The Last Dance.
Hi-Top Top 50 Greatest Tom Petty Songs
10. Don’t Come Around Here No More
Petty said many times that the Mad Hatter look from this iconic video became a real drag for him but there’s no denying the impact this one had on bringing the Heartbreakers to next level superstar status. And the song itself is just such an original piece of music. Totally of the Heartbreakers but also expands their sound at the same time.
9. Mary Jane’s Last Dance
This tune really introduced a whole new generation of fans to Petty. It’s really a marker in the road, a sign post, as he moved from 80s Mad Hatter video guy to 90s Classic Rock Icon. It was a new one for the Greatest Hits album but really it was a transitional tune that bridged the gap of what he had done to what he was about to do.
8. Even the Losers
Look Number 8 is not bad. This is a killer tune but at this point they all are and one of them has to be number 8.
Let’s play a little game – Name a musician who had not only a great album but arguably their best album AFTER they released their Greatest Hits album? By my calculations there’s only one – Mr. Tom Petty. Wildflowers is a gorgeous and dare I say heart breaking batch of mostly gentle songs. “You belong somewhere you feel free”. The best Petty songs all seem to be about the same thing – breaking away from the chains that bind you. Whether that’s where you grew up, or your family or a relationship that has sadly run aground, whatever it is that’s holding you back you have to get free and be the person you want to be. It’s a simple concept that is probably the hardest thing in life to do and most people fail miserably but you have to try. “Run away let your heart be your guide”.
6. Stop Dragging My Heart Around
Yes it was officially released on a Stevie Nicks album but it’s a Petty song through and through. An original Petty/Campbell composition, Nicks is backed by the Heartbreakers and the song is just pure Petty. Like I said previously it’s a shame we weren’t blessed with a full length Petty-Nicks duet album.
There’s two versions of “Walls” on She’s the One. Personally I prefer the stripped down acoustic version – “No. 3” but “Circus” is great two. This one is all in the lyrics – “You got a heart so big it could crush this town” is better than 99.9% of lyrics ever written. Now let’s talk about She’s the One. This is a middling mid 90s Rom-Com from Ed Burns, who if you weren’t around in the mid 90s, Ed Burns was a thing, a big thing, it’s kind of hard to explain except to say that he got Tom Petty to do the entire soundtrack to his movie, so I guess that explains just how big of thing Ed Burns was in the mid 90s. The dude married Christy Turlington, that’s the kinda heater Mr. Burns was on. Anywho, “Walls” is a stunner of a tune in any form.
4. The Waiting
At this point we are really just picking nits here and most of it comes down to personal preferences. Any of these could be #1 or #2 on a different day and today it just so happens that “The Waiting” is #4.
3. Here Comes My Girl
Benny “Vegas” Gloves had this one as the odds on favorite to be #1 but it lands at a more than respectable #3. On a different day it easily could be #1. “The Waiting” and “Here Comes My Girl” are almost of a piece, two sides of a continuing story. In “The Waiting” he’s still trying to find or thinks he might have found the one but he’s not quite sure. In “Here Comes My Girl” he knows he’s found her or probably more like she found him. Either way she’s all he needs tonight.
2. I Won’t Back Down
It’s just an iconic song. The one that perhaps will become his signature and maybe already has:
“You can stand me up at the gates of hell but I won’t back down”. We haven’t gone to much into the history of Tom Petty but the one thing he never did was back down. In the early 80s he almost derailed his entire career in a fight with his record label over the price of his record. He was vehement that Heartbreakers records be affordable to the average fan. The amount they were squabbling over – $1. Yes one dollar. Petty wanted his records priced at $8.98 and the record company wanted $9.98. The dude almost threw his entire life into the shitter trying to save his fans one damn dollar. The man never backed down.
1. American Girl
Sometimes the first hit really is the greatest.
One of the things about Petty is that in an art form (Rock Music) that is mostly dudes singing about girls he defied the conventions of the typical rock lyric. The girls in Petty songs contain multitudes. They have lives beyond the gaze of the singer. “She couldn’t help but think there was a little more to life…somewhere else”. He gave all the characters in his songs just that little bit of extra dignity that your average songwriter didn’t. Petty dig just a little deeper, had just a little bit more ache in his voice, that extra bit of Petty magic that made all the difference.
That’s it. That’s the list. Facts is facts and the fact is that the Lil’ Dogg has to make cuts just to get down to 50 songs. That’s how deep the Petty catalog runs. The man is, was and will always be an American Treasure.
Rest Easy Tom. You’re among the wild flowers.