The older you get, the quicker they come

It’s Tom Petty’s 62nd birthday – and this time the Guardian gets it right (thanks to me)


For TP’s birthday this year I thought I’d do one of amylee’s lists of 11, and these are eleven of his lesser-known songs, some from his solo albums and some with the Heartbreakers. And guess what, I love all of them – they’re all in my top 50. And I don’t think I’ve posted any of them before. But if you want to play the dump-one-keep-one game, feel free – I won’t be cross.


We’re starting off with one of TP’s most autobiographical songs: Makin’ Some Noise which is on the band album Into The Great Wide Open. Rock’n’roll, TP!

A desperately sad song next, about a bloke who’s being put through the wringer by his partner, and has been all but destroyed by it…from the TP&TH breakthrough album Damn The Torpedoes, You Tell Me.

Contrariwise, You Wreck Me is an upbeat, joyous song from the solo album Wildflowers – and those are the Heartbreakers playing there, so it’s not as solo as all that. This is the only song in the list that they ever play live any more – on this year’s tour they played it every night. It’s also the first song you hear in the Peter Bogdanovich documentary Runnin’ Down A Dream, the film that revealed the considerable delights of TP&TH to me back in 2010, and those three opening chords made me sit up I can tell you.

No Reason To Cry is the most recent song on the list, from the 2010 TP&TH album Mojo, which was recorded live in the studio with no overdubs. I knew secretly you wanted to know this.

The drumming and the guitar solo on Keeping Me Alive are very Hollyesque, and indeed TP is a big Buddy fan. This is the song that producer Jimmy Iovine didn’t want on Long After Dark – he thought it was too country. But then, he’s from New York so he probably thinks everything is too country.

Hard On Me, also from Wildflowers, is another song about coping with difficult relationships. Coincidentally Richard Thompson has a song called Hard On Me too. I can tell the difference, though.

I don’t usually approve of special editions of albums that have ‘bonus tracks’ so you have to buy the same stuff twice, but I’ll make an exception in this case and I’ll tell you why. I was looking at my special edition of Highway Companion the other day, checking a lyric in the booklet, and I fell to admiring the look of the thing – the colours, the lettering, the way it’s laid out – and I thought “I wonder who art-directed this?”. So I looked at the credits and it said: ‘Art direction – Tom Petty’. This is Home, a bonus track on that album, and it includes one of my favourite TP lines ‘You spill honey, you’re gonna get flies’. There you go. I looked that up in the booklet.

Things get a bit heavy again on The Damage You’ve Done from the TP&TH album Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) which is pretty heavy in itself.

By contrast Damaged By Love (see what I did there?) is full of sad, sweet yearning. This one’s easy to play. I can play it! It’s another from Highway Companion.

Blue Sunday is one of TP’s cinematic mini-epics. I don’t think she actually meant him to go to sleep in the car…and I’m a bit worried about those bloodhounds. This is on The Last DJ. I love the way the guitar and piano work the riff.

And finally…TP&TH with a horn section! That’s because Dave Stewart co-produced the Southern Accents album and he was having a thing about horns at the time. It meant they had to take some horn players along when they took it on tour, which must’ve made it more expensive: perhaps that’s why, unusually for them, they had a sponsor for that tour. Levi’s jeans! I’m not that keen on horns as a regular thing, but if it’s only now and then I’m fine with it. The horns add a sort of mournful distance to this song, which is about looking back at the failures of the past, and it’s called The Best Of Everything.

Happy birthday, TP. I wish you the best of everything, today and always.

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24 thoughts on “The older you get, the quicker they come

  1. Happy birthday Mr Petty, I hope he celebrates in style. I am listening now, will give feedback later, elder son is nodding his head to the first one which is better than Mark Lanegan got!

      • Here’s the Buried Treasure playlist:

        Positively 4th Street – Bob Dylan
        Susie Q – Dale Hawkins
        Bring It On Home To Me – the Animals
        Good Rockin’ Tonight – Elvis Presley
        You Better Move On – Arthur Alexander
        Such A Night – Dr John with the Band
        Fine Little Mama – Elmore James
        Mercy, Mercy – Don Covay
        7 Nights To Rock – Nick Lowe
        Somethin’ Else – Eddie Cochran
        Love Hurts – Gram Parsons
        Abigail Beecher – Freddy Cannon
        Oh Susannah – Neil Young and Crazy Horse
        I’ll Make Love To You Anytime – JJ Cale
        What’s Wrong, Baby – Jimmy Reed
        Freedom – Jimi Hendrix
        Wild One (Real Wild Child) – Jerry Lee Lewis
        Nothing But A Heartache – the Flirtations
        I Only Want To Be With You – Dusty Springfield
        Jump Back, Honey, Jump Back – Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps

        See what I mean about Mitch liking it? Whole thing lasts just over an hour.

  2. The first one was very lively, second one reminded me of the Stones circa Some Girls which is a good thing. Third one reminds me of Bruce Springsteen which isn’t so good, but it’s energising. Not too keen on No Reason To Cry, I think it’s too far into country for my allergies, Keeping Me Alive is suffering from the same thing, but I do like the vocals.

    Apparently I don’t like his ballads very much, sorry, Hard On Me. Home is a return to form though, lovely sunny feel to it. Damage You’ve Done again reminds me of later Stones so I like it, the guitar and vocals, I apologise if that’s backwards and they copied him, all I know about Mr Petty I have learned from you!

    I bet your version of Damaged By Love is good. This vocal reminds me of George Harrison. Sorry to be so comparative!

    Blue Sunday is a good story, The Best of Everything is a bit slow for my liking and the horn section doesn’t really grab me.
    So I have learned that I like TP best when he’s doing faster numbers, sings like Mick Jagger and avoids steel string and slide guitars!

    I’d keep Home and You Wreck Me and hide Hard on Me in the back of the cupboard and maybe try to recycle it to someone who’d like it instead. Thanks for an interesting listen TFD!

  3. I am really looking forward to listening to this lot TFD. I am dog tired right now. I hope its a two margarita night weekend for you as its a special one. Really enjoyed the concert this summer.x

    • Ah, the margaritas are long gone. Don’t forget to listen to the radio programme this time. It was a pleasure to go to the concert with you!

  4. Hi tfd – hope you enjoyed TP’s birthday and thanks for the music. I liked track 7 best, I think. Nothing I would particularly get rid of, but nothing that really stood out to me either – very pleasant, though.

    Will try and listen to the second playlist tomorrow!

  5. It was Bob Weir’s 65th birthday a few days ago, tfd. I found this footage of him playing with the band when he was a pretty boy of 20 (he’s in the hat). I can’t help feeling that, on a slightly different path, he may have taken the place in your heart where Tom currently lives..!

    Isn’t the commentary wonderful?! ‘Style without content’ ‘Use of drugs appears to be spreading’. We’re all doomed, Captain Mainwairing!

    • Yes, I knew it was Bob’s birthday, since I am a ‘Liker’ of the Dead on Facebook and they tell me these things. But you’re wrong – Mr Lesh is much more to my taste.

      Yes, the commentary is delicious. Bet he was pleased he’d finally found an occasion where he could say ‘turn on, tune in, drop out’!

  6. No complaints here. Enjoyed the playlist a lot. Country? (No 3. Huh!) Definitely got the Buddy vibe on number 4. Is there another vocalist on The Damage You’ve Done? I love the idea of going for a drive with someone you just met in the corner store. Great stuff, not a chucker in there.

    Great writing. What a talented lot you guru people are.

    Listening to the radio show now. Hope I can get through it without as many interuptions as I did on the playlist.

    • Ah, I was wondering whether anyone would pick up on that. It’s the other way round, in my experience. (In a good way.)

      • Oh, good, i thought it was just my dirty mind. Glad it actually was intentional! Not sure what that says about us though… :)

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