All these years later, it’s a footnote, but “Free Girl Now” created a minor controversy when Tom Petty decided to allow it to be downloaded for free from mp3.com for a couple of days, presumably just to see what would happen.
As a publicity stunt for Echo — his first real album with The Heartbreakers since 1991 — it was probably pretty successful: I’m sure that I was one of the people who downloaded it, and there was no way that free download was going to keep me from purchasing the whole album, especially after hearing the song.
With Steve Ferrone double-timing his drums throughout, “Free Girl Now” was the most convincing straight-ahead three chord rock song Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers put together since “Jammin’ Me” a dozen years previously.
Slightly tempering the rock and roll abandon was the lyric about an abuse survivor finally getting away from her tormentor. But only slightly as Petty sang the title over and over in his best Dylanesque smirk.
And at the end, Mike Campbell’s guitar solo over Petty’s vocal, Howie Epstein’s “hey baby!” and Ferrone’s relentless drumming, “Free Girl Now” enters the upper stratosphere of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers rock the fuck out and then rock the fuck out some more songs.
“Free Girl Now”
“Free Girl Now” performed live in 1999
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