The untimely death of the great Tom Petty a few weeks ago forces us to look back in wonder at his amazing career and his frankly unbelievable trove of fantastic songs. There are very few American artists in any popular song-making genre who were able to sustain such a prodigiously satisfying output while also experimenting within what was ultimately a singularly unique personal style. Dylan, of course, and probably Springsteen and Paul Simon. But after that I’m at a loss.
Love Is A Long Road
“Love Is A Long Road” is a sterling example of Petty remaining true to his earliest rock instincts even while pursuing new artistic directions. Off of his first solo album, 1989’s Full Moon Fever, and relased at the height of his collaboration with his Traveling Willbury’s bandmate, Jeff Lynne, the song is a standout among such blockbuster hits as “Free Fallin’,” “Running Down A Dream” and “I Won’t Back Down” precisely because it doesn’t resemble them. Rather, it’s classic Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, less slick and more emotional than those other chart toppers. You can draw a straight line from earlier dark horse standouts like “A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me)” and “Straight Into Darkness” right to “Long Road” and clearly see its intense similarity by way of raw emotion and well-constructed gritty rock dynamics. It’s also a wonderful showcase for Petty’s uniquely evocative voice and it’s no wonder it remained an Easter Egg-like staple in his live arsenal even though the song never charted.