Deep Cuts: Tom Petty

My love affair with the music of Tom Petty began in 1989 when I saw his video for “Free Fallin’” on MTV. Like many in my generation, the song really struck a chord with me and I ran out to buy Full Moon Fever, which goes down as one of the best CD purchases I’ve ever made. Much like U2’s The Joshua Tree, which I talked about as part of my U2 Deep Cuts article, Full Moon Fever has absolutely no weak spots – every song is good. Two years later he and the Heartbreakers released Into The Great Wide Open, and after hearing “Learning To Fly,” I knew I was hooked. I started to explore Petty’s back catalog a bit more and found familiar Heartbreaker tunes like “American Girl,” “Breakdown” and “Refugee.” Luckily for me, in 1993 the group released its first Greatest Hits compilation, which still serves as a fantastic introduction to the band.

As time went on, Petty released the terrific Wildflowers and contributed all of the tracks to the She’s The One soundtrack, which was completely overlooked. It was during these years that Petty cemented himself as one of my all-time favorites, a moniker that he and his band will continue to hold as long as I draw breath.

1) “The Wild One, Forever” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
This Springsteen-esque track was actually written with the Rascals in mind during a break in the recording of “Breakdown.” It has a great melody over the initial guitar riff that carries the song until the chorus, which really shows how much potential Petty had in 1976.

2) “Insider” – Hard Promises
Producer Jimmy Iovine wanted Petty to write a song for Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna, which Iovine was also producing. But after Petty finished “Insider,” he said “it really hurt me when I did the track” and he couldn’t give the song up. Nicks understood and even sang harmony on the beautiful ballad. Nicks ended up using the Petty’s “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” instead.

3) “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)” – Hard Promises
The Heartbreakers’ usual bassist, Ron Blair, was drifting away from the band during recording sessions for Hard Promises, so Petty brought in one of his heroes, Duck Dunn (Booker T & the MG’s), who plays an exquisite bass line while Petty moves through the vocals. The song then explodes from the soft verse into the chorus. Petty feels that the single would have received much more airplay if not for the Heartbreakers’ appearance on his duet with Stevie Nicks, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” which was released as a single at the same time.

4) “Change of Heart” – Long After Dark
When asked about this track, Petty has said, “I was trying to write an ELO kind of song. I think the inspiration was ‘Do Ya.’” This influence is obvious as the track starts off with a crunchy guitar. While Petty only refers to “Change of Heart” as a “good rock song,” the track shows Petty’s considerable versatility within the rock genre.

5) “Straight into Darkness” – Long after Dark
This track didn’t really work in the studio until Petty decided to turn it over to the piano. Once the Heartbreakers heard the pretty piano intro, they knew how to play the track. Even though it wasn’t released as a single, Bruce Springsteen once pulled Petty aside and told him what a great song it was.

Be sure to check out’s full list of Tom Petty Deep Cuts, and then read more about the aritst with their list of Tom Petty Essentials, an entertainer page, and a book review of Conversations with Tom Petty.


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