Top 10 Tom Petty Rebel Songs
Rebel songs have formed an important part of Tom Petty's career output as an artist. Album titles such as 'You're Gonna Get It' and 'Damn The Torpedoes' reveal that very early on, Petty had no qualms about bucking the system and if anything, he's grown more outspoken as the years roll on. As Tom celebrates his 61st birthday today (Oct. 20), we're taking a look at the rebellious characters and subjects that populate the Top 10 Tom Petty Rebel Songs.
Written by Lucinda Williams, Petty took 'Change The Locks' and made it decidedly his own, adding extra punch to the line “and you can't hear me laugh / Honey I'm laughing all the time” by punctuating the end of it with a hearty “oh!” that instantly transformed the moment into one of the greatest relationship kiss-off lines ever.
The lyric “I don't belong to no one" sounds much more defiant here than it is in actual context with the overall tone of 'Restless,' but it would become one of Petty's main mantras in the years that followed. A delightfully surly guitar line from Mike Campbell helps to propel the character that Tom is projecting, walking rebelliously against the wind of the commonly accepted way of life and trying to fit in with a society that he's already bored with.
Whether you believe that this song is about a girl, or perhaps more likely, about a certain illegal green leafy substance, it doesn't get much more rebel-like than the scenery of the video for 'Mary Jane's,' in which Petty plays a morgue employee who decides to cart a corpse (that's Kim Basinger) home for a dinner date. It's one of the charmingly creepiest date nights we've ever seen...and one that ends with Petty dropping her off –- not at home, but instead, at sea.
'The Wild One, Forever' is a good reminder that rebels live on both sides of the gender fence, often in the form of the girl that the guys are all warned about. But after a chance encounter that sticks in his memory, one such girl is all that Petty can think about. In the end, it doesn't seem like he was able to tame 'The Wild One,' but it sounds like he had a lot fun trying.
Railing against the media overload of endless sensationalism and headlines, 'Jammin' Me' was a collaboration that Petty and Campbell wrote with Tom's future Wilbury brother Bob Dylan. Set against a cocky backbeat, 'Jammin'' was rebelliously good ear candy that name checked Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo among others, telling 'em to shove it far beyond where the sun doesn't shine. Has anybody seen Piscopo recently?
One of Tom Petty's most loved characters, 'Spike' is a unique misfit with a dog collar, which would naturally make him an instant mismatch with "proper" society. As a modern day James Dean, nobody's really sure what happened to Spike after he wandered out of the bar towards Interstate 75. Chances are good that he's causing trouble somewhere at this very moment.
It's not much of a secret that Tom Petty allegedly enjoys the mind-altering effects of marijuana, but it was a whole different thing for him to sing about it so directly in a song destined for tons of radio airplay. 'You Don't Know How It Feels' got that radio play and a whole lot more, including a Grammy Award in 1995 for Best Male Vocal Rock Performance (Petty thumbed his nose at the industry and didn't show up to accept the award). Perhaps most importantly, 'You Don't Know How It Feels' introduced the music of Tom Petty to an entire new generation of fans.
Both the album and the title track of Tom Petty's 2002 release 'The Last DJ' found him attacking the music industry with a new vengeance. Petty lead the way as the growing backlash against soulless corporate radio programming was percolating at a particularly high level. Petty's words against radio weren't taken kindly at the time and by 2010, he told Mojo magazine that the song had been misunderstood, insisting 'The Last DJ' was really about “losing our moral compass” as a society.
Featuring some guest guitar licks from Petty's Wilbury buddy, the late great George Harrison, 'I Won't Back Down' stands tall as a lifelong mission statement for Tom Petty. It also acts as a handy and very successful f—k you to Petty's record company, who rejected the 'Full Moon Fever' album initially, saying that they didn't hear the potential hit singles. (Which explains the lyrics on the title track of Tom's next album 'Into The Great Wide Open,' a song that probably could have been on this list as well.)
It's appropriate that Tom Petty's best rebel song was born in an figuratively acidic pool of Tom's own angry piss and vinegar. While recording 'Rebels,' Petty became so frustrated with his inability to properly frame the arrangement that he punched a wall at the studio, breaking his hand in the process. Producer Jimmy Iovine eventually came in to help Tom fully realize the creative vision he was trying to concoct, but the story became one of the more famous tales of Petty's hard-headedness.