American Girl

Ok, I love Tom Petty. No other music inspires me to writhe and dance around in the kitchen in quite the same way. The music makes me feel happy and amazing. So, I was stunned to find out tonight that according to rumors, American Girl is about a girl throwing herself off her dorm room balcony. Ok, besides the fact that he says that's not what it's about at all, (says Petty himself) who has a balcony outside their dorm room? When you listen to it don't you feel happy and hopeful and like everything isn't quite as crap as you thought it was 10 minutes ago? The song is about moving on, people. Stop being so damn depressing. For those of you unfamiliar with the genius of Tom Petty, I posted a neat scrolly lyric thing (yes, that's a technical term) up there.


Brinkley said...


"American Girl," the first single from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' debut album, features the kind of enigmatic lyrics that send fans into fits searching for meaning. Apparently, Tom Petty fans are a morose bunch. According to an extremely popular story, Petty wrote the song about a University of Florida student who jumped to her death from the balcony of her dorm room.

It's an understandable conclusion if you take a look at some of the lyrics. Among the references that draw the attention of suicide song enthusiasts are "old 441" which is the name of the highway in Florida that runs past the dorm where the suicide allegedly occurred and "she stood alone, on the balcony" which is generally what people do shortly before hurling themselves off said balcony. Toss in the fact that Petty is from Gainesville where the University of Florida is located and what you have is one perfectly reasonable theory about the meaning of the song.

What It's Actually About:

It's not true at all. In the book "Conversations With Tom Petty," the ugly-stick-beaten rocker set the story straight.

In his words, the story is an "urban legend" and was actually written while he was living in Encino, CA. The 441 in question refers to an expressway that ran outside the apartment he lived in at the time. And unlike the Jagger song, Petty has no reason whatsoever to lie since it pretty much makes the lyrics less cool than people want to believe they are.

But if it's any consolation, "Mary Jane's Last Dance" is totally about weed.

Shannon Chamberlain said...

And to further ruin your enjoyment of the song, it's the one that plays right before the senator's daughter gets abducted by Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.