“I wrote that in a little apartment I had in Encino. It was right next to the freeway and the cars sometimes sounded like waves from the ocean, which is why there’s the line about the waves crashing on the beach. The words just came tumbling out very quickly – and it was the start of writing about people who are longing for something else in life, something better than they have.”
— Tom Petty on American Girl
Because it’s the 4th of July, I wanted to share the music video for Tom Petty’s American Girl but it turns out that there never was an official video for American Girl. The song came out before the launch of MTV and, strangely enough, it was never as big a hit in the United States than it was in the UK.
I was, however, able to find footage of Tom Petty performing the song on Fridays. Fridays was a rip-off of Saturday Night Live. It aired live with a regular ensemble and it also featured a weekly musical guest. The only real difference between it and SNL was that Fridays aired on …. you guessed it, Friday night. It never escaped the shadow of Saturday Night Live, though it did receive some attention when guest host Andy Kaufman got into an on-air brawl with Michael Richards. (Apparently, it was a staged fight though, as was often the case with Kaufman, few people realized it.) Today, Fridays is best known for featuring several performers — Richards, Larry David, Bruce Mahler, and others — who were later appeared on Seinfeld.
This performance above is from the June 6th, 1980 episode of Fridays. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed Shadow of a Doubt and American Girl on the episode. According to Wikipedia, that episode also featured sketches with names like “Johannes the Friday’s Parakeet Needs Marijuana Seeds” and “Prostitution Debate with Pastor Babbitt.”
American Girl, incidentally, was originally recorded on July 4th, 1976. Today is its 44th birthday.