"Mary Jane's Last Dance" as written by and Tom Petty....
She grew up in an Indiana town
Had a good lookin' momma who never was around
But she grew up tall and she grew up right
With them Indiana boys on an Indiana night

Well she moved down here at the age of eighteen
She blew the boys away, it was more than they'd seen
I was introduced and we both started groovin'
She said, "I dig you baby but I got to keep movin'...on, keep movin' on"

Last dance with Mary Jane
One more time to kill the pain
I feel summer creepin' in and I'm
Tired of this town again

Well I don't know what I've been told
You never slow down, you never grow old
I'm tired of screwing up, I'm tired of goin' down
I'm tired of myself, I'm tired of this town
Oh my my, oh hell yes
Honey put on that party dress
Buy me a drink, sing me a song,
Take me as I come 'cause I can't stay long

Last dance with Mary Jane
One more time to kill the pain
I feel summer creepin' in and I'm
Tired of this town again

There's pigeons down in Market Square
She's standin' in her underwear
Lookin' down from a hotel room
Nightfall will be comin' soon
Oh my my, oh hell yes
You've got to put on that party dress
It was too cold to cry when I woke up alone
I hit the last number, I walked to the road

Last dance with Mary Jane
One more time to kill the pain
I feel summer creepin' in and I'm
Tired of this town again


Lyrics submitted by oofus

"Mary Jane's Last Dance" as written by Tom Petty

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Mary Jane's Last Dance song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentI haven't read all 100+ posts here, but my take on the song is that "Mary Jane" refers to the girl and to the smoke. Whatever Tom Petty meant by it, I've always interpreted it a bit like this -

    He's singing point of view of a guy in a small town, going nowhere. The girl, Mary Jane, is a girl who grew up in a similar small town in Indiana with a waste case of a mother who pretty much left her to her own. With no parental guidance, she became prey to the "Indiana boys", so she learned to be tough and take care of herself (she grew up tall and she grew up right).

    When she was 18, she left her podunk town and hit the road, looking for something better. She pulled into our Hero's town - another small town, not unlike the one she left behind. She knew she wouldn't be staying long, but our Hero was smitten with her, and she kind of liked him too, and they started hanging out together (groovin') - and she stayed longer than she expected.

    The verse "i don't know, but I been told" is Mary Jane talking - she's realizing that no matter where she goes, she can't escape her past - she doesn't want to be tied down to one place because it all comes creeping back - but she's tired of running, too.

    The chorus "last dance with Mary jane" is a literal last dance with her, and a figurative one more bowl of weed. They're both trying to numb their pain - her shitty life, his shitty life PLUS the knowledge he's losing her.

    He passes out in their hotel room, but she's overcome with the hopelessness of her life - and goes out the window and jumps ("night fall" will be coming soon) - falls to her death in the square below.

    He wakes up alone - finds out what's happened, and is just numb, not surprised (too cold to cry when I woke up alone). Smokes a bowl for the road and heads out (hit my last number), hoping to find a better life than she did.

    It's like, she was the only good thing that ever happened to him in that town, trying to keep her there killed her. He wasn't going to let the small town kill him too.

    But that's just the way I see it. :)
    fnnkybutton June 18, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think this song was orginally going to be called "Indiana Girl" or something similar. I'm from Indiana, so is Petty ;)

    Great song, easily one of his best. Pretty obvious what it's about, I don't think it's any secret he's a huge pot head. I don't understand the significance of 'the last dance' part though.
    Muzzyon March 09, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General Commentwell yeah, no shit... but above and beyond that, wasn`t he married to a woman named mary jane?
    ramtharon April 19, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe music video for this song has Tom dancing with a dead Kim Bassinger. He apparently is an undertaker and steals her from the morgue, dresses her up and has a dinner party with her. They dance (or he just carries around a corpse) and then he dumps her in the ocean.
    Take what you will from that, but my theory is that Mary Jane jumps from the hotel balcony while Tom is asleep, when he wakes, she is dead.....
    sara_blue_shoeson September 05, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentFor those of you who take this song literally and think its about a girl named "Mary Jane", shame on you. I mean if you look at the music video for one its about some dead girl who got zipped up in a laboratory and brought home. The song is by Tom Petty not Jeffery Dahmer. It clearly shows sealing up weed.

    "She grew up in an Indiana town"
    Ever hear of Indiana ditchweed?

    "But she grew up tall and she grew up right"
    Referring to the plant itself and how well it grows.

    "I was introduced and we both started groovin'"
    Referring to him smoking the plant and getting into that stoner groove or mindset.

    "Last dance with Mary Jane
    One more time to kill the pain
    I feel summer creepin' in and I'm
    Tired of this town again"
    Killing the pain refers to the physical effect marijuana has on you. And I think "tired of this town" is kinda that need to escape and get into a different mindset that stoners would.

    "Well I don't know what I've been told"
    This part refers to a lot of common belief people have on weed like its all wrong and stuff. This part of the song sounds a bit stressful, which makes it perfect to smoke some weed, which a lot of stoners do.

    "There's pigeons down in market square
    She's standin' in her underwear
    Lookin' down from a hotel room
    Nightfall will be comin' soon"
    This probably refers to an actual experience Tom Petty had, where he saw weed somewhere and it felt so right to try it, but he was trying to resist it.
    Mufansicon March 21, 2013   Link
  • +1
    TranslationHere's what Mike Campbell, the guitarist of the heartbreaks, said about the song: ''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'' .
    stefaniaczon February 16, 2014   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationOK been thinking about this a lot the last few days and not satisfied with the either/or explanation. I finally came up with interpretations for both, and it actually fits together pretty well. Read on, this will probably be kinda long...

    The first interpretation, it's about a girl, is mostly OK. The part I completely reject is that she kills herself at the end. Guys you are pulling meaning out of one-half of one word. Let's review that line:

    "The nightfall will be coming soon"

    I can't really think of a better word than "nightfall" here. It's more ominous than "nighttime", which is neutral and much weaker. Only a goth would say "The darkness will be coming soon", and "The evening will be coming soon" sounds like a dandy excited about a formal dinner-dance. From there it just gets worse or requires the line to be entirely rewritten.

    There's also no support in the rest of the lyrics for the interpretation she dies at the end. In fact, everything else she says is consistent with the reading that she is simply gone at the end, having left - just like she says throughout the entire song. Now you could argue that she was trying to start a new life when she "moved down", but just two lines later the meaning of the word is clarified - "I got to keep movin' on". She moved on down to that town and now she's movin' on again. She didn't live in a house, apartment, or even a rented room, but a hotel room. It's clear her stay here is transitory.

    Keep in mind this song came out in the early 90s. At that point cell phones were as expensive, clunky, and rare as satellite phones are now. Also the internet only existed at universities and a few companies. When someone left they were GONE - it was very easy to lose track of someone forever, especially someone moving from town to town. How could you get a hold of them? Thus just her leaving is extremely devastating, in a way it isn't nowadays with smartphones and social media.

    Alrite so much for the popular interpretation. Now let's do a decent analysis of the theory that this song is about weed. I hope you find my argument compelling. Here we go!

    She grew up in a Indiana town
    Had a good lookin' mama who never was around
    But she grew up tall and she grew up right
    With them Indiana boys on an Indiana night

    Interpretation: She was grown by farmers in an Indiana town, between rows of corn. I'm pretty sure this was a thing, you can search yourself if you don't believe me. The good lookin' mama who never was around means she came from some great weed, but you could hardly ever get it. The Indiana boys are the farmers who grew it and smoked it (partying on the Indiana nights).

    Well, she moved down here at the age of 18
    She blew the boys away, was more than they'd seen

    Interpretation: When she was 18, in other words an adult plant ready to harvest, a dealer brought her to the small town where our protagonist lives. She blew their minds because it was great weed.

    From here the two interpretations are similar - it's party time but it's also clear this will not last. But now we get to:

    "I hit my last number"

    I find it hard to believe this could be anything but a drug reference, smoking his last joint or bowl. In fact I suspect this particular phrase was picked precisely because it really has no double meaning which most drug references do. He wakes up in the morning after days/weeks of partying/binging on the good weed and now it's gone and he knows he has to go back to his boring life.

    Now the grand finale. The drug dealer is, in fact, Mary Jane. Both of these stories are playing out simultaneously. He is falling in love (emotional addiction) to this girl at the same time he is smoking the great weed she has with her. When she runs out (or the cops start figuring it out - see below) she's gone, and so is the weed.

    That's the main theory anyway. Let me know what you think. A few more points, they are too weak for the main writeup.

    There's pigeons down on Market Square

    A "stool pigeon" is an older term for snitch. Mary is looking down over the market square at people she's sold to and knows she has to bail, too many people know about the weed and someone soon will or already has squealed to the cops.

    "Put on that party dress" may refer to rolling a joint, you are putting a "dress" of a rolling paper around your weed. However I've never heard anyone say this, but then again I've also found drug culture to be highly localized even now, and again this song was written well before normal people used the internet.
    mtmykeon August 04, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMary Jane = Marijuana
    Ferthukoon April 10, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentmaybe Tom decided to quit smokin' bowls.

    this is a more obvious example, but ALL of Tom Petty's songs are about drugs.
    roger wilcoon May 18, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentsounds like he's in serious need of a wake'n'bake
    Lioness_Whisperson July 23, 2002   Link

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