Tom Petty Countdown #49: “Runaway Trains”

It was the 80’s after all, and even Tom Petty could fall victim to the overproduction techniques that marred so much of the music of that decade. Actually, Petty should be commended, because he so rarely fell into that trap that the few occasions when he did are more conspicuous.

Petty allowed Mike Campbell the leeway to create the music on this song after he famously turned down a similar instrumental track from Campbell that the guitarist would give to Don Henley, who turned it into the mega-hit “The Boys Of Summer.” “Runaway Trains” couldn’t capture quite the same magic though.

Yet the amazing thing about “Runaway Trains” is that, once it kicks into that glorious chorus, it overrides all objections. It becomes The Heartbreakers again, galloping through the proceedings with elegance and power.

I can only speculate how high this one would have been ranked if not for the production fussiness.  But any song that ranks in the Top 50 of a Tom Petty countdown has to be a standout, one in which the positives far outweigh any missteps.

(For the full e-book of this list, Breakdown: Tom Petty’s 100 Best Songs, check out the Amazon links below.)



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