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.)
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