Mary Jane's Last Dance
|"Mary Jane's Last Dance"|
|Single by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers|
|from the album Greatest Hits|
|Recorded||July 22, 1993|
|Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers singles chronology|
"Mary Jane's Last Dance" is a song written by Tom Petty and recorded by American rock band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It was recorded on July 22, 1993, while Petty was recording his Wildflowers album, and was produced by Rick Rubin, guitarist Mike Campbell, and Tom Petty. The sessions would prove to be the last to include drummer Stan Lynch before his eventual departure in 1994. This song was first released as part of the Greatest Hits album in 1993. It rose to No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming his first Billboard Top 20 hit of the 1990s, and also topped the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart for two weeks. This song also was a B-Side of "You Don't Know How It Feels".
Asked if the song was about drugs, Heartbreaker guitarist Mike Campbell said, "In the verse there is still the thing about an Indiana girl on an Indiana night, just when it gets to the chorus he had the presence of mind to give it a deeper meaning. My take on it is it can be whatever you want it to be. A lot of people think it's a drug reference, and if that's what you want to think, it very well could be, but it could also just be a goodbye love song." In the rest of the interview, Campbell said that the song was originally titled "Indiana Girl" and the first chorus "Hey, Indiana Girl, go out and find the world." He added that Petty 'just couldn't get behind singing about "hey, Indiana Girl,"' so he changed the chorus a week later.
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The music video, which won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video in 1994, features Petty as a morgue assistant who takes home a beautiful dead woman (played by Kim Basinger). He then tries to bring her back to life by acting as if she were alive, putting her in front of a television set and then dressing her as a bride, sitting her at the dinner table and dancing with her with no effect. A scene in the video featuring the dead woman wearing a wedding dress in a room full of wax candles is loosely based on a passage from the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations. The plot also has similarities with the French movie Cold Moon, itself inspired by a Charles Bukowski short story ("The Copulating Mermaid of Venice"). Later, Petty is shown carrying her to a rocky shore and gently releasing her into the sea. At the end of the video, Basinger, who is seen floating in the water, opens her eyes.
During the final scenes of the video, Petty is seen carrying Basinger through a cave before placing her in the water. The cave is located at Leo Carrillo State Park, California, where many movies and television shows were filmed.
I said, "She's got to look really good, or why would he keep her around after she's dead?" I thought, Kim Basinger would be good. I'd probably keep her for a day or two, let's go see if she would do it." You can make a joke about it, but you have to act a bit to be dead. It's not easy.— Tom Petty on what made him decide that Kim Basinger would be a good choice for the corpse
Now that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. It was classic, wasn’t it? He was a doll, and he was so sweet and asked me to do it, and both of us are extremely shy so we just said three words to each other the whole time. I’ll never forget how heavy that dress was! And I had to be dead the whole time. You know, it’s really one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, because I had to be completely weightless to be in his arms the way I was. It won all those awards, and the kids love it—even today!— Kim Basinger
I did the “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” video [in 1993] for one reason: Tom Petty. I didn’t even care what it was about -- I was just blown away when he called. Then I heard the music, and I was so in love with the song. The director [Keir McFarlane] was a gruff guy; it was kind of like, his way or the highway. And I always found Tom to be incredibly sensitive and sort of a backseat guy. He was just very humble, beautifully shy. I’m not the most outgoing human being in the world, and I thought, “I’m shy; he’s shy.” But as the story really unfolded and this director kept saying, “Look, you have got to really play dead--all your weight,” we laughed so hard. I just honestly couldn’t keep it together sometimes! Tom had a great sense of humor. I remember getting out of the pool that day and just being so glad it was over, but so proud that I had worked with him.— Kim Basinger
Besides Cold Moon and Great Expectations, the plot of the video also bears some semblance to the final segment of the 1987 Belgian film Crazy Love (which in itself, is like Cold Moon, also inspired by the writings of Charles Bukowski, in particular "The Copulating Mermaid of Venice, California"). However, only in the video for "Mary Jane's Last Dance" was any sexual contact between Tom Petty and Kim Basinger ("the corpse") not shown despite being implied. Also unlike in the later music video, there was no "gotcha ending" in Crazy Love.
- In 2010, the singer/songwriter Derwood released a southern rock/reggae version of the song. It was released as a single under the album name Mary Jane's Last Dance.
- In 2005, Keller Williams released a bluegrass version, combined with the Petty song "Breakdown", entitled "Mary Jane's Last Breakdown" on the album Grass.
- In 2006, a US radio station claimed that Red Hot Chili Peppers hit single, "Dani California" had plagiarised "Mary Jane's Last Dance", even calling for Petty to sue the band. Longtime Petty and Chili Peppers producer Rick Rubin produced both songs. Petty responded by saying that he was not going to sue the Chili Peppers and felt that there was no negative intent and that a lot of rock and roll songs sound alike. The main riff in Petty's song, however, resembles the main riff in another song called "Waiting for the Sun" which was released in 1992 by The Jayhawks. The Jayhawks were the opening act for Petty's tour in 1992 and keyboardist Benmont Tench played on both "Waiting for the Sun" and "Mary Jane's Last Dance".
- In 2013, Kenny Chesney released a song entitled "Pirate Flag". In manner similar to the Red Hot Chili Peppers case, many have compared Chesney's song to "Mary Jane's Last Dance", saying the songs are similar in the way the verses are sung.
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