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MaryJane0612

Mary's Jane's.... Last Spliff....

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Hey, you guys....

Is MJLD really about Whaccy Baccy - apparently Mary Jane is another word for Weed, which is grown prolifically in Indiana (not that I would know that), or is it about a rather 'loose' girl who liked too much 'fun' with the local lads, and who came and went from town to town, and left someone high and dry and desolate. Apparently, the great man himself has never given a straight answer to this question, when asked, preferring us to slug it out amongst ourselves. I thought that was most unhelpful of him, don't you?

Over to you Pet-sperts....to give me your interpretation.

 

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Not to be like that, but I think this, and everything else in art, is clearly about what you want it to be about.

That said, I think it's hardly by accident that this song works 100% on at least two levels. Literally AND symbolically. Poetry at its best, wouldn't you say.

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Yes, the metaphor is pretty interchangeable and both equally convincing. I tend to err toward the 'girl' breaks a boy's heart interpretation. The music too seems to suggest that too, far more than the weed interpretation. The music is not dreamy or 'outa-space' enough to suggest that the words are highly symbolic rather than literal and that Mary Jane is, in fact, not a girl at all but a Marijuana plant who grew up tall and grew up right, even if there is a strange coincidence attached to the use of the name Mary Jane and Indiana. At least not to me. I suppose you could conflate these two interpretations by suggesting that the boy's life was so dull and boring that he sometimes imagined a girl like Mary Jane coming into his life and that his dream-state to conjure up a reality that wasn't there was rather like hitting a high on pot before the harsh reality of life set in and he hit the road again....Sometimes living inside your head can help alleviate the tedium and boredom of real life but ultimately you have to get on with real life, hence the 'last dance.' 

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As a friend of mine said "if a song moves you, that's all that's important". And I'm agree with him. I'm also agree with Shelter.

If the name of the girl would have been Caroline instead of Mary Jane, probably the marijuana meaning would have been more difficult to fit. But the real thing is he choose Mary Jane. "Oh my, my oh hell yes, you've got to put on the party dress..." let's roll another one? Both meanings are ok. Genius.

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Sometimes the songs are fascinating not only for what it's said, for what it's not said too. For example, what happened after Speedball asked for an outside line? Have you ever tried to fill the gap in your mind between that moment and the next morning?

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From Conversations with Tom Petty:

Is Mary Jane a marijuana reference?

I don't think I was writing about pot.  I think it was just a girl's name.  I can't imagine that I'd write a song about pot.  I don't think there's enough there to write about. (laughs)

 

So even beyond this particular response I believe the metaphorical weight of the song slants it towards regret.  It's sort of the opposite of "Here Comes My Girl" which is to me not about the girl, it's about the notion of emotional connections signifying redemption.  When Tom makes a girl the seeming subject of a song, she often comes to embody something else entirely.  And I think the part about being from Indiana has more to do with the metaphorical value of the Midwest as a region which is supposed to exemplify particular values rather than any agricultural concerns. ;)

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3 hours ago, Mr Timba said:

As a friend of mine said "if a song moves you, that's all that's important". And I'm agree with him. I'm also agree with Shelter.

If the name of the girl would have been Caroline instead of Mary Jane, probably the marijuana meaning would have been more difficult to fit. But the real thing is he choose Mary Jane. "Oh my, my oh hell yes, you've got to put on the party dress..." let's roll another one? Both meanings are ok. Genius.

And there's me thinking that southern state America was all about bible reading and high morals. I kind of picture the TV family The Waltons as being the norm. Seems not if everyone is high on Weed. BTW, is smoking Weed legal in the USA? 

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Well, he does say "I hit the last number, I walked to the road"

Interesting take: http://www.culledculture.com/better-off-dead-mary-janes-last-dance-what-it-says-about-projecting-expectations-onto-a-lover/

2 hours ago, chimera said:

Is Mary Jane a marijuana reference?

I don't think I was writing about pot.  I think it was just a girl's name.  I can't imagine that I'd write a song about pot.  I don't think there's enough there to write about. (laughs)

Yeah, you're right.

Last Dance, You Don't Know How it Feels, Girl on LSD, You Get Me High, Don't Pull Me Over....

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Mike Campbell also said this:

That song took on a few shapes. It was written in my garage. I didn't write it, but we were jamming in the garage and Tom was playing one of my guitars. It was called "Indiana Girl," the first chorus was "hey, Indiana Girl, go out and find the world." We liked the song, Rick Rubin suggested we cut it, it had actually been around for a while, just the basic riff and that chorus. We cut the song and he was singing the chorus, and he decided he just couldn't get behind singing about "hey, Indiana Girl," so we went back and about a week later he came in and said "I've got a better idea," so he changed the chorus to "Last dance with Mary Jane." 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.

 

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1 hour ago, nobodyinparticular said:

Mike Campbell also said this:

Interesting bit of history about this song, which some great resources being cited to illuminate what bands members have said. I think I prefer songwriters to know what their songs are about though.

There is a contradictory theme already running through this thread with some of you saying that TP constructed this amazing 'poetry' with two parallel meanings - both cleverly constructed to each make perfect sense. Now it seems, from what Petty himself said, and Campbell, it just magically happened with no real forethought going into it. It just happened out of thin air - but so happens to make sense anyway.  

What I can conclude from this conversation is that this song magically appeared and 'magically appeared to make sense.' I fail to see how that is so. It seems too far fetched to me and if that were so there would be some untidy lines and loose ends to tie up to make one version truly fit or the other truly fit. My conclusion is that TP knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote it and had clear idea of what metaphors he was using when he put pen to paper. It was cleverly written.

Having said that, I am no poet and so I don't really know how poetry is really formed. My words come from my head not my heart, and logic underpins everything that 'makes sense' to me, so perhaps I'm just not getting it. Perhaps poets do write from the heart, not really having a clue what they are penning but it all makes sense to the reader. 

 

 

 

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I can only speak for myself but sometimes the creative output does seem to come from "nowhere" - even though, of course, it originates somewhere.  But it's not a "place" I can articulate, other than knowing it's the right hemisphere which sends the signals.  I don't know how my brain does it but the words seem to flow out of me sometimes without prompting.  Sometimes I sit down to write something and it will be something I wasn't expecting at all.  In hindsight those are the things which are most "true."

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21 minutes ago, nobodyinparticular said:

Hm, I thought the left/right hemisphere thing was mostly debunked. I'll look into it sometime.

Could be, certainly.  I haven't done any recent reading on it.

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8 hours ago, chimera said:

I can only speak for myself but sometimes the creative output does seem to come from "nowhere" - even though, of course, it originates somewhere.  But it's not a "place" I can articulate, other than knowing it's the right hemisphere which sends the signals.  I don't know how my brain does it but the words seem to flow out of me sometimes without prompting.  Sometimes I sit down to write something and it will be something I wasn't expecting at all.  In hindsight those are the things which are most "true."

I can assure you that writing articles on tax law doesn't happen like that. :)

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haha creative accounting that's funny

From the specifics of this song (Mary Jane) to more generally (his other songs), I agree it's a sign of a good music when it works on a number of different levels.  It can be whatever you want it to be, like all fine art... I think it's fair to say most of Tom Petty's lyrics operate at that level of complexity.  Well, of the songs they played often.  Maybe some songs didn't have any other levels from the musicians' point of view, who knows? (ie songs they said they felt weren't that great .... like Mary's New Car or Zombie Zoo).  Certainly, he's already creating Luna and Casa Dega right from early on... 

Just this weekend I was listening to Hard Promises and read in the liner notes (from the Playback booklet) that there's a Heartbreakers' song  that Dylan said was his favorite of their work.

Two things -

  1. I realized I'd assumed Bob Dylan would exist separately from other people's work ...but (head slap, new realization) of course Dylan would be listening to music & doing so in an intelligent and insightful way. 
  2. You may already know which one - it's Something Big.   I like it too, because though it's a narrative & we meet some of the people & understand their motives, we then jump past Speedball to hear other people's reactions.  Yeah, I wonder what Speedball was up to but whatever it was, it didn't end well, huh?  Maybe he thought he'd found "someone he could trust"?  

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I always thought Speedball had to go up against whatever it was by himself and it didn't end well.  But I love the sneer Tom uses on the second maid's voice.  The entire song is so cinematic to me.

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https://www.thepettyarchives.com/archives/magazines/1980s/1981-06-13-melodymaker

"And this business—it's like 'Something Big,' it's like one of those seedy businesses where there's always some person where you can see no visible credentials, right? This guy has nothing together and he always has some big project.

"In Florida it was always like some guy who had a big dope deal or some guy who was gonna start a rock band and make millions or some guy that was gonna open a bar and, y'know, there was always some kinda seedy thing.

"Always the big thing was how do we get up that first payment? Inevitably some adventure comes down about how you're gonna raise this money real quick. That was just kinda the idea for it. I fucked around with it a little."

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