Tom Petty remembered: 12 ‘other’ songs worth your time

Stepping a bit outside our normal lane here, but in case you didn’t know it Mobile Sports Report (meaning me) has been a huge Tom Petty fan since 1979, so forgive me if we put stadium technology aside for just one post. Reading all the interesting stuff on the web today following Monday’s sad passing of TP from this world, I noticed several “lists” of top Tom Petty songs and thought I would add my slightly different take to the mix.

While the big hits are songs millions of people know and love — I saw the band twice this summer on their 40th anniversary tour and was simply amazed at full stadiums singing every word of almost every song — as someone who has listened to Tom Petty music pretty much every day of my life for the past four decades I may be able to turn you on to some gems that are less well-known but well worth a listen. Without further ado, my list of 12 ‘other’ songs (it’s really 13 but there’s a surprise), not meant to be a top ranking or necessarily my all-time favorites but just more of the intriguing, diverse playbook that Petty gave to us before his way-to-soon departure.

First small bit of advice: If you are looking for some Petty to add to your collection, the must-have is the Live Anthology collection, and get the deluxe edition if you can find it. As ardent TP fans know, the albums were great but the live shows were where it was really at, because you could always count on a new twist, a new ending, a fun interlude, something that made it different and special to see it live. And many times, Petty would take a decent album song — like “Learning to Fly” — and make it transcendent by doing something different, like doing it slower and acoustic (the change was so good they kept playing it slow/acoustic for years). Early on in the Heartbreakers career it was always fun to see what they would do with “Breakdown,” and the version on the Live Anthology is classic (with a “Hit the road, Jack” interlude).

Anyway, to the music: In no order of ranking, here’s our ‘other’ 12 songs:

1. Shadow of a Doubt

One of the second-level tracks from Damn the Torpedoes, Shadow of a Doubt is one of my all-timers simply because (like many songs) it reminds me of a relationship… she’s a complex kid. “And she’s always been so hard to live without… but she always likes to leave it with a shadow of a dow-ow-owwwwt.” The clip from Fridays is perfect, since that was the show where I first saw the band. The raw energy here is undeniable.

2. Century City

Also from Damn the Torpedoes, Century City is no challenger for meaningful lyrics (if you know the band history the song came out of the group spending tons of time in lawyers’ offices near the LA mall of the same name, fighting contract battles) but damn — it’s as good as dance rock ‘n roll gets. Just crank it up and enjoy and picture yourself air-guitaring the finish.

3. Crawling Back to You

This cut from the end of Wildflowers might be better known now since the band included it on this year’s tour; a YouTube search shows many good looks — I’m including the Anthology versions on most of these because the overall sound is better. This haunting cut is the kind of Petty music that really resonates with me… say on a rainy day… or when you’re not feeling ‘Century City’ happy… see if you don’t agree with the line near the end: “I’m so tired of being tired.” And we all know that feeling… “crawling back to you.” I first heard it live in the early 2000s at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley… still get the chills thinking about how great it sounds in the dark.

4. No Second Thoughts

From way back on the second album You’re Gonna Get It, this song has always been in my mind, heart and head and was one of the first songs I learned on guitar. I didn’t know a live version existed until hearing it on Sirius XM’s Tom Petty Radio in the last month, and have since found out it’s on the “bonus” CD that is part of the Live Anthology Deluxe Edition, which I don’t have and can’t find for purchase anywhere (anyone with an extra, let me know!). As you will find from this list I am gravitating lately to some of TP’s incredibly exquisite ballads and this one I think is way underrated. Pure poetry in the lyrics, which I will let you discover for yourself.

5. Here Comes My Girl

Maybe everyone already knows Here Comes My Girl from Damn the Torpedoes, but damn, it’s my list so listen to it again. It’s about love. How many times have you felt this way about someone? And especially dig the cheesy video of a bunch of geeks trying to look cool (the man-love looks between Petty and drummer Stan Lynch are hilarious). Another one I learned early on the guitar (safe to say Damn the Torpedoes made me put down the French Horn and pick up a guitar so I could sing along… hard to do on a French Horn).

6. Cabin Down Below

I never saw this one live, but this deep country rocker from Wildflowers always makes me want to dance. After buying the Live Anthology I would also suggest getting Wildflowers if you don’t have it. Solid tracks all the way through. This one is easily one of the top TP songs for the other adult in this house, so it never gets turned down.

7. Fault Lines

Even though it apparently went to No. 1 as an album, I thought 2014’s Hypnotic Eye never got the recognition it deserved. On the tour that year I was excited to see Fault Lines on an early play list but it never surfaced again — think I read something about the guitar sounds being too hard to replicate on stage. TP lyrics and Mike Campbell guitar both at their best here; the incredible wonder is of someone creating vibrant, original rock in their 60s… with elderly lyrics, if you will. Great spin class tune as well.

8. Listen to Her Heart

Also from back in the day off You’re Gonna Get It, Listen to Her Heart is clearly a story that was still powerful with Petty throughout his career — just look how honest he knows the lines in this recording from the seminal live show in Gainesville in 2006. The backstory is that Ike Turner was making moves on Petty’s wife while the band was living in LA in the early days of the group history… what a slam to nuke a dude through a hit tune! And the fact that Petty resisted the studio’s request to change “cocaine” to “champagne” was an early indication of how he knew he didn’t want to cave in creatively. For old fans this is a treasure, but newer fans may not know how great some of the early stuff was so here you go.

9. (Tie) I Need to Know / When The Time Comes

Only fair to follow up with these two other classics from You’re Gonna Get It, which sounds like maybe Petty isn’t sure here if his woman is sticking around or not. Angry or hopeful… I actually did “Need to Know” with the band I was in back in the ’90s and it was way fun. When the Time Comes is on the new “singing” CD in the car, songs I want to do some day. Back to back they take you back… to when relationships consumed you, pissed you off, but made you want to make them work.

10. Honey Bee

When the Wildflowers disc reached this song on my initial play, my jaw hit the floor… what a departure from everything I’d ever heard them play and what a solid force of sound. The SNL version here probably surprised many who heard it… that’s Tom Petty? Bonus here is Howie Epstein on bass and Dave Grohl (!) on drums. Another one that makes you turn the dial to the right.

11. Angel Dream (No. 2)

From the movie soundtrack She’s The One this song only entered my ballpark when I got the Live Anthology disc set… and I’ve been trying to learn it ever since. (Got the singing, I think, but the guitar is gonna take awhile) The gospel bit in the chorus is so compelling. Plus the Mike Campbell licks on mandolin. I do know many people who think Tom Petty can’t sing, but — you be the judge. (There is also a version out there somewhere where Petty yells at the crowd to shut up at the start so he can play… if anyone has a pointer let me know, saw that once and loved it)

12. A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me)

If there’s an unsung member of the Hearbreakers it’s piano man Benmont Tench, who gets his due with the live-version haunting intro to this gem from Hard Promises. I often wonder why more bands don’t feature piano more, and maybe it’s because they don’t have a Benmont. The ultimate it’s-her-not-me breakup song, this is the perfect balance of hard rocking and soft, haunting singing… if that’s not pure Petty I don’t know what is.

Thanks for listening… back to our regular scheduled programming tomorrow.

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