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Tom Petty: 10 songs you should know, but probably don't

Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

Tom Petty wrote dozens of classic songs ("Free Fallin," "American Girl," "Refugee," and on and on). Here are a few deeper cuts that endure:

"Fooled Again (I Don't Like It)," from "Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers" (1976): The eeriest, nastiest track on the band's debut.

"I Need to Know," from "You're Gonna Get It" (1978): Petty was initially pegged as a new-wave artist by tastemakers who didn't know what to make of him, and this song embodies the fast, terse, almost slapdash urgency of the form with the guitar interplay of Petty and Mike Campbell.

"Louisiana Rain," from "Damn the Torpedoes" (1979): This sounds like a battered, bruised, bluesy outtake from the Rolling Stones' "Beggars Banquet" with Petty channeling Keith Richards.

"A Woman in Love (It's Not Me)," from "Hard Promises" (1981): Released as a single, it faltered because Petty's songwriting handoff to Steve Nicks, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," eclipsed it on radio programmers' play lists. It contains one of Petty's most devastated performances, with nuanced contributions from guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench.

"The Best of Everything," from "Southern Accents" (1985): With horn-inflected production by the Band's Robbie Robertson and backing vocals from Richard Manuel, this is among the outliers in the Petty canon – bigger production, but a moving coda to one of his most personal albums.

"Love is a Long Road," from "Full Moon Fever" (1989): Amid an album brimming with Petty classics, this "motorcycle song" with music by Mike Campbell and Petty's lyrics is an oft-overlooked gem.

"Don't Fade on Me," from "Wildflowers" (1994): One of Petty's best and most underrated albums with Rick Rubin production, coming off recent work with Johnny Cash, focused on intimacy and stripped-down production. Petty has never sounded more vulnerable than he does on this acoustic track.

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"Come on Down to My House," from "Playback" box set (1995): The Heartbreakers at their most corrosive, as if going toe-to-toe with Nirvana circa "In Utero."

"Ways to Be Wicked," from "Playback" box set (1995): An outtake handed to Maria McKee and Lone Justice for the band's stellar 1985 country-punk debut album. Petty's caustic version brims with sex, wickedness and hurt.

"Swingin'," from "Echo" (1999): Petty in love hangover mode from his divorce delivers this tribute to the female counterpart of his classic "I Won't Back Down."

(c)2017 Chicago Tribune

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