Tom Petty Countdown #87: “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”

This single, which was the lone new Petty original found on his 1993 Greatest Hits compilation, is notable in Heartbreaker history for being the last track to feature drummer Stan Lynch. Lynch responded with an excellent performance on the skins, beating his way about as if trying to he had some serious pent-up tension to release.

“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” is also relatively unique for being a song that Petty completed in parts. He had the bare bones of the song all together years earlier. When pressed for a new song for the Greatest Hits album, he was unwilling to give up any of the new material he was working up, material which would eventually comprise his solo album Wildflowers. So he dug up the old song, added a sparkling new chorus, threw together a truly macabre video starring Kim Basinger, and, voila, you’ve got another smash hit.

I feel like some of that disjointedness is evident in the song, and the lyrics betray their improvisational nature a bit too readily, although Petty gets credit for pulling them together to form a pretty incisive portrait of this small-town femme fatale. Of course, none of that matters much when the Heartbreakers lock into that powerful groove, hitting on all cylinders even as one of the main cylinders was about to depart.

(For the full e-book of this list, Breakdown: Tom Petty’s 100 Best Songs, check out the Amazon links below.)



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