Tom Petty Sings “Free Fallin'”

Listen to this track by Heartbreaker honcho and first-time solo artist Tom Petty. It’s “Free Fallin'”, a smash hit song as taken from his first solo record, 1989’s Full Moon Fever. The song was the first single from that album, and remains today as his most enduring hit song.

The album was recorded around the same time as Petty’s involvement with the Travelling Wilburys, a “supergroup” that was more of an happily accidental situation that brought Petty together with some of his musical heroes, and by association revealing just what many people knew all along; that Petty himself had achieved hero status himself. Besides impressive results on the charts and with heavy rotation on the radio, one of the many things that came out of that situation was his relationship with Jeff Lynne, former ELO creative head and a producer with a signature style. The two began writing together. “Free Fallin'” is arguably their best result.

In some ways, this gambit in creating a solo album was a tough move for Petty, who’s backing band The Heartbreakers had been his comrades in arms for such a long time by then. Purportedly, others in the band were disdainful of the project, possibly fearing that their association with Petty was nearing its end. Still, a few Heartbreakers appear on the album including lead guitarist Mike Campbell (who plays on this song), bassist Howie Epstein, and keyboardist Benmont Tench. Ironically, instead of being a dramatic departure from his life fronting his old band, there’s something about this song that hearkens back to Petty’s earliest days with the Heartbreakers. Read more

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Play “Refugee”

Listen to this track by Floridian rock ‘n’ roll flame-keepers Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. It’s their top twenty Billboard hit “Refugee” as taken from their high watermark 1979 album Damn The Torpedos. The song was released as a single in January 1980, standing as one of their breakthrough songs into the top 40 from that time forward.

“Refugee” is an angry tune, sung angrily by Petty. And in 1979, the swagger put back in rock ‘n’ roll in this fashion was a very good thing. Yet, at the same time, there is a pretty timeless quality to this song too, reminding us that the pissed-off, frustrated lover in a relationship marked by baggage that won’t be put down is as much a part of pop music as it’s ever been.

It doesn’t matter whether its sung in 1979 or in 2012. Because when at its best, the power of pop music is that it runs neck and neck with shared human experience.

But, at the time, only just before this song scored such career-cementing success as a single for Petty, the artist really was in a relationship he wasn’t happy with and was having a hard time getting out of.  And it had very little to do with love. Read more