good fortune of being released around the time MTV went on the air. They didn’t have many videos at the time, so this got a lot of airplay. It introduced a younger audience to Nicks and Petty.

Bella Donna was Nicks’ first solo album. Her output with Fleetwood Mac sold extremely well, but solo success was hardly ensured. When Nicks finished the album, her producer Jimmy Iovine told her she didn’t have a single, and if she didn’t record “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” “your record’s going to tank and then you’re not going to have a solo career.”

Nicks was dismayed about removing one of the songs on the album to make room for the track, but she took Iovine’s advice. “I went home and said, ‘You’ve got to drop this self-esteem you’ve got going on right now and realize that the whole reason you even hired Jimmy Iovine was because he produced Tom Petty and you always wanted to be in Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers,” Nicks said while introducing the song in concert. “I said: ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’ So, anyway, ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart’ became a huge single, all because Mr. Tom Petty was generous enough to give me that song.”

The song was released as the first single and rose to #3, setting the stage for more hits. The next single was another duet: “Leather And Lace” with Don Henley, which reached #6. It wasn’t until the third single that Nicks was finally on her own: “Edge Of Seventeen” reached #11.

A few years after this was released, Dave Stewart of Euryhmics wrote “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” which he and Iovine started producing for Nicks. By this time, Iovine and Nicks had broken up, and when she came over to work on the song, things didn’t go well and she stormed out. Iovine brought in Tom Petty and they completed the song with him, something Nicks knew was fair considering “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” went on her album. (as told in The Dave Stewart Songbook)

On her 2001 album Trouble In Shangri-La, Nicks thanked Petty in the liner notes. She asked him to write another song for her, but he refused and encouraged her to write it herself. After that conversation, she started writing songs for the album.

Tom Petty had a connection to another song on the album. His wife, Jane, told Nicks that she was “at the age of 17” when she met Tom. Like her husband, Jane was from Gainesville, Florida, and had such a strong country accent that Stevie thought she said “edge of 17,” which provided the title for one of her most popular songs.

In the liner notes to her TimeSpace album, Stevie Nicks said: “Jimmy (Iovine) played this song to me while he was still finishing Tom’s album; it was one of those songs that Tom was not going to do, and he told Jim that I could do it. I wasn’t used to doing other people’s songs, so I didn’t really like the idea at first, but I loved Tom Petty, so I agreed to try. So we went into the studio and sang it live, together. I was completely entranced, and I instantly fell into love with the song. Duets were the things I loved the most… maybe this was a second beginning. And we would sing like no one else, and nobody else would ever sing like us.” 

Petty and Nicks reunited to perform this song when Petty was honored as the MusiCares Person of the Year on February 10, 2017.

Before giving her induction speech, Harry Styles sang this with Nicks when she entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019 as a solo artist.

Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around

Baby you’ll come knocking on my front door
Same old line you used to use before
I said yeah… well… what am I supposed to do
I didn’t know what I was getting into

So you’ve had a little trouble in town
Now you’re keeping some demons down
Stop draggin’ my…
Stop draggin’ my…
Stop draggin’ my heart around

It’s hard to think about what you’ve wanted
It’s hard to think about what you’ve lost
This doesn’t have to be the big get even
This doesn’t have to be anything at all

I know you really want to tell me good-bye
I know you really want to be your own girl

Baby you could never look me in the eye
Yeah you buckle with the weight of the words
Stop draggin’ my…
Stop draggin’ my…
Stop draggin’ my heart around

There’s people running ’round loose in the world
Ain’t got nothing better to do
Than make a meal of some bright eyed kid
You need someone looking after you

I know you really want to tell me goodbye
I know you really want to be your own girl

Baby you could never look me in the eye
Yeah you buckle with the weight of the words
Stop draggin’ my…
Stop draggin’ my…
Stop draggin’ my heart around

Stop draggin’ my heart around

Tom Petty – Jammin’ Me

I remember I had the album this was on…Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) and I was disappointed. I always liked this song though. The album did not live up to Southern Accents the previous album.

Although this is a 1980s song…Steve Jobs, Eddie Murphy, Joe Piscopo, and Vanessa Redgrave are singled out…as well as events in the world…the idea behind it is more relevant today than 1987.

I’ve always thought this song was about information overload on our senses…being overwhelmed in the disinformation age…and this was 1987! How about now?

Mike Campbell, the guitarist for The Heartbreakers, wrote the music for this and gave Petty the demo. Tom held it for a while and didn’t do anything with it until one day when he was working with Bob Dylan. They came up with some lyrics by picking words out of a newspaper and off the television. Tom pulled out Mike’s demo, and they inserted those words over the track. The song is about the deluge of information and marketing messages that can prove overwhelming.

This song peaked at #18 in the Billboard 100, #41 in Canada, and #38 in New Zealand in 1987. It was written by Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Mike Campbell.

From Songfacts

Many of Petty’s songs start as demos written by Campbell. Mike also wrote the tracks for Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” and “The Heart Of The Matter,” and helped Petty produce this album. 

In 1986, the band toured with Bob Dylan in Australia, New Zealand and Japan, which led to Dylan’s contribution on this song. In 1988, Petty and Dylan played together in The Traveling Wilburys, a band whose other members were Jeff Lynne, George Harrison and Roy Orbison.

In the lyrics, Petty mentions various places and events that were in the news and getting constant media exposure. Actors Vanessa Redgrave, Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy also show up.

Jammin’ Me

You got me in a corner
You got me against the wall
I got nowhere to go
I got nowhere to fall

Take back your insurance
Baby nothin’s guaranteed
Take back your acid rain
Baby let your T.V. bleed

You’re jammin’ me, you’re jammin’ me,
Quit jammin’ me
Baby you can keep me painted in a corner
You can look away, but it’s not over

Take back your angry slander
Take back your pension plan
Take back your ups and downs of your life
In raisin-land

Take back Vanessa Redgrave
Take back Joe Piscopo
Take back Eddie Murphy
Give ’em all some place to go

You’re jammin’ me, you’re jammin’ me
Quit jammin’ me
Baby you can keep me painted in a corner
You can walk away but it’s not over

Take back your Iranian torture
And the apple in young Steve’s eye
Yeah take back your losing streak
Check your front wheel drive

Take back Pasadena
Take back El Salvador
Take back that country club
They’re tr yin’ to build outside my door

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

Tom Petty – You Don’t Know How It Feels

I remember seeing the video and MTV would play the version with the word “joint” in reversed…like people would wonder what Tom was rolling. Another version I heard on the radio was… instead of “roll another joint” it was “hit another joint”… which is…worse?

“The strangest thing happened. I wrote this song not thinking that it was controversial in any way and I nearly left this song off the album ’til the very end, and we put it on. Imagine my surprise when this song comes on television and they say, ‘Let’s roll another noojh,’ which sounded worse to me than joint. Because, I don’t know if you’ve ever had a noojh, but it sounds really wicked.”

I do miss Tom…

This song peaked at #13 in 1995 in the Billboard 100.

Tom Petty on this song: “Every blue moon or so, I might have a toke on somebody’s… cigarette. It’s an OK way to live your life, but it’s not to be advised. I’m not going to say it’s good or bad. 

But I wrote this song a while back and I was trying to do this character in the song who was kind of down and looking for some company. And instead of having him say, ‘Let’s have another beer’ – they always have to have that in the song – I thought this guy should roll another joint.”

From Songfacts

“You don’t know how it feels to be me” is something many of us have said to seek empathy for our burdens. Typical of Petty’s songwriting, the lyric is couched in ambiguity, which could be the point: We don’t know how it feels to be him, so how can we possibly know what the song is about? It’s certainly not entirely autobiographical, at least literally, as Petty’s father was not born to rock – he was leery of his son’s career in music.

We’ll get to the point: marijuana had a little something to do with this song. Here’s what Petty said about it on his VH1 Storytellers special:

The video was directed by Phil Joanou. It’s one continuous shot, with the camera revolving around a microphone as all kinds of crazy stuff happens in the background, including a circus act and a bank robbery.

Tom Petty was one of MTV’s biggest stars, but they wouldn’t play the video as delivered because of the drug reference (sex and violence were generally OK on the network, but they were very sensitive about drugs). When the video aired, the word “joint” was reversed so it came out sounding like “noojh.” 

Perhaps to atone, MTV awarded it Best Male Video at the VMAs.

This won a Grammy in 1995 for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. >>

The band performed this on Saturday Night Live when they were the musical guests November 19, 1994. Their drummer, Stan Lynch, had left the band, so Dave Grohl, who had not yet formed Foo Fighters, sat in for the performance. Steve Ferrone got the gig as Heartbreakers drummer a short time later.

You Don’t Know How It Feels

Let me run with you tonight
I’ll take you on a moonlight ride
There’s someone I used to see
But she don’t give a damn for me

But let me get to the point, let’s roll another joint
And turn the radio loud, I’m too alone to be proud
You don’t know how it feels
You don’t know how it feels to be me

People come, people go
Some grow young, some grow cold
I woke up in between
A memory and a dream

So let’s get to the point, let’s roll another joint
Let’s head on down the road
There’s somewhere I gotta go
And you don’t know how it feels
You don’t know how it feels to be me

My old man was born to rock
He’s still tryin’ to beat the clock
Think of me what you will
I got a little space to fill

So let’s get to the point, let’s roll another joint
Let’s head on down the road
There’s somewhere I gotta go
And you don’t know how it feels
No, you don’t know how it feels to be me

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – American Girl

This may be my favorite song of Tom Petty. The ringing 12 string that introduces it with the Roger McGuinn like vocals…it’s hard not to like. The song peaked at #40 in the UK and #68 in the Cash Box Top 100. Even though Petty and his band were from the US, this caught on in England long before it got any attention in America. As a result, Petty started his first big tour in the UK, where this was a bigger hit.

Roger McGuinn joked that the first time he heard the song he thought it was an old Byrds song he recorded and forgotten about.

From Songfacts.

Tom Petty said of this song: “I wrote that in a little apartment I had in Encino. It was right next to the freeway and the cars sometimes sounded like waves from the ocean, which is why there’s the line about the waves crashing on the beach. The words just came tumbling out very quickly – and it was the start of writing about people who are longing for something else in life, something better than they have.”

Mike Campbell has been The Heartbreakers’ guitarist since they formed the band. Here’s what he told us about this song: “We used to have people come up to us and tell us they thought it was about suicide because of the one line about ‘if she had to die,’ but what they didn’t get was, the whole line is ‘if she had to die trying.’ Some people take it literally and out of context. To me it’s just a really beautiful love song. It does have some Florida imagery.”

In our interview with Mike Campbell, he said: “We cut that track on the 4th of July. I don’t know if that had anything to do with Tom writing it about an American girl.”

Roger McGuinn recorded this on his 1977 album Thunderbyrd. McGuinn was a member of The Byrds and a big influence on Petty. He once joked that this number was a Byrds song he’d forgotten. Petty told Mojo magazine January 2010: “‘American Girl’ doesn’t really sound like The Byrds; it evokes The Byrds. People are usually influenced by more than one thing, so your music becomes a mixture. There’s nothing really new, but always new ways to combine things. We tried to play as good as whoever we admired but never could.”

This was featured in the 1991 movie Silence Of The Lambs. It was used in a scene where a female character is listening to it in a car before she meets Buffalo Bill, a serial killer who abducts her.

The Goo Goo Dolls played this at the 2001 “Concert For New York,” a benefit show organized by Paul McCartney. Classic rockers like The Who and David Bowie were big hits among the crowd of police officers and firefighters, and they responded very well when The Goo Goo Dolls played this.

Petty gave his reaction to the performance: “I was watching the 9/11 concert in New York and the Goo Goo Dolls played ‘American Girl.’ I could see the crowd cheering in this really patriotic context. But it was just a story when I wrote it. In my mind, the girl was looking for the strength to move on, and she found it. It’s one of my favorites.”

Petty credits their producer, Denny Cordell, with helping him understand the importance of crafting a story in the lyrics to this song. Petty says Cordell told him, “When you put a little truth in a song, it elevates things.”

In the Bob Dylan tradition, Petty doesn’t have a typical singing voice, but as heard in this song, he writes compelling lyrics that he delivers with conviction.

American Girl

Well she was an American girl 
Raised on promises 
She couldn’t help thinkin’ that there 
Was a little more to life 
Somewhere else 
After all it was a great big world 
With lots of places to run to 
Yeah, an d if she had to die 
Tryin’ she had one little promise 
She was gonna keep 

Oh yeah, all right 
Take it easy baby 
Make it last all night 
She was an American girl 

It was kind of cold that night 
She stood alone on her balcony 
She could the cars roll by 
Out on 441 
Like waves crashin’ in the beach 
And for one desperate moment there 
He crept back in her memory 
God it’s so painful 
Something that’s so close 
And still so far out of reach 

Oh yeah, all right 
Take it easy baby 
Make it last all night 
She was an American girl

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – The Waiting

I bought the single when it came out in 1981 and then the album “Hard Promises”. This song has a Byrd feel to it and is reminiscent of the mid-sixties.  It peaked at #19 in the Billboard 100 and #6 in the Canadian Charts.

In the 1980s I watched the Gary Shandling Show faithfully and I remember that Tom Petty played this song on there in the late eighties.

“The Waiting”

Oh baby don’t it feel like heaven right now
Don’t it feel like something from a dream
Yeah I’ve never known nothing quite like this
Don’t it feel like tonight might never be again
We know better than to try and pretend
Baby no one could’a ever told me ’bout this
I said yeah yeah[Chorus:]
The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest partWell yeah i might have chased a couple women around
All it ever got me was down
Then there were those that made me feel good
But never as good as I’m feeling right now
Baby you’re the only one that’s ever known how
To make me wanna live like I wanna live now
I said yeah yeah[Chorus:]
The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you get one more yard
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest partOh don’t let it kill you baby, don’t let it get to you
Don’t let it kill you baby, don’t let it get to you
I’ll be your bleedin’ heart, I’ll be your cryin’ fool
Don’t let this go too far
Don’t let it get to you