“American Girl” by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (1977)

I swear to you, this is completely coincidental.

When I published my last entry, “American Girl” was already cued up as my next five star song, and Tom Petty was very much alive.

I didn’t grow up a with much exposure to Tom Petty at all. I might’ve heard a song or two on AT40, and I knew his name, but I don’t think I could’ve named a single song of his until high school. Full Moon Fever came out during my freshman year, and even though 13 year old kids in Brooklyn weren’t necessarily getting down to “Free Fallin’”, I do remember hearing it a fair amount on the radio, plus “I Won’t Back Down” was part of either a baseball or basketball advertising campaign (I think).

I developed enough of an interest to pick up that Greatest Hits package when it came out at the end of 1993. Well, actually being able to afford the music that I wanted (due to actually having a job) helped. That package kicked off with, you guessed it, “American Girl”.

Here’s a song that charges out of the gate and announces itself as dope shit from the intro. Catchy guitar riff, catchy hook that you will start singing along with from your second listen, great (and simple) lyrics. One of the things I like most about Tom Petty is that there’s no artifice or pretention in his songwriting. He tells a story that’s super easy to grasp, wraps those stories around killer hooks, and voila. Those stories are usually (at least) good. “American Girl” is great.

And that’s to say nothing of that middle eight. That’s where the money is. From great song to classic, and all it took was one bridge.

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