“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” is a song about the traditional rock trifecta of negation and delirium: drugs, women, broken dreams overlaid with one of the genre’s most enduring narratives— leaving the boring place where you grew up (“I feel summer creepin’ in and I’m tired of this town again”) for another place that might be more urban, but probably no better. Tom’s right about one thing: you can’t get away from self-destructive behavior so easily no matter how much pot you smoke. The song can’t be separated from its video which creates a double narrative converging at that final moment when Kim Basinger’s dead, underwater eyes pop open on the shore of Leo Carrillo State Park where the video was filmed. How many dreams end up dead on a Malibu beach? The song suggests probably far more than we think.
Sandra Simonds is an assistant professor of English at Thomas University in Thomasville, Georgia. She is the author of four collections of poetry including Mother Was a Tragic Girl (Cleveland State University Press, 2012) and Warsaw Bikini (Bloof Books, 2008). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The American Poetry Review, Boston Review, and elsewhere. She can be found online at sandrasimonds.wordpress.com.
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