Thursday, October 26, 2017

Certain Songs #1026: Tom Petty – “You Don’t Know How It Feels” | Medialoper

Nobody knew it at the time, of course, but Tom Petty’s first single for his new record company — Warner Bros — was the last top 20 single this quintessential singles artist ever charted.

At the time, of course, it seemed like he could go on forever: the previous year, the song added to his contractually obligated Greatest Hits album — “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” — was also a huge smash, making it the one time in the history of adding a new song to a greatest hits album actually worked.

So when I called it “the opening track to Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers Greatest Hits, Vol 2” in my first ever Village Voice Pazz & Jop ballot, I figured that was a relatively safe prediction, especially since how the song overcame wack-ass MTV censorship on the pre-chorus.

But let me get to the point
Let’s roll another joint
And turn the radio loud
I’m too alone to be proud
You don’t know how it feels
You don’t know how it feels
To be meeeeeeeeeeeeeee

God forbid we let the word “joint” out into the world. It might provoke some kids to smoke pot because Tom Petty smoked pot! Which is weird, because I’m not sure even his most hardcore fans wanted to try and be Tom Petty in the same way fans wanted to be Keith Richards or Bob Dylan. Because we already were Tom Petty. Or least felt like we were.

So we kinda knew how it felt to be him, because that’s how it felt to be us. I mean, except for the remarkable songwriting and musical chops, of course. But even those kinda felt in reach.

After the vocal fullness of the Jeff Lynne mixes, the sparseness of the Rick Rubin’s production style — with both the drumbeat and harmonica invoking an early 70’s Neil Young record — was also a bit of a shock at first, as was just how unhurried “You Don’t Know How It Feels” was.

But it eventually got to its point, aided by some Mike Campbell guitar, and another typically strong melody on the chorus. By the time it was over, maybe we didn’t know exactly how it felt to be him, but we knew exactly how he felt about us not knowing how it felt to be him.

Official video for “You Don’t Know How It Feels”

“You Don’t Know How It Feels” performed live on Late Show With David Letterman, 1994

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