Programming Note

Just a heads-up to my loyal readers about the schedule the next few days concerning the wrap-up of the Tom Petty Countdown. We’re going to drag the suspense out a little bit. No post tomorrow due to a previous engagement for CK. We’ll reveal #3 and #2 Thursday and then #1 on Friday. So stay tuned, and have a good one.


Tom Petty Countdown #5: “Insider”

The story behind this song is that Petty wrote it with the intention of giving it to Stevie Nicks, then thought it too good to let go. Nicks understood and agreed to sing back-up on “Insider,” Petty eventually gave her “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” which the two rode all the way to the bank, and all was fine with the world, right?

Well, not quite, because, while there’s no doubting that “Stop Draggin’” is a great song, “Insider” is not just better, but is one of the best songs that Petty has ever written. And yet it remains largely unheard, tucked away quietly on Side 2 of Hard Promises. I’m begging you, casual TP fans, look this song up, and you’ll be as floored as I was when I discovered it upon purchasing the CD many years ago.

First of all, it is a tender band performance, featuring what may be Benmont Tench’s finest moments with the Heartbreakers. His organ propels the music in the verse, riding over the acoustic guitar and hitting all of the right emotional notes without ever overdoing it. His pounding piano in the wordless bridge is more elemental, as he bashes way in conjunction with the frustration of the narrator.

Then there’s the stunningly great duet that Petty and Nicks perform here. On “Stop Draggin,” it was more of a he said/ she said vibe, but here, they’re on the same team. As Petty woefully tells his tale yet keeps his emotions on a low boil, Nicks acts as his id, letting loose with all of the pain he’s too proud to show.

Above all, it’s a wonderful song, with music that sighs and then surges as each new wound rises to the surface, and lyrics that nail the plight of someone whose vision of a perfect love is ultimately betrayed. When Petty draws the curtain to revel the third party who has ultimately interfered with this scenario, it’s with a mixture of disgust and concern: “I’ll bet you’re his masterpiece/I’ll be you’re his self-control/Yeah you’ll become his legacy/His quiet world of white and gold.”

In the final moments, as he tried to define his own role in this farce, he comes to the shuddering realization that he simply wasn’t what she wanted: “And I’m the one who oughta know/I’m the one you left to rust/Not one of your twisted friends/I’m the one you couldn’t love.”

On this last line, Petty’s voice practically quakes, the façade finally coming down. It is an overpowering moment in this amazing song. This guy may say he’s an “Insider,” but few songs have ever so expertly detailed the helplessness of what it’s like to be on the outside of a relationship looking in.

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

US: http://www.amazon.com/Breakdown-Pettys-Best-Songs-ebook/dp/B00C281ZB6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1364475476&sr=8-3&keywords=jim+beviglia

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Breakdown-Pettys-Best-Songs-ebook/dp/B00C281ZB6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1364469871&sr=1-1

(E-mail the author at countdownkid@hotmail.com.)


Tom Petty Countdown #13: “Rebels”

Petty nearly ended his career over this song, as he shattered his hand by punching a wall in frustration over his inability to nail a proper recording. I can see his point. The drums are way too glossy for the earthiness of the tale, there’s an awkwardness in the return to the chorus at song’s end, and the whole thing lurches from section to section instead of flowing.

Sometimes a song is so good though that it’s hard to damage it too much. “Rebels” is just such a song. From the very first line, Petty creates a character who is defined by his mistakes: “Honey don’t walk out, I’m too drunk to follow.” His voice is all self-deprecating shame in the first verses as he depicts his various misdeeds in hilarious fashion.

But the third verse reveals another side to this guy, as he sings with wounded pride about the grievances he perceives that his forefathers suffered, grievances that affect him acutely in the present day: “Even before my father’s father/They called us all rebels/While they burned our cornfields/And left our cities leveled/I can still feel the eyes of those blue-bellied devils/Yeah, when I’m waikin’ ‘round at night/Through the concrete and metal.”

It’s a brave songwriting stance to take, even though it is just words in the mouth of a character, to depict the North side of the Civil War as the bad guys. The only other time I’ve heard it pulled off well is “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by The Band, and even then, the character is filled with more sadness than anger.

But Petty nails it. And when he bursts into that chorus, with the 12-string ringing out alongside him, it’s hard not to get pulled along in the emotion, no matter what part of the country you call home. That’s a significant achievement, and, in the face of that, all technical problems the song might have seem pretty meaningless.

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

US: http://www.amazon.com/Breakdown-Pettys-Best-Songs-ebook/dp/B00C281ZB6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1364475476&sr=8-3&keywords=jim+beviglia

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Breakdown-Pettys-Best-Songs-ebook/dp/B00C281ZB6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1364469871&sr=1-1

(E-mail the author at countdownkid@hotmail.com.)


Tom Petty Countdown #28: “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”

You would think from the video of this duet with Stevie Nicks that turned into a big hit (#3 on Billboard) that the song was a proper collaboration between the band and the Fleetwood Mac chanteuse striking out on her own. But in fact, Petty and Mike Campbell wrote the song for the Heartbreakers to record, which they did. Producer Jimmy Iovine then convinced Petty to give this song to Nicks for her own album, Bella Donna.

So what you end up getting is Nicks’ singing overdubbed onto the Heartbreakers recording, with Petty’s original vocal mostly edited out except for a single verse and during the refrains, when Nicks harmonizes over the top of him. The result was so seamless that it stands as one of rock’s great duets.

It works wonderfully as such because of the lyrical content. If Petty had sung it by himself, it might have come off as a one-sided and condescending request to a young girl (“You need someone looking after you”) to let the man take charge of her life. With Nicks on board, it becomes a running argument that hits surprisingly profound levels, aided and abetted by The Heartbreakers soulfully restrained performance.

From such an unlikely beginning, a hit song was born. With artists of this caliber, it turns out they don’t even have to be in the same room together to create magic.

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

US: http://www.amazon.com/Breakdown-Pettys-Best-Songs-ebook/dp/B00C281ZB6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1364475476&sr=8-3&keywords=jim+beviglia

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Breakdown-Pettys-Best-Songs-ebook/dp/B00C281ZB6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1364469871&sr=1-1

(E-mail the author at countdownkid@hotmail.com.)


Tom Petty Countdown #31: “To Find A Friend”

It’s a distant cousin of “Yer So Bad” in terms of the episodic nature of the lyrics, but “To Find A Friend is the less whimsical of the two songs. While the adults in the song bounce around with frenzied unpredictability, I’ve always looked at the song from the perspective of the unmentioned children of this family. They’re the ones I believe Petty has in mind when he talks about this sequence of events changing lives and plans.

This song is an excellent example of Petty’s underrated melodic flair. The refrain is especially tuneful, and it features an effortlessly moving lyric that details what it feels like when your life becomes unmoored: “And the days went by like paper in the wind/Everything changed, then changed again/It’s hard to find a friend”.

While Benmont Tench’s saloon-style piano solo is the thing that sticks out on the instrumental end, the most notable contribution on the song is the drumming of the one and only Ringo Starr. Ringo bumps things along gently with his undeniable feel for such things. After all, who else would know better about drumming for a song with a great melody?

(E-mail the author at countdownkid@hotmail.com.)


Tom Petty Countdown #32: “Straight Into Darkness”

The Heartbreakers had a pretty high batting average in the late 70’s and early 80’s when it came to songs released as singles going on to become legitimate hits. Here was one case that I think they should have pushed a song as a single, because “Straight Into Darkness” is a practically flawless rock song that was left to languish as an album cut on Long After Dark.

This is one of those of those numbers with nary a wasted moment. It cleverly builds anticipation in the listener with the subtle piano play of Benmont Tench in the beginning. The first verse is also very downbeat and restrained, but when Petty busts out with the line “Then one day the feeling just died,” the band takes its cue and explodes into the crackerjack refrain.

Once there, you’re in Heartbreaker heaven, with the Searchers-style riff cementing each of Petty’s powerful lines. He wraps things up with a glimmer of hope and wisdom in the final verse, a refusal to give in to the darkness: “I don’t believe the good times are over/I don’t believe the thrill is all gone/Real love is a man’s salvation/The weak ones fall, the strong carry on”

Grace and hope find their way in the midst of the despair, and Petty finds his way to another classic, one that a lot more people should know.

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

US: http://www.amazon.com/Breakdown-Pettys-Best-Songs-ebook/dp/B00C281ZB6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1364475476&sr=8-3&keywords=jim+beviglia

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Breakdown-Pettys-Best-Songs-ebook/dp/B00C281ZB6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1364469871&sr=1-1

(E-mail the author at countdownkid@hotmail.com.)