Monday, July 18, 2022

"I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty

Song#:  3880
Date:  04/29/1989
Debut:  75
Peak:  12
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Petty was last on the Pop chart not with his band The Heartbreakers, but with the side project The Traveling Wilburys. Their debut album would reach #3 and go triple-platinum with its first single "Handle with Care" getting to #45 Pop/#2 Rock. But just prior to his work with The Traveling Wilburys, Petty had begun work on his first solo billed effort with producer and fellow Wilbury Jeff Lynn. Petty didn't intentionally set out to do a solo album, but while on a break after a worldwide tour, Petty and Lynne started to hang out and it wasn't long before they were writing and recording some songs. Along the way some of The Hearbreakers dropped by to contribute along with Roy Orbison and George Harrison. After a chunk of tracks were recorded, the idea of the Wilburys surfaced and Petty shifted focus to that project. When everything with the Wilburys wrapped up, Petty returned to the tracks he had been working on, did a few more, and decided to toss them into an album. Since The Heartbreakers that contributed were more or less guests rather that all fully on the project, Petty thought it best to just credit the LP to himself and Full Moon Fever was born. This first single was issued out and it would easily reach #1 at Rock. It also got to #29 Modern Rock while nearly cracking the Pop Top 10. It was Petty's best result since the 1979 #10 "Don't Do Me Like That." The album would reach #3 and by the end of July it would go platinum.

ReduxReview:  I've always thought this chuggin' tune served as a sort of blueprint for some of the Traveling Wilburys tracks. It had a retro rock sound and could have easily been on the Wilburys' album. The pairing of Petty and Lynne was a good one and I think their individual writing skills melded well (seven of the LP's tracks were composed by the pair including this one). Lynne's ELO/Beatle-ish production was also a highlight and it framed Petty in a new way. This song was just so easy to like. There were hooks all over the place and it sounded great on the radio. Having George Harrision drop in on acoustic guitar and backing vocals was also a nice add. It should have gone Top 10, but peaking just outside wasn't a bad result at all.

ReduxRating:  8/10

TriviaFull Moon Fever was almost not released. The story seems to go that when Petty finished the initial set of tracks for the album, he took them to his label MCA. Petty was pleased with the results and looked forward to sharing them. It seemed like a slam dunk. However, the folks in charge at the label didn't like what they heard. None of the tracks seemed to be hit single candidates and so they chose to reject the album. Petty was stunned to say the least. Around that time, things began to pick up with the Wilburys and Petty chose to just move forward and dive into that project. By the time the Wilburys album came out, there had been a shift of power at MCA. Petty recorded a couple more tracks for his solo project including a cover of The Byrds' 1965 song "Feel a Whole Lot Better," which Petty thought might be the "hit" the label was wanting. Petty took the album back to MCA. The new folks in charge loved the album and wanted to get it out. Full Moon Fever finally saw the light of day and it would end up selling over five million copies, receive an Album of the Year Grammy nod, and spawn three Top 30 hits including a Top 10. Although MCA did eventually release the album, Petty's feelings for the label had already soured. After the LP was initially rejected, Petty happened to be at a dinner party and played "Free Fallin'" from the album. A couple of execs from Warner Bros. happened to be there (the Wilburys were on that label) and conversations began to have Petty switch over to the label. A secret deal was struck and after Petty finished his obligations to MCA, the switch was made. Petty's first effort for Warner Bros. was his second solo album, 1994's Wildflowers, which would become a #5 triple-platinum seller.


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