“This is the hits, you know?” Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell tells Apple Music about this latest comprehensive anthology culling the best of Tom Petty’s vaunted discography—not to be confused with the box set of rarities and deep cuts released a few months prior. “These are things that people may already have scattered around that you can now get all in one package, plus a new song, ‘For Real.’” Here Campbell reveals the behind-the-scenes stories of a few songs he remembers fondly from the band’s historic four-decade run.
“Refugee” and “Here Comes My Girl”
“When I wrote those tracks I was living in a little house out in the San Fernando Valley and I had taken all my money, which was about $1500, and bought a four-track. So basically I was learning how to use the tape recorder as I was writing the songs. I wrote the music pretty much as the record stands and gave those tapes to Tom. And he wrote these incredible words and made the songs what they are. Those were the two songs that enticed Jimmy Iovine to make Damn the Torpedoes—in fact, he said, ‘I don’t need to hear any more songs. We’ve got the two songs we need, the rest doesn’t matter.’ Which I don’t agree with, but that’s how much he liked those. When I hear them on the radio even now, I’m really proud of the recording and the songcraft and the timelessness. The hair on the back of my neck still stands up—‘Wow, that’s good stuff. Oh, that’s me!’”
“You Wreck Me”
“‘You Wreck Me’ is one of my favorites, but Tom didn’t actually like it much at the beginning. At some point he played it for Rick Rubin, who was going to produce us, and Rick encouraged him to finish it and Tom goes, ‘Okay. I don’t even remember this one, but let’s see what I come up with.’ So he wrote a song, which is the same song except the chorus was ‘You rock me, baby.’ That was just what came off the top of his tongue as he was writing it, something to fill that cadence. He brought it in and said, ‘I think this could be good, but the chorus sucks. Give me some time and I’ll come up with something better.’ A couple of months went by; every day I’d come in: ‘You got a new chorus yet?’ ‘Nah.’ Then he finally said, ‘I got it! It’ll just be you wreck me, baby.’ And just changing that one word gave the whole song a new dynamic. That was the genius of Tom.”
“It was written by Tom and Bob Dylan and me. Once again, it started with a demo, which I gave to Tom, and all the chords are basically the same way they ended up on the record. He called me one day and says, ‘I was just down at Bob’s hotel and we put this track on and put the TV on and threw some words together for it.’ When he came in with all these words, I was just blown away. What’s interesting about that one is that they pulled some of the lyrics off the news. Some of that stuff is obsolete now—Vanessa Redgrave, Joe Piscopo. So I think maybe if he was around, we could have done an updated version. I won’t start dropping names, but they would be Republicans, most of them.”
“I forget the year, but I’m pretty sure it was from the ’90s. We had gone up to Mendocino to work with producer Bill Bottrell—we had this song called ‘Surrender’ that we had recorded for every album and never got it how we liked it. So we cut that track and had an extra day left over. Tom threw something together, or else he already had that in his back pocket, and we learned it on the floor and recorded it in an hour or two. I pretty well forgot about it because we’d shelved it—we didn’t need it at the time, it was just something to fill out the day. Then we pulled it out of the tapes when we were rummaging through everything. It had a lot of resonance for me, especially considering where we are now, and I liked the sound. I liked the words and the way he sang it.”