Tom Petty's 50 Greatest Songs

His hits have defined rock radio since the Seventies, and he never stopped writing great music. Here's the definitive guide to his best songs

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2. "Refugee"

"We're always hearing that we're the future of rock & roll," Petty declared around the release of the Heartbreakers' third LP. "I don't want to be the future – I want to be the present." The lead track on Damn the Torpedoes ensured that. Produced by Jimmy Iovine, "Refugee" was their most brass-knuckled rocker to date, a declaration that they weren't following any New Wave or punk-rock trends, but were a new breed of rock & roll–schooled traditionalists. As is frequently the case with the band's creative process, Mike Campbell wrote the music, recorded it on a four-track tape and passed it to his partner. "The words came really quick," Petty said. The recording, not so much. Campbell recalled 100 takes; Petty says 200. "I remember being so frustrated," said Campbell. "I just left the studio and went out of town for two days." When he returned, they nailed it, and shot a no-frills video that became an early MTV staple. And suddenly, American rock seemed born again.

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