The Tom Petty song that no one had faith in

Extended studio sessions often run the risk of songs blending into a seamless continuum, where even the most profound attempts might fade into the background compared to standout hits on the album. In Tom Petty‘s musical journey, a fascinating tale unfolds around the hit ‘Don’t Do Me Like That,’ a track that initially struggled to find its place among the exceptional lineup of Damn the Torpedoes.

While Petty had an instinct for selecting compelling songs, the entire band initially lacked faith in the potential of ‘Don’t Do Me Like That.’ Despite this skepticism, Petty entered the studio with a conviction that Damn the Torpedoes would stand as one of his best albums, armed with powerful tracks like ‘Refugee’ and ‘Here Comes My Girl.’ Producer Jimmy Iovine, struck by what he heard, declared that Petty needed no further additions to the album.

However, a looming court case cast Damn the Torpedoes into a year-long limbo. Undeterred, Petty dedicated himself to maximizing the time spent in the studio, channeling his frustrations into tracks like ‘Century City.’ Amidst these creative endeavors, ‘Don’t Do Me Like That’ emerged from Petty’s past, dating back to his days with the childhood band Mudcrutch.

Initially crafted in simplicity during his Mudcrutch days, Petty kept the song on the back burner, envisioning it as a better fit for a band like J Geil Band. Iovine, upon delving into Petty’s back catalog, saw the hit potential in ‘Don’t Do Me Like That’ and set out to transform it. Despite Petty’s lingering doubts, a quick version of the song was recorded over a few days.

As Petty contemplated the running order for the album, the song faced potential abandonment. It was only when the assistant engineer, Tory Swinson, who had been sleeping in the control room, voiced his admiration for ‘Don’t Do Me Like That’ that the song re-entered the reckoning. Petty recalled this moment on Classic Albums, stating, “I didn’t think it was entirely in the running… and it became our first top ten hit.”

Behind the perceived simplicity of the track lies a wealth of details. Beyond the exceptional rhythm section, there’s a soulful synergy within the band, reminiscent of the edge found in records by Booker T and the MGs. ‘Don’t Do Me Like That’ marked the beginning of Petty’s chart-topping journey. Throughout the 1980s, he solidified his status as one of the era’s biggest hitmakers, exploring experimental pop with tracks like the synthesized ‘You Got Lucky’ and the Eastern-tinged ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More.’ A remarkable track record of smash hits, all stemming from a song that initially faced exclusion from the album.

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