S3E2 Here Comes My Girl

Even The Losers


Length: 13:55 - Release Date: February 23, 2022 - US Chart #59

Heya peeps! Hope you're all well wherever in the world you are. Episode 2 of Season 3 is here for you and today we're talking about the marvellous Here Comes My Girl.

If you want to listen to the song before you listen to the episode, you can find it here: https://youtu.be/n4nPa35CZPI

If you're on Facebook, check out this fantastic video of Mike talking about how he put together the guitar parts for the song: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=202390328719537

And it you want to hear Stan talking about the drums on the track, you can find that here: https://youtu.be/loWGL-jvhlU?t=471


(* Note - the transcript is as-written before recording. I usually change a few sentences or words here and there on the hoof as I'm speaking.)

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, my fine friends. Welcome to episode two of season three of the Tom Petty Project Podcast! I am your host, Kevin Brown. This is the podcast that digs into the entire Tom Petty catalog song by song, album by album and includes conversations with musicians, fans, and people connected with Tom along the way. Today we’re continuing with the second song from Damn the Torpedoes, the evergreen radio staple, Here Comes My Girl.

Here Comes My Girl was one of two songs on a demo tape that Mike Campbell had recorded and given to Tom. The other was Refugee. Not a bad pair of tracks! Mike had assembled the guitar parts on a four track tape recorder (more on home recordings in a later episode this season!) and handed it to Tom to see if anything would stick. Tom got the chorus fairly quickly but really struggled with finding something that would fit for the verses. Ron Blair had swung my Tom’s house one day, heard it playing, and said “You know, that’s really a great piece of music there”, which convinced Tom to stick with it. As he tells Paul Zollo, “then I got the idea for the narration and once I started that, it started falling into place.” Great musicians often have several tricks they can dip into the bag to use and this was a brilliant decision that paid off in a huge way. This format for the delivery of the words also allows the song to be more lyrically dense than it might be otherwise.

Mike Campbell recently said on social media that his Mom loved the song and thought that he had written it about his daughter Kelsey. Of course, he wrote the music not the lyrics, but also conceded that that may be the case. 

Mike also says that the song features a technique that he liked to use on a lot of the Heartbreakers songs. Leaving a lot of open string droning underneath the chords as possible. It makes the song sound really full and big. So when you listen to that opening progression of A, Bsus, Amaj7, Bsus, you can hear that open E string ringing through every chord, creating a suspension. The other neat thing about that progression is that the two Bsus chords are played in different positions to give them a slightly different sound even though they’re the same notes. We then have that additional riff that glorious treble riff, which is dragged just ever so slightly behind the beat sometimes, sitting on top of it. Tom is playing a very simple, clean accompanying rhythm part allowing that four chord progression to just walk up and down. As we head into the chorus that suspension is lifted and we head to the E chord, which is the key we’re actually in. Again, a very simple E/A/E/A/F#m/B progression that is beautifully arranged and mixed. Mike again adds in a sumptuous little finger-picked lick to add a bright colour to the palate.

When you listen to Mike talk about this song and break down the guitar parts, it all sounds so incredibly simple. Find a nice chord progression. Keep that playing. Find some nice fills to sit in the top end of the register to fill out the sound. Yet those little things like having that open E ringing through the entire thing - even those fills - is simple yet incredibly musically clever. As Mike says “Simplicity is good”.

The song opens, of course, with Stan’s beefy snare drum sound. In an interview with John DeChristopher a couple of years ago, he says that the sound was achieved by damping the snare and adding a wad of tissue taped to the head, making it hard to play. This is done to eliminate certain frequencies or overtones that the engineers or producers don’t want coming through on the live track. Unfortunately, this meant that Stan had to keep retuning the drums every three takes and finding out that often, of the 40 takes he’d done, it was the seventh one that was used. Of course, that can be incredibly frustrating, but when you’re shooting for greatness, you have to accept some blood, sweat and tears and as I remarked last week, I think you have to concede that the final product was well worth the effort. 

That simple drum opening has some very subtle little grace notes added in, whether it’s a ghost note or a very light roll on the snare, Stan is adding to the song sonically and musically. The hats are mixed really low so your focus is entirely on that 1-2 1-1-2 kick-snare pattern. It’s a really straight time with the double kick coming under that treble lick that Mike plays. One of the things I love about this drum track is that all the fills are snare and kick only. There’s not a single tom note anywhere to be seen on the song. So it keeps that sonic space that the drums are occupying very clean and uncluttered. This is something that Phil Rudd of AC/DC is a master of; using interplay between those two drums in different combinations to give a sense of movement at key points in the song. The crash cymbals are, like the hats, mixed pretty low. You can tell that the intent is to put the guitar and the vocal at the very front of this track. That kick snare pattern is repeated through the choruses before we get another subtle change from Stan in the bridge, where instead of playing 1-2 1-1-2, he goes to a straight 1-2 1-2 1-2 for the opening five bars before going back to the original pattern. During this section, which is always referred to as the “Watch her Walk” section, we’re again hearing that suspended E under that little guitar lick and Stan backing that second kick out, gives that lick a slightly more cleanly syncopated feel. It’s another strong drum track from Stan that, while frustrating to re-take dozens of times, is really well put together in its attention to where the song is musically at any given point. 

Ron plays a picked bass on this track and during the verses is just sitting on that A root note to make those suspended chords that Mike is playing even more pronounced. That interplay between that root note and the suspended E on the guitar gives the song a real lightness and uplifting quality. Where we get a little bass action is in that bridge, where he’s playing an arpeggio over the F# major chord in juxtaposition to the lead and rhythm guitars and Benmont’s organ, which are sticking more to the fifths and the suspended notes. So another delicate creative touch that provides a little movement in the bottom end, where mostly it’s been in the top end of the song. So this is a song where Ron is providing that foundation rather than taking up any unnecessary space.

As I said in episode one of this season, I think Jimmy Iovine did a fantastic job on this album of mixing Benmont’s keyboards far better than they were on the first two albums. The organ is brought up in the chorus at just the right time and is then more clearly in the mix for the rest of the song, sitting on that A again in the verses in lockstep with Ron’s bassline. We then get a gorgeous piano part in the chorus that acts as counterpoint to the fill that Mike is playing. The same basic note progression, but at half the time. They’re cleverly pitched in the same space, so you sometimes think it’s the piano playing the whole thing or the guitar playing the whole thing. He then plays another much more prominent ascending progression of root-fifths through the last verse that give the song another emotional push into the final chorus. This isn’t just Benmont writing a really good complimentary melody to bounce back and forth with Mike’s guitar, it’s about Jimmy Iovine understanding exactly where that sits sonically and getting the mix exactly right. The piano also that nice heavy reverb that softens it.

Vocally, this is another Petty tour-de-force. I was talking last week about the phrasing and very specific cadence that he employs on Refugee and his full range of ability is on show in this song too. We get that low, drawled narration in the verses, that build to a seering climax in the second 8 bars before dropping into that beautiful chorus. Again, the intonation and phrasing is superb. Those very drawn out vowels in tiiime and moow make the song feel different than it would if it were sung straighter. Similarly that w at the end more, which becomes mow.

Alrighty, it’s time for some Petty Trivia! 

Last week, I asked you: Which all-girl band, primarily famous in the 80s, recorded backing vocals for the track “Waiting for Tonight” which was part of the Full Moon Fever sessions and subsequently released on the Playback Box Set? The song featured the vocal talents of Susanna Hoffs, Debbi Peterson, Vicki Peterson and Michael Steele, the original lineup of The Bangles, who had recorded their album Everything, featuring their huge hit Eternal Flame, around the same time that Tom was recording Full Moon Fever.

Your question for this week is this: Which Live album was released as a limited edition vinyl LP for the 2011 Black Friday Record Store Day?

OK, back to the song. 

Here Comes my Girl is a straight up love song set over a great swing. Whereas a lot of the relationships on the first two albums were either strained or one-side, here we have a protagonist declaring his love in absolute terms. Against a backdrop of uncertainty in life, she is the one constant that is all he needs. As I commented earlier, it’s a lyrically dense song, with the first part of each verse setting up the frustration or anxiety of everything else in the world, before passionately extolling the virtues of this relationship. The line “here comes my girl” alone is loaded with so much weight. It expresses pride, thankfulness, eagerness, anticipation… all in four very simple words. We also get that classic line “Watch her walk”. Again, such a simple phrase, but loaded with imagery. 

Once Jimmy Iovine had heard Refugee and Here Comes My Girl, he said “I don’t need to hear any more. Those two songs will carry the album”, going on to admit “I never listen to side two of any album, I’m only interested in the hits!” Incredible that those opening two songs were written in the same week by Mike and that Tom came up with two of the Heartbreakers most memorable lyrics to go along with them. The single, amazingly, only reached #59 in the US, but was a regular part of the setlist, including being almost ever-present on the 2001-2002 tour. 

As the band were in the early stages of touring Damn the Torpedoes and were shooting the video for Here Comes My Girl, Tom was hit by an unexpected setback. The production crew were using oil-based smoke machines which the band was breathing in all day during the shoot. Unfortunately, at the next show, in Philadelphia, Tom got 75% of the way through the show and his voice just quit. In Warren Zanes biography, he recalls that “I’d never given a second thought to the condition of my voice. Singing was just something I did. But the next day in Philadelphia, midway through the show, my voice started to quit working and 75% of the way in, it was gone. I couldn’t make a sound” Scary stuff for a singer fronting a band who had just released the most important album of their career to date.. A couple of nights later, after losing his voice completely before heading onstage in Boston, doctors told Tom that it was laryngitis and he’d have to rest up for a few days. The problem turned out to be tonsillitis but thankfully, Tom made a full physical recovery and Damn The Torpedoes had a long and hugely successful tour across the latter half of 1979 and the first half of 1980, cementing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers place in the rock and roll firmament. 

OK folks, that’s all for this week. Like Refugee last week, I have to give Here Comes My Girl a perfect score. Pick any part of this song in isolation and it’s perfect. Going back to simplicity, it’s a whole that is so very much greater than the sum of its parts. It’s sentimental without being schmaltzy, it’s musically interesting without being muddled or over-complex, and it’s one of the most universally-loved songs in the catalog. A very easy 10/10 for me. I’ll add a link in the episode notes to Mike talking about how he wrote the guitar parts as well as a link to the interview with Stan, talking about recording the drum track.


Petty Trivia

QUESTION: Which Live album was released as a limited edition vinyl LP for the 2011 Black Friday Record Store Day?

ANSWER: The answer is Kiss My Amps. Featuring 6 tracks from Mojo and the B-Side to Room at the Top, Sweet William. The tracks were all recorded during the 2010 Mojo tour and, with the exception of Sweet William and Takin My Time, had been previously released digitally to Highway Companions Club members for download.


Well, it was nearly all summer we sat on your roof.
Yeah, we smoked cigarettes and we stared at the moon.
And I'd show you stars you never could see.
Baby, it couldn't have been that easy to forget about me.

Baby, time means nothing, anything seemed real.
Yeah, you could kiss like fire and you made me feel
Like every word you said was meant to be.
No, it couldn't have been that easy to forget about me.

Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes.
Even the losers keep a little bit of pride.
They get lucky sometimes.

Two cars parked on the overpass,
Rocks hit the water like broken glass.
I should have known right then it was too good to last.
God, it's such a drag when you're livin' in the past.

Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes.
Even the losers keep a little bit of pride.
They get lucky sometimes.

Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes.
Even the losers keep a little bit of pride.
Yeah, they get lucky sometimes.

Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes.
Even the losers get lucky sometimes.
Even the losers get lucky sometimes.
Even the losers get lucky sometimes.
Even the losers get lucky sometimes.