Tom Petty, “Free Fallin'”

“Free Fallin” is one of those elegiac tracks that Petty would occasionally drop amidst all the peppy rockers to prove just how versatile his songwriting gifts could be.

The following is an excerpt from the book Playing Back the 80s: A Decade of Unstoppable Hits by Jim Beviglia. You can purchase the book on Amazon here. In terms of rock superstars making the transition from the 70’s to the 80’s, nobody did it as smoothly as Tom Petty. Perhaps that was because, a few production flourishes here and there set aside, he never strayed very far from what he did best: writing compact, compelling rock songs that owed something to his influences in the British Invasion and country rock but, because of his authenticity and clear-eyed point of view, always came out sounding distinctly Petty, which was inevitably a good thing. Yet even Petty started to hit some bumps in the road as the decade progressed. The 1987 album Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) was the rare Petty album that felt like it had no reason to exist other than it was next up in the recording cycle. Petty was also dealing with tensions within the Heartbreakers, the band that had accompanied him on his meteoric rise to stardom and elevated his material with their chemistry and soulful playing. Phil Jones had served as a kind of extended…

To view this content,

Join Today

or Sign In

The Benefits of Membership:

  • Subscription to the American Songwriter Print Magazine
  • Access to all Feature Magazine Content Online
  • Access to Print Edition Archives
  • Premium content in our Songwriter U section
  • Discounts on vinyl, Songwriter services, and other American Songwriter Partners
  • Exclusive access to members-only contests and giveaways
Click to Join

We've started an American Songwriter membership! Click here to learn more.