220px-TomPettyDebutCover#20 – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Breakdown” – (1976)

“Breakdown” was Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ first single. Ever. It came from their self-titled debut album that was released near the end of 1976. It just barely became a top 40 hit in the U.S. and Canada –  good enough that radio stations continued to give Petty airtime for many years to come.

#5 – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Refugee” – (1979)

Gotta love Tom Petty. He’s been putting out good music for going on 40 years and he seems to still love doing it. This is among my very favorite hits from The Heartbreakers. Listen to his voice at the chorus: “You don’t haaave to live like a refugee” – except that he’s barely forming words and the lyrics sort of drip quickly out of his mouth. It might be the finest example of Tom Petty’s unique voice. It reached #15 on the Hot 100 and is the best song on Damn the Torpedoes.

Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty – “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” – (1981)

This was the debut single from Stevie Nicks’ solo career and it was the only song from her first album that she had no part in writing. This one was actually written by Tom Petty and a Heartbreaker (Mike Campbell). They were going to do it as a single for their band but someone managed to get Stevie Nicks into the recording booth and it ended up as a top five hit for her in 1981 (it peaked at #3). Really good song from the both of them, but largely overlooked today.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Into the Great Wide Open” – (1991)

Well crap. I was going to do “You Wreck Me” here but I’ve already done that song. This one doesn’t sound quite as 80s as that one, but it’ll work. The music video features Johnny Depp and Matt LeBlanc, among others – and Tom Petty, still in his “Dressing-Like-A-Character-From-Alice in Wonderland” phase. This is the title track to the Heartbreakers’ 1991 album and it hit #4 on the Mainstream Rock chart.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Jefferson Jericho Blues” – (2010)

Mojo was the first studio album by Tom Petty with The Heartbreakers since 2002. It is also the first album since 1981 to feature the band’s original bassist on every track. The album isn’t along the lines of previous Petty albums, as it is primarily blues-based. This is the first track on the album and it’s a good one. People may say Petty peaked in the 80s or 90s – but songs like this show he is a true rocker, capable of producing solid rock tracks – good music – and will hopefully continue to do so for many years to come.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Learning to Fly” – (1991)

When learning to fly, coming down really is the hardest thing. Most people like to stay up flying around – that, and landing is the most difficult part. This was a #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart (where it stayed for six weeks) and a Top 30 on the Hot 100. This is one of Petty’s best songs and it doesn’t necessarily sound like all his other songs – the vocals do, of course. But the music is up-tempo and a little different. It’s good.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “The Waiting” – (1981)

A couple of months ago we had a Tom Petty week where we featured songs from solo Tom Petty. I apologized to The Heartbreakers and promised to make it up to them. So here we are: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers week. We start with “The Waiting” which is my favorite song from the band from the 1980s. It was a Top 20 hit in the U.S., and the biggest single from the 1981 album Hard Promises. “The waaiiiting is the hardest part.”

#33 – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” – (1993)

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ 1993 Greatest Hits album would be a great album to own considering all of the hits that were contained on it (including Petty’s solo stuff from Full Moon Fever). But then add one of the greatest songs Tom Petty ever did as a brand new track. It has a blues-rock feeling but throw in the reminiscing and nostalgia that the lyrics contain and you get a mid-western, almost Mellencamp-y, feel. Some people like this because they say “Mary Jane”… and I’m sure these same people giggle and snicker because they think they are being sneaky talking about drugs. Well, whatever it’s about, it has a great vibe – although the music video, where Tom Petty (morgue assistant) brings home a dead body (Kim Basinger) and keeps her around the house Weekend at Bernie’s-style.

Tom Petty – “Saving Grace” – (2006)

Tom Petty’s 2000s offerings aren’t as well known as his earlier work and I had it narrowed down between two songs to feature today. I went with “Saving Grace” because it was from Petty’s third (and most recent) solo album, Highway Companion. So this week we’ve featured a track from every Tom Petty solo album, coincidentally they all fell perfectly within out 80s/90s/Present split. “Saving Grace” starts out with a very George Thorogood-feel to it and then you hear Petty’s voice which definitely sounds as if it has aged a fair amount even since 1994. This song cracked the Hot 100 – hitting #100. It was also an almost Top 25 hit (#26) on the Mainstream Rock chart. It just screams Old School in a very cool way. Sorry, Heartbreakers, perhaps we’ll have a Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers week soon.

Tom Petty – “You Wreck Me” – (1994)

Well, I guess it’s Tom Petty week this week and this is our 1990s entry (if you haven’t noticed, lately Monday has been an 80s tune, Wednesday is from the 90s, and Friday has been a track from 2000+). Wildflowers was another Petty solo album and “You Wreck Me” wasn’t the biggest single from the album but it’s a pretty good one that is kind of the standard Petty fare.

Tom Petty – “I Won’t Back Down” – (1989)

Full Moon Fever was a solo album (meaning sans The Heartbreakers) and it contained some of Tom Petty’s most famous songs. This is among them. This song was written by Petty and co-Wilbury Jeff Lynne. Actually, Lynne and George Harrison both provided backing vocals as well as additional guitar, making this a 3/5 Wilbury tune. Every now and then this song pops up in America for reasons of Nationalism (9/11) or during Presidential campaigns (which is kind of annoying). It’s one of those songs that everyone has probably heard and it’s one of the best tracks from Full Moon Fever.

Tom Petty – “Free Fallin’” – (1989)

“Free Fallin'” might just be Tom Petty’s most widely-known song and it came from Full Moon Fever – Petty’s first “solo” album without his longtime backing band The Heartbreakers. It was written by Petty and Jeff Lynne – both of whom were in The Traveling Wilburys at that point in time.

#86 – Tom Petty – “Running Down a Dream” – (1989)

Sure, “Free Fallin'” was a bigger hit (also from 1989’s Full Moon Fever) and when lists are made like by people at VH1 they fall in love with “Don’t Come Around Here No More” (really?). But “Running Down a Dream” is tops when it comes to Tom Petty from the 1980s. The song only made it to #23 when it came out but gets a lot of airplay on classic rock radio stations today.