Not what you think!
Stevie Nicks is an awesome artist and she is still bringing it. But…
Tom Petty has been my favorite artist since 1979 and will continue to be through my last breath. I try hard to think of a Tom Petty concert I may have missed, but to the best of my recollection, if Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came to town, I was there. I first saw them in 1980 and then so many times before I last saw them in 2017, just a few months before Tom died.
Though he has passed on, his music will stay with me now and forever. I won’t quite say that Petty is the soundtrack of my life, but I think I can safely say that a majority of songs from the soundtrack of my life feature Tom and the Heartbreakers. Maybe it was the timing or maybe it was coincidence. Damn the Torpedoes came out in 1979, my senior year in high school and when I really started getting into music. Not that I didn’t listen to or like music. I was rocking the Eagles, Elton John, Zeppelin, and Ronstandt like any good 70’s kid, but when Petty came along, that is when I really started listening and maybe, I thought, he was talking to me.
Recently, I acquired some Tom Petty artwork, so I finally have something “TP” to grace the walls of my new abode. I don’t consider this a moment, but I thought this might be a moment to share my Top Ten Tom Petty (and the Heartbreakers) songs, because, well, I can (hoo boy, that is a bunch of commas in a short stack of words!).
This is the artwork in question – although it is substantially larger and it is framed. I see this every day and it reminds me that I am still…
Learning to Fly (Into the Great Wide Open) – I think this may be the Tom Petty song I most identify with. Many folks think it’s about drugs (some people think all songs are about drugs) – it is not, so let’s get that out of the way. You can take this a few different ways, however I perceive it as always trying to go forward in life, even though you may not feel prepared. As someone with anxiety, this speaks to me and is a guidepost or reminder to keep trying.
I'm learning to fly but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing
Refugee (Damn the Torpedoes) – This was the one that started it all. I received the album (Damn the Torpedoes) for Christmas (thank you Santa!) and when I heard this song that was that. This is an anthem that still stands on its own today and maybe more so than when it was released based on the political climate right now.
Honey, it don't make no difference to me, baby
Everybody's had to fight to be free, you see
You don't have to live like a refugee (Don't have to live like a refugee)
Running Man’s Bible (Mojo). Mojo is a bluesy album that sounds like the band had a fun time making. This song stuck out in the first several chords and is one I go back to again and again. It is yet another great story from one of America’s greatest story tellers.
Honey here's one to glory
Here's to bad weather
And all the hard things
We've been through together
Runnin’ Down a Dream (Full Moon Fever) – Tom was always great at creating imagery, even if you saw something other than what he was thinking about. The imagery in this song is colorful and clear. You can feel the wind in your hair as Tom rolls through the verses.
It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down
I had the radio on, I was drivin'
Trees went by, me and Del were singin'
I was flyin'
It’s Good to Be King (Wildflowers) – This has always been my favorite song off Wildflowers, but it’s extra special since I saw the Wildflowers tour with my good bud Tater (Jana T). The lyrics touch on the benefits of rock and roll stardom, but also that it is not the only reality. The point is that the reality you see may not be the reality that is real.
It's good to be king, if just for a while
To be there in velvet, yeah, to give 'em a smile
It's good to get high and never come down
It's good to be king of your own little town
Runaway Trains (Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough)) – The song has a haunting flavor to it, not to mention a hypnotic guitar riff from Mike Campbell. It is not something you hear often (if at all), but it has stuck with me throughout the years.
She says "I understand
I'm used to being alone
And holding my own hand.
I'm stronger than you know"
Saving Grace (Highway Companion) – Coincidentally, this is a great driving song. It reminds me of driving late in the night on a highway you have to yourself.
I'm passing sleeping cities
Fading by degrees
Not believing all I see to be so
You Got Lucky (Long After Dark) – I will be honest, this song hits home because I don’t feel that some people really get to know me before they move on. And this one sticks out because of some life moments when it was released.
You better watch what you say
You better watch what you do to me
Don't get carried away
Girl, if you can do better than me, go
Yeah, go, but remember
The Waiting (Hard Promises) – My anticipation for Hard Promises was off the charts. I think I bothered the staff at the local record store every day for weeks until the album finally made it out. And it did not disappoint, with The Waiting as the leadoff.
The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part
Casa Dega (originally a B-Side – re-released on Playback and the Deluxe version of Damn the Torpedoes) – A friend told me about this song and it took me years to find it; not getting to listen to it until Playback came out in 1995. It’s a great story featuring a place that exists and it is so – well, it is so Tom.
Baby I think I'm starting to believe the things that I've heard
'Cause tonight in Casa Dega I hang on every word