There are a substantial number of songs by the late Tom Petty that I love and that I could have chosen to feature this week. I could have chosen a ubiquitous hit like ‘Refugee’, ‘Free Fallin”, ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’, or ‘Refugee’. I could have chosen any of his collaborations with Fleetwood Mac alumni – either of his two 1981 duets with Stevie Nicks (‘Insider’, ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’) or 1996’s ‘Walls’ with Lindsey Buckingham. I could have chosen the neo-psychedelia of ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’, a few selections from 1994’s Wildflowers, or the collaboration with The Bangles on ‘Waiting For Tonight’. But one of my favourite Tom Petty songs is a minor single from his 1982 album Long After Dark.
With Benmont Tench’s stately piano, Stan Lynch’s splashy drums, and Mike Campbell’s perfectly formed guitar leads, ‘Straight Into Darkness’ showcases The Heartbreakers as one of rock’s best backing bands. Even if the story in the lyrics is a little incoherent, the lyrics are evocative (“Out the window of the 747/Man there was nothin’, only black sky”), and there’s a superb middle eight. It’s one of Petty’s overlooked gems, and in my opinion, towers above the lead single from Long After Dark, the ponderous, synth heavy ‘You Got Lucky’.