Song of the Day #3,398: ‘Dogs On the Run’ – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

I’ve been promising a Tom Petty tribute since the rock legend passed away unexpectedly on October 2, and this week I will deliver it in the form of a countdown of my five favorite Petty albums.

I recently listened to a podcast called ‘The Great Albums,’ on which the hosts do track-by-track reviews of their favorite records. They were discussing a Tom Petty album (one I’ll feature this week) and wondered why it was that Petty’s name didn’t automatically come up when people discuss the giants of rock-n-roll.

Their conclusion was that Petty suffers from the curse of consistency. His albums were all so good that he avoided any sort of comeback narrative throughout his career. And he never had that one standout blockbuster album (think Rumours or Born in the U.S.A.-level sales) that pinned him to the top of a list.

Instead, 13 of his 16 albums (solo or with The Heartbreakers) went Gold and seven went Platinum. Consistently great, easy to take for granted.

That changed early this month when a nation still reeling over the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas was hit with the news that Tom Petty had suffered cardiac arrest at his Malibu home. It seems callous to compare the death of one rich musician to dozens of concertgoers mowed down in what’s become a sick American tradition, but it would be a lie to say that his passing didn’t hit almost as hard.

Great artists become lifelong companions whose work comforts us in times of sorrow and buoys us in times of joy. Our memories are scored by the music we’ve loved, and the composers earn a place in our hearts. No wonder it hurts so much to lose them.

Tom Petty hit my radar sometime during high school, which is (frighteningly) almost 30 years ago now. I have liked or loved every one of his albums, with the five I’ll feature this week rising to the top.

#5 – Southern Accents (1985)

It might be stretching it to call this a love-it-or-hate-it album, but it does seem to divide both critics and fans. Some find it a bit of a hodgepodge, and it’s hard to argue with that view. Originally intended as a concept album about the south, Petty wound up shelving a few on-topic tracks and adding a few off-topic tracks in their place.

The songs that do stick to the theme — ‘Rebels,’ ‘Southern Accents,’ ‘Spike’ and ‘The Best of Everything’ — are all standouts. But there’s nothing wrong with the rest, including hit single ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More,’ ‘Make It Better (Forget About Me)’ and ‘Mary’s New Car.’

One of my very favorite Southern Accent tracks is ‘Dogs On the Run,’ which features a great part slur-part snarl vocal by Petty. This song is like ‘Born to Run’ set in Los Angeles.

Well we come with what was on our backs
Yeah, when the leaves had died and all turned black
Back when the wind was cold and blew them around
When we laid our blankets on the ground
Yeah and I woke up feeling hungry
Looking straight into the sun, and left a cold night on the ground
Like a dog on the run

I fell overboard and washed up on the beach
Yes, let waves and sand roll over me
I was helped to the home of a young bleached blonde
Who said honey I discovered early in life
There’s ways of getting anything I want
Yeah, some of us are different
It’s just something in our blood, there’s no need for explanations
We’re just dogs on the run

The room was painted blue and grey
All my meals came on a silver tray
Oh she would laugh, and light my cigarettes
She said honey ain’t it funny how a crowd gathers around
Anyone living life without a net?
And how they’ll beg you for the answer
But it won’t ever be enough, there’s no way you could ever tell ’em
It’s just dogs on the run

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,398: ‘Dogs On the Run’ – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    It’s still hard for me to believe that Petty is no longer with us. I look forward to this week of tribute to Gainesville’s native son and one of America’s great songwriters.

    Despite a few weaker tracks, Southern Accents is one of my favorite Petty albums as well, with the highlight being the title track.

  2. Amy says:

    I love the songs I love from this album enough that I would likely rank it higher than 5th despite the fact that I do see how incongruous it is to have a “Don’t Come Around Here No More” (the video for which I was unreasonably freaked out by) on the same album as the perfect “Southern Accents.” The highlight of my rich concert going life may have been hearing Petty perform that song in the O’Connell Center in Gainesville. Felt akin to a religious experience. Looking forward to revisiting some of his great songs this week.

  3. Guy K says:

    Southern Accents contains some of Petty’s best as well as some of his least representative work. “Don’t Come Around Here No More” might be a departure from his usual sound, but it’s mesmerizing and brilliant. “Make It Better (Forget About Me)” is ruined by its faux funk track and the horns, which are too prevalent on several tunes on the album (including the overrated “Best of Everything”).
    But “Dogs On The Run”, despite the horns, is a really solid and very much overlooked deep cut.

  4. flittergold says:

    Dogs is a great song. Such momentum. Wish more people knew it, but I’m glad there was never a video. I’ve always found the imagery so evocative, even though I was never sure what the “young bleached blond” line was saying until I googled today and saw the full lyrics. It’s completely unintelligible on the recording, but it doesn’t matter. You get the scene.

    Found another blog post which described the lyrics as “trying too hard”, which is a meaningless criticism from anyone who’s never written a song. Even that blog admitted that once the horns and Campbell come in it doesn’t matter.

    Thanks for the post 🙂

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