Top 10 Mike Campbell Songs
For nearly 40 years, Mike Campbell has been best known as Tom Petty‘s right-hand man. He played with Petty in the pre-Heartbreakers band Mudcrutch and co-wrote, co-produced and played the searing guitar leads on some of Petty’s greatest songs. But Campbell also produced, played with and wrote songs for artists that range from Roy Orbison to the Wallflowers to the Dixie Chicks. Our list of the Top 10 Mike Campbell Songs focuses on the songs he’s written, and most likely performed on, over the years.
“A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)”
Campbell and Petty co-wrote the second single from the Heartbreakers’ long-delayed follow-up to 1979’s breakthrough Damn the Torpedoes album. Hard Promises is spotty at times, but “The Waiting” and “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)” make a killer opening one-two punch. The latter’s noir-like moodiness is pierced by Campbell’s stinging guitar.
“The Heart of the Matter”
After working on Don Henley‘s 1984 solo album Building the Perfect Beast (see No. 2 on our list of the Top 10 Mike Campbell Songs), Campbell reunited with him for the follow-up five years later. His biggest contribution can be found on The End of the Innocence‘s closing track, one of Henley’s best ballads, which Campbell co-wrote and co-produced. That’s also Campbell on guitar.
“Runnin’ Down a Dream”
Tom Petty’s debut solo album Full Moon Fever was his best record in a decade, so it’s no surprise that many of its songs showed up in the Heartbreakers’ set lists. “Runnin’ Down a Dream” is all about the guitar riff that runs through the song. Campbell’s smokin’ solo at the end of the song is one of his most celebrated.
The only real keeper on Petty and the Heartbreakers’ seventh album was co-written by Campbell, Petty and Bob Dylan, whom they backed on tour a year before. Over a stately Campbell guitar riff, Petty runs down a bunch of things causing him grief in the mid-’80s, including Joe Piscopo and Apple computers.
“Ways to Be Wicked”
This twangy Los Angeles band (which played alt-country back when it was called cow-punk) made a lot of underground noise in 1985, when its debut album came out. Campbell and Petty co-wrote the record’s scorching first single, and Campbell and the Heartbreakers’ keyboardist Benmont Tench show up with their instruments. The Heartbreakers’ version eventually surfaced on the 1995 box set, Playback.
“You Got Lucky”
Following 1981’s troubled Hard Promises, Petty and the Heartbreakers’ fifth album was supposed to set them back on path. It didn’t quite work out that way. Long After Dark, like its predecessor, includes a handful of good songs and twice as many duds. The album’s first single falls into the former camp, with the somewhat lifeless verses easing into one of the band’s greatest hooks.
“Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”
Stevie Nicks‘ first solo single, and her biggest hit, is all Petty and the Heartbreakers — especially Campbell, who not only co-wrote the song with Petty but also provided the stinging guitar that punctuated Nicks’ and Petty’s lines about embattled lovers.
“Here Comes My Girl”
After two albums of middling success, Petty and the Heartbreakers went full steam ahead on Damn the Torpedoes. It became their breakthrough and biggest-selling album, reaching No. 2. Campbell co-wrote two of the LP’s cuts (see No. 2 on our list of the Top 10 Mike Campbell Songs). This one also features his ringing guitar during the Byrds-like choruses.
“The Boys of Summer”
Henley’s best solo single was co-written by Campbell, whose ghostly guitar lines echo the song’s theme of disappearing youth and growing disillusionment. Like their other collaboration on our list of the Top 10 Mike Campbell Songs (see No. 10), “The Boys of Summer” was also co-produced by Campbell.
The opening song on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ third album pretty much stormed out of the speakers with a declaration that something great was on the way. Damn the Torpedoes remains their best album, and ‘Refugee’ is one of the group’s most defining tracks. Campbell co-wrote the song with Petty and, as always, injects the song with a sizable dose of guitar muscle.