In honor of Tom Petty‘s birthday, we’re revisiting some of his hits!
“Don’t Come Around Here No More”
“You darken my door.”
It’s been documented that the inspiration for this 1985 song was a romantic encounter that co-writer David A. Stewart (Eurythmics) had with Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac), who described the scenario as very “Alice In Wonderland,” lending inspiration for the music video. In this psychedelic tale, Petty plays The Mad Hatter and lucky for Alice, after almost drowning in a teacup and being served to guests as dessert, we learn it was all a dream. The song peaked at No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart and No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“You Don’t Know How It Feels”
“People come, people go, some grow young, some grow cold.”
We can only assume it felt amazing to be Tom Petty in 1994. The song and music video received heavy rotation, though the line “Let’s roll another joint” was censored on the radio, with an edit butchering the infamous line into “let’s hit another joint” (turning the reference into one of less offensive drinking). The song peaked at No. 1 on Mainstream Rock Songs and No. 13 on the Hot 100. All this video needed was Petty with a mic, a guitar, a harmonica and at halfway in, a sexy and mysterious woman to jump on the mic and continue to sing the song in Petty’s voice.
“I’m gonna free fall out into nothing. Gonna leave this world for awhile.”
Arguably his most widely known track, “Free Fallin'” (off Petty’s 1989 solo album Full Moon Fever) peaked at No. 7 on the Hot 100.
“You Wreck Me”
“Rescue me, should I go wrong. If I dig too deep, if I stay too long.”
The song was released off Petty’s second solo album Wildflowers in 1994 and unlike the other music videos on this list, you won’t find a memorable storyline here, just Petty having a groovy time rocking out with his band. It hit No. 2 on Mainstream Rock Songs in 1995.
“Somewhere, somehow, somebody must have kicked you around some.”
In 1980, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released this song as the second single from Damn the Torpedoes and it peaked at No. 15 on the Hot 100 in 1980. In the video, Petty rocks out with the Heartbreakers and his infections personality shines throughout. The choreographed (possibly improvised?) spin at 0:34 in, is not to be missed.
“Mary Jane’s Last Dance”
“I’ve been told, you never slow down, you never grow old.”
In 1993 we learned that Tom Perry had a fetish for dead people, or at least in his music video he did. And we let it slide because Kim Basinger played the female corpse. The off-putting, yet captivating video, which won Best Male Video at the 1994 MTV VMAs, features Petty as a morgue assistant who can’t seem to let go: “One more time to kill the pain.”
Luckily, Petty accepts that no matter how hard he tries, it ain’t gonna work out, and he says goodbye to his love with a burial at sea. We all know what happens after that. The song peaked at No. 14 on the Hot 100, becoming Petty’s first top 20 Hot 100 hit in four years and also topped Mainstream Rock Songs for two weeks.
“I Won’t Back Down”
“There ain’t no easy way out.”
In the classic music video starring two former Beatles, Petty has us wondering “what’s in the box,” before rocking out with Ringo Starr and Traveling Wilburys bandmates George Harrison and Jeff Lynne. George Harrison plays acoustic guitar and lends backing vocals, while Starr is depicted as playing drums. The song, which was the first single off Tom Petty’s first solo album, Full Moon Fever (1989), peaked at No. 12 on the Hot 100 and topped Mainstream Rock Songs for five weeks.
“Runnin’ Down a Dream”
“Working on a mystery. Going wherever it leads.”
The song, which was released in 1989 as the second single from Petty’s first solo album Full Moon Fever, peaked at No. 1 on Mainstream Rock Songs and No. 23 on the Hot 100. The animated video, based on classic comic strip “Little Nemo in Slumberland” by Winsor McCay, features Petty as the character Flip traveling through Slumberland.
“Don’t Do Me Like That”
“You know you better watch your step, or you’re gonna get hurt yourself”
The song, which was released in 1979 as the first single from Damn the Torpedoes, peaked at No. 10 on the Hot 100, becoming Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers first top 10 hit.
Watch the track performed live in France circa 1980.
“Into the Great Wide Open”
“The sky was the limit.”
In 1991 “the future was wide open” for Eddie Rebel (Johnny Depp) who moved to Los Angeles to “make it,” but when he does, the success goes to his head and everything falls apart. Who could forget cameos by Tom Petty (as the roadie named Bart), Faye Dunaway and Matt LeBlanc? The title track by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers peaked at No. 4 on Mainstream Rock Songs.