American Girl (song)

American Girl (song)

Infobox Single
Name = American Girl

Caption = Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album cover
Artist = Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
from Album = Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
A-side =
B-side = Fooled Again (I Don't Like It)
Released = February 1977
Format = 7"
Recorded = Shelter Studios, Hollywood
July 4, 1976
Genre = Rock
Length = 3:30
Label = Shelter
Writer = Tom Petty
Producer = Denny Cordell
Certification =
Chart position =
Last single = Breakdown
This single = "American Girl"
Next single = I Need to Know

"American Girl" is the second single from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' self-titled debut album. The single did not chart in the U.S., but in the UK it peaked at #40 the week ending August 27, 1977.

Origin & rumors

Due to lyrics mentioning cars rolling by "out on 441" and a desperate girl on a balcony, the song was rumored to have been written about a girl who committed suicide by jumping from the Beaty Towers dormitory at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where Tom Petty grew up. (U.S. Route 441 runs along the university campus beside Beaty Towers.)

Carl Van Ness, the University of Florida's official historian, believes that a student committed suicide by jumping from one of the Beaty Towers during the late '60s or early '70s, when Tom Petty still lived in Gainesville. [Wilmath, Kim. [ "Myths, legends and UF"] , "The Independent Florida Alligator Online", 2007-08-15. Retrieved on 2008-02-29.] However, the dorm does not have balconies.

When asked directly about the story in the book "Conversations With Tom Petty", Petty responded:

Urban legend. It's become a huge urban myth down in Florida. That's just not at all true. The song has nothing to do with that. But that story really gets around... They've really got the whole story. I've even seen magazine articles about that story. 'Is it true or isn't it true?' They could have just called me and found out it wasn't true. [ [ 'American Girl' Suicide ] ]

In the same interview, Petty says that he wrote the song while living in California:

I don't remember exactly. I was living in an apartment where I was right by the freeway. And the cars would go by. In Encino, near Leon Russell's house. And I remember thinking that that sounded like the ocean to me. That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by. I think that must have inspired the lyric. [ [ 'American Girl' Suicide ] ]

ingle track listings

*"American Girl" b/w "Fooled Again (I Don't Like It)"
Shelter 62007 (US)
*"American Girl" b/w "The Wild One, Forever"
Shelter WIP6377 (UK)
*"American Girl" b/w "Luna" (Live) *
Shelter WIP6403 (UK)
* taken from "The Official Live Bootleg"

Usage in recent media

The song has been featured in several Hollywood films, most notably "FM" (1978), "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982), "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991) and "Chasing Liberty" (2004). Its use in "The Silence of the Lambs" made the list of [ Top 11 Uses of Classic Rock in Cinema] at UGO.

It was featured in the TV series "Scrubs", in a scene of an episode titled "My Own American Girl", which was first aired in October 2, 2003. Also featured in "The Sopranos", in season 6 episode "Join the Club".

The Strokes have admitted to taking the riff for their 2001 single, "Last Nite", from this song. In a 2006 interview with "Rolling Stone" magazine, Tom Petty said "The Strokes took "American Girl", and I saw an interview with them where they actually admitted it. That made me laugh out loud. I was like, 'OK, good for you.' It doesn't bother me". [] This was brought up because of plagiarism accusations on the Red Hot Chili Peppers for similarities between their "Dani California" and Petty's "Mary Jane's Last Dance". Petty has stated that he does not care about any similarities and The Strokes have actually played as an opening act for Tom Petty in summer of 2006.

Cover versions

Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, who were a major influence on Petty's music, released his own version of "American Girl" a few months after the original came out. The similarity between Petty's record and The Byrds' musical style was so strong that when his manager first played "American Girl" for him, McGuinn asked "When did I write that song?". ["McGuinn Takes It Easy As Comeback Takes Off" "Austin American-Statesman" May 13, 1991: B8]

"American Girl" has also been covered by the following artists: Def Leppard, Everclear, Goo Goo Dolls, The Gaslight Anthem, Taking Back Sunday, Jack's Mannequin, Ill Repute, Matthew Sweet, Melora Creager, Gin Blossoms, Dance Hall Crashers, Sugarland, Pearl Jam, Matchbox 20, Saints of the Underground, Cindy Alexander, and most recently by Val Emmich on the 2008 season premiere episode of "Ugly Betty". []

All appearances

*Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
*Greatest Hits
*Runnin' Down a Dream


ee also

*1977 in music

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