Did Tom Petty record the best album in the world?
Tom Petty grew up in Gainsville, Florida, during the ’50s and ’60s and formed his first band with guitarist Mike Campbell, who would stick with Tom for his entire career – not a bad move!
Under the name Mudcrutch, they released a single in 1975 which didn’t do much, leading the band to split.
Out of the ashes, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers were formed and their first, self-titled album came in 1976. Three fantastic tunes can be found here, Breakdown, Anything That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, and American Girl.
Strangely, the American market didn’t take that well to the release, they actually did much better in the U.K. Of course, since then, the debut album has become legendary with American Girl in many ways being the band’s signature song.
The follow-up, You’re Gonna Get It! came in 1978 and had another two great tunes in I Need To Know and Listen To Her Heart. By now the American market had woken up to Tom’s songwriting and this one did better, peaking at #23.
The band’s third release, Damn the Torpedoes came in 1979. Here we find Refugee, Here Comes My Girl, Even The Losers, and Don’t Do Me Like That. This album sold 3 million copies and made Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers a household name.
Tom Petty post the ’70s
Next, they released Hard Promises (1981), which didn’t do as well. The band was looking forward to sharing a studio with John Lennon which Tom was very excited about. Sadly, John was murdered just before the sessions took place.
One big tune featured on Hard Promises, The Waiting, it reached #1 in the rock charts. The album sold 1 million copies.
In 1982, Tom released Long After Dark, and here we get another hit in You Got Lucky. Two years later, on Southern Accents, we find Don’t Come Around Here No More, this was written and produced by Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) who got the inspiration for it by remembering hearing English people using the expression about immigrants when he grew up in Sunderland.
This led to a massive world tour, they also played as Bob Dylan‘s backing band for a while. When it came to making the next record, bass player Ron Blair decided to move on.
All this must have impacted the band badly as Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) which was released in 1987, didn’t have any hit tunes. Judging by what happens next, this had a big effect on the band as they now took a break.
Tom didn’t slow down though, he went on to write with Jeff Lynn for Roy Orbison‘s album Mystery Girl. The hit single You Got It is what stands out the most from this effort.
He then got together with Roy, Jeff, Bob, and George Harrison to form Traveling Wilburys in 1988, their big hit End Of The Line was massive. Roy passed away unexpectedly before the two albums were even released.
(English Sam Smith steals I Won’t Back Down in 2014 and calls it Stay With Me, ending up having to give Tom a share of the royalties.)
After another Traveling Wilburys album in 1990 with no hits, Tom reunites with his Heartbreakers to release the massive Into the Great Wide Open (1991). The title track, as well as Learning To Fly are huge hits.
By now, Tom has so many hit tunes that it’s time for the obligatory Greatest Hits album, and this is what got me into him when it was released in 1993. One new tune and single from here is the awesome Mary Jane’s Last Dance.
What comes next is by many considered Tom Petty’s masterpiece. The incredible Wildflowers, made with producer Rick Rubin was released in 1994 and musicians haven’t stopped talking about it since.
Even though there were no big hits on Wildflowers, there is not a single bad tune on here. I can’t list them all, just listen to it from beginning to end. This is a true masterpiece both sonically, and lyrically. The playing, the writing, it’s just a perfect album, maybe the best album ever recorded, by anyone. Or maybe that’s Exodus by Bob Marley… I’ll let you decide!
Wildflowers was a solo album, although Mike obviously still played guitar. Tom peaked here, his next bunch of albums didn’t live up to what he had produced so far.
She’s the One (soundtrack 1996), Echo (1999), The Last DJ (2002), and Highway Companion (2006) didn’t have any hits.
Mudcrutch (2008), is an attempt to reform the original band, there were no hits. Mojo (2010) sounds incredible but it has no hits. Although I Should Have Known It was so good it could have been featured on Wildflowers.
Tom’s final two albums Hypnotic Eye (2014), and 2 (2016), were another Mudcrutch album that didn’t manage to build on Mojo.
On October 16th, 2017, Tom Petty died following a heart attack that was brought on by taking too many opioids.
In the aftermath, another version of Wildflowers is released containing all the tunes that didn’t make it on the original recording. To me, this is sacrilege as they don’t live up to the standard of the original masterpiece and therefore taint the legacy of Tom Petty, one of the best songwriters we’ve ever had.
Tom Petty tunes | Related pages
You can learn how to play American Girl by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, and the original recording.
| D | E (E7) | G | A |
Well, she was an American girl, raised on promises…
End Of The Line
You can learn how to play End Of The Line by the Traveling Wilburys using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and the original recording.
| D D/A | D | D A | G |
Well, it’s alright, ridin’ around in the breeze…
You can learn how to play Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, and the original recording.
| E Asus2 | Asus2 E B5 |
She’s a good girl, loves her mama…
I Won’t Back Down
You can learn how to play I Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and the original recording.
| E5 D5 | G5 |
Well I, won’t back down…
Into The Great Wide Open
Learn how to play Into The Great Wide Open by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and the original recording.
| Em Emmaj7 | Em7 Em6 |
Eddie waited ’til he finished high school…
Learning To Fly
Learn how to play Learning To Fly by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and the original recording.
| Fadd9 C | Am7 G (Gsus4) | Fadd9 C | Am7 G (Gsus4) |
Well, I started out, down a dirty road…
Mary Jane’s Last Dance
Learn how to play Mary Jane’s Last Dance by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and the original recording.
| Am G |
She grew up in an Indiana town…