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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6. "Runnin' Down a Dream"

Full Moon Fever was released as a Petty solo album, but every Heartbreaker (with the exception of drummer Stan Lynch) played on it. "Runnin' Down a Dream," the album's most propulsive rocker, was built around a heavy riff from Mike Campbell, originally written in a different time signature. Petty straightened it out and took it to producer Jeff Lynne. Campbell also played the song's guitar solo (a combination of searing held notes and frenetic shredding), nailing it in one take. Petty gave the hard-charging track vivid lyrics about the freedom of flying down the highway, which spoke to his deepest feelings about the meaning of rock & roll. "To me, American music was all about listening in the car," he said. The line "me and Del were singing 'Little Runaway'" was a friendly salute to his new pal Del Shannon, who had a Number One hit in 1961 with "Runaway," a song Petty had grown up loving as a kid in Florida. 

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