Song of the Day #1,211: ‘To Find a Friend’ – Tom Petty

Three years after Into the Great Wide Open, Tom Petty shifted gears away from the Jeff Lynne-influenced work of his last two successful albums. 1994’s Wildflowers, produced by Rick Rubin, was Petty’s second solo album (though once again all of The Heartbreakers played on it).

It’s also arguably the best thing Petty has ever recorded. Sprawling and alternately beautiful and grungy, Wildflowers is the most mature and rich Petty album. Damn the Torpedoes, Full Moon Fever and this record form my Tom Petty Holy Trinity.

It’s interesting that when I think about Wildflowers, I imagine a very focused and thematically consistent work. But the truth is it’s all over the place. Grungy rockers such as ‘You Wreck Me’ and ‘Honey Bee’ slip into delicate acoustic tracks (‘Don’t Fade On Me’ and the title track). Petty delivers pure pop perfection like he always has (‘A Higher Place,’ ‘You Don’t Know How It Feels’) then spins off in brand-new directions, as on the gorgeous ‘It’s Good to Be King,’ with its ethereal string section and plaintive piano intro.

On one of my favorite tracks, today’s SOTD ‘To Find a Friend,’ Petty lands squarely in Simon & Garfunkel territory with splendid results.

In the middle of his life
He left his wife
And ran off to be bad
Boy, it was sad
But he bought a new car
Found a new bar
And went under another name
Created a whole new game

And the days went by like paper in the wind
Everything changed, then changed again
It’s hard to find a friend
It’s hard to find a friend

Meanwhile then
His wife’s boyfriend moved in and
Took over the house
Everybody was quiet as a mouse
And it changed their lives
Changed their plans
Slowly they grew apart
Boy, it woulda broke your heart

And the days went by like paper in the wind
Everything changed, then changed again
It’s hard to find a friend
It’s hard to find a friend

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,211: ‘To Find a Friend’ – Tom Petty

  1. Amy says:

    I haven’t listened to this album straight through in years. Today’s post makes me want to drop everything to do just that. I have always been a huge fan of the “grungy rocker,” “Honey Bee,” which, in a direct contradiction to my post yesterday, I’m sure I loved from the first note I heard.
    Today’s SOTD is just lovely, as is the title track of this album. And Dana has always been more than a tad enthusiastic about “It’s Good to be King” 🙂 I agree with you that this is probably Petty’s very best album, though Full Moon Fever is still my idea of quintessential Tom Petty.

  2. Dana says:

    Love, love, love this album! It’s hard to say whether it eclipses Full Moon Fever, but I might actually give it the edge simply because it succeeds in such an understated way, while Fever features so many hits that its infectious quality is unavoidable.

    Your comment about the album being all over the place is interesting because, I, like you, always felt the album was quite cohesive and thematic in its presentation. While a song like “Honey Bee” is certainly a bit harder edged, it is softened by smooth and wonderful production.

    Like Full Moon Fever, I would be thrilled to spend a theme week featuring this entire album–it’s that great.

  3. pegclifton says:

    I see the comparison to ” Simon and Garfunkel territory”; nice song.

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