Remembering Tom Petty
By: Joseph Suto
with James Baase
Tom Petty Remembered
In October we lost an icon, we lost Tom Petty. It seems so strange and I find it hard to write those words. Petty had just finished his 2017 tour on September 25 and one week later he was gone. It was almost as if he knew his time was limited yet showed no signs of it.
Before he began his 2017 world tour Tom Petty told Rolling Stone: “I’m thinking it may be the last trip around the country. It’s very likely we’ll keep playing, but will we take on 50 shows in one tour? I don’t think so. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was thinking this might be the last big one.”
“We’re all on the backside of our sixties. I have a granddaughter now I’d like to see as much as I can. ‘I don’t want to spend my life on the road. This tour will take me away for four months. With a little kid, that’s a lot of time.”
Petty played Buffalo quite a few times over the years. A few memorable shows include a huge July 4th blowout at the stadium along with Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead. In 2010 he played two separate shows two weeks apart at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. His final time he closed out the Darien Lake season in 2014. Those who were lucky enough to see him at nearby CMAC this past July consider yourselves very lucky.
Sit back, relax and enjoy our celebration of Petty’s best songs. We present our top 25 Tom Petty Songs!
25. Yer So Bad- while the song only reached #86 on the charts the 5th single from Full Moon Fever had remained a concert staple in Petty’s set.
24. All The Wrong Reasons- a gem that hides on Into The Great Wide Open, one listen and you’ll agree this song rocks.
23. The Last DJ- From the album of the same name and oddly enough Petty stopped performing live in 2003. One of the better songs from 2000-on.
22. Even The Losers- Petty was never one to mince words as far as relationships go. In Even The Losers he is brazenly suggesting to a past love on the losing end of the breakup that she did, in fact get lucky and forget about him. This “tell it like he sees it” confidence is what endeared him to the young male fans of the 70s and 80s. That familiar shameless attitude was expressed three years later on “You Got Lucky” where he had the audacity to warn his lady, “You got lucky when I found you.
21. American Girl- The track is the lone representative from his debut which also makes it the most performed song in his concerts. This also has the distinction of being the final song Petty performed as it closed out his Hollywood Bowl show on September 25, 2017.
20. Mary Jane’s Last Dance- The song’s origin dates back to leftovers from Full Moon Fever. The record company wanted some new materiel to his 1993 Greatest Hits release.
19. End Of The Line- The lone Traveling Wilbury’s song on the list. It was released as the second single from the Wilbury’s debut. Petty is featured on the verses while George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison sing the choruses in turn.
18. Into The Great Wide Open- The title track remains one of Petty’s best. He played this one live all the way till his last tour.
17. I Need To Know- From the band’s second album You’re Gonna Get It, I Need To Know almost made the top 40 stalling out on spot short at #41. The song is a driving rocker short sweet and to the point.
16. Here Comes My Girl- The third single from Damn The Torpedoes may have only peaked at #59 on the charts but it is quite a memorable song. It is a song anyone can relate to. When the song was written Petty had trouble singing the verses until he tried half singing and half talking them which brought the song to life.
15. Learning To Fly- The leadoff track from Into The Great Wide Open written by Petty and Jeff Lynne. Former Wilbury bandmate Bob Dylan played this song on October 21, 2017 as a tribute to Petty in Denver.
14. Jammin’ Me – The song was the main hit as it carried 1987s Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough). It peaked at number 20. The song was written by Petty his cohort Mike Campbell and Bob Dylan.
13. Needles And Pins- Another duet with Stevie Nicks. This one was live and appeared on Pack Up The Plantation. It would have been cool if they had done a whole album together.
12. Runaway Trains- Also taken from Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough). The song received some minor airplay and was the album’s second single. A very underrated song that has stood the test of time and does not sound dated.
11. A One Story Town- The song kicks off Long After Dark. While never released as a single, this is an obscure song as it was only played live during the Long After Dark tour then it disappeared.
10. Runnin’ Down A Dream- The song is an ode to his musical roots even referencing Del Shannon. The song was written with Petty, Lynne and Campbell and reached #23 on the charts. Always a highlight during a Tom Petty show as the song was always in the set since its birth.
9. King’s Highway- Petty believing his Shangri-La lies somewhere out on the road. The song is another gem that hid on Into The Great Wide Open. Sporadically played live over the years Petty delivered a great performance in 2010 at his second Darien Lake PAC show.
8. You Wreck Me- The second single from Wildflowers oddly enough did receive a good amount of airplay but failed to chart on the Billboard 100. It did however reach #2 on the mainstream rock chart. This one found its way into many of his live shows including being the leadoff song in his encore over his final tours.
7. I Won’t Back Down- This Petty hit simply sums up his inherent tenacity, which was evidenced throughout his entire life and career by his endlessly fighting authority, the odds and record companies to defend what was right for music, musicians and fans. It became an anthem for those facing adversity and continues to be as relevant; now, more than ever.
6. Free Fallin’- Perhaps the best-known Petty tune that was also his highest charting solo song. Oddly enough the duet “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” he did with Stevie Nicks, peaked at number 3 and is the highest single Petty was associated with. The song was the written by Petty and ELO leader and front-man Jeff Lynne, making it the first song completed for Petty’s first full fledged solo album Full Moon Fever. Full Moon Fever also marks Lynne’s first production involvement with Petty and would go on to produce The Heartbreakers Into The Great Wide Open and his final solo album Highway Companion.
5. Don’t Do Me Like That- Growing up this song along with “Refugee” were my first exposure to Tom Petty. The song was the first single from Damn The Torpedoes and also became Petty’s first top-ten hit.
4. The Waiting- Kind of like a missing child as the song was sparingly played in concert by Petty during the latter half of his career. The leadoff track and single from his 1981 Hard Promises album shows an optimistic Petty at his finest.
3. Change Of Heart- The other golden track from Long After Dark peaked at #21. Perhaps Petty’s most underrated track as you’d be hard pressed to find it on a regular radio station these days. He also rarely played the song following the Long After Dark tour.
2. Refugee- The song that introduced me to Petty. A song a young teenager can relate to. Petty held this song in high regard as he kept it in his set and usually reserved it to close out his main set. As popular as it was it is surprising it only reach #15 on the charts.
1. You Got Lucky- Yes, the song sounds like it was from the 80s, there’s no argument there. The song however resonates not Petty’s famous guitar chords but Benmont Tench’s synthesizers. The leadoff single from his Long After Dark album may have peaked only at #20 but this song is special to us. Petty must have thought highly of it as well as he revived the song during the first leg of his final tour after an eleven year absence from his setlists.