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Song Stories

“All Star”

Smash Mouth | 1999

Smash Mouth guitarist Greg Camp was thinking about basketball when he wrote this motivating pep song, but as soon as it was recorded, singer Steve Harwell thought about possible licensing opportunities. "We were going, 'Gatorade, football, baseball, basketball — this song's going to be everywhere.'" And soon the song was everywhere: in movies, commercials and sports arenas. While some thought bands like Led Zeppelin were selling out by having their songs in commercials around this time, Harwell never had second thoughts about the concept. "I got into this to entertain, and, of course, make a living from it, and to be able to have our music heard in whatever way."

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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