Ranking Tom Petty’s 5 Best Album-Closers

Tom Petty made his mark on the music world for many reasons, not least of which was his consistency. He was simply incapable of making a bad album. Part of that success came from his ability to choose just the right songs to close out each LP.

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Narrowing down his finest album-closers meant leaving some truly outstanding tracks off the list. But we feel good about the choices we’ve made. See if you agree.

5. “Good Enough” from Mojo (2010)

Mojo found Petty and the Heartbreakers tackling mostly blues-based material. At times during the record, the identity of the artist got lost in the genre. But “Good Enough” corrects that problem and then some. Petty’s lyrics come from the perspective of someone who has lost his enigmatic lover. His proclamations that the time spent with her satisfied him ring a bit hollow, especially when surrounded by the gloomy music. It works up into a frenzy reminiscent of The Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” right down to the elongated outro.

4. “You Can Still Change Your Mind” from Hard Promises (1981)

Like a lot of the rockers he idolized, Petty got in the habit of saving the final song on the album for a sweeping ballad. “You Can Still Change Your Mind” fills that bill on his outstanding 1981 release Hard Promises. The obvious sonic comparison is Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys, as the song includes instrumentation that kind of floats around the vocals. The song features Petty in soothing mode, as he tries to comfort a girl struggling with the harshness of the world. It’s a gentle bit of empathy at the end of a hard-rocking record.

3. “One More Day, One More Night” from Echo (1999)

Petty had a complicated relationship with Echo, initially disdaining the darkness inherent in this divorce-fueled record before coming around to it down the road. There’s no doubt a song like “One More Day, One More Night” can be something of a harrowing listen, with Petty’s narrator begging for help and to be granted just a little more time so he can properly process his loss. But for listeners, the catharsis is undeniable. This is an outstanding performance by the Heartbreakers as a whole, with Mike Campbell’s emotion-wracked lead guitar standing out.

2. “The Best of Everything” from Southern Accents (1985)

Even though the end product contained brilliant individual moments, Petty admittedly lost the plot on the would-be concept album Southern Accents during the process of making the record. Nonetheless, he wraps it up with a beauty in terms of this wistful ballad. If “The Best of Everything” sounds like something different than the typical Heartbreakers’ fare, with the soulful horns and prominent harmony vocals, you have a good ear. The difference comes from contributions by three members of The Band: production by Robbie Robertson, keyboards from Garth Hudson, and backing vocals by Richard Manuel.

1. “American Girl” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1976)

It’s kind of amazing to realize that many of the techniques and themes that would characterize Petty’s work throughout his career are in place right off the bat on the self-titled debut. Think about “American Girl”: There’s the finely honed character sketch, the economy of wording, and, most of all, the resilience of the protagonist. In the whoosh of the chiming guitars, it’s easy to overlook that this girl is heartbroken, trying to shake the memory of an ex. But Petty grants her an uplifting recovery with that unforgettable chorus.

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