Jokester Tom Petty Wrote ‘Free Fallin’ to Get Co-Writer Jeff Lynne to Laugh

June 9th, 2016: As seen on Archive (PDF)


A screenshot from the official video for Tom Petty’s ‘Free Fallin’; YouTube

In yet another great case for a sense of humor in your craft, Tom Petty, dad rock funny man, recently shared with Billboard that he conceived the first verse of his highest-charting hit ever, “Free Fallin’” just to get a chuckle out of Full Moon Fever co-producer and writer Jeff Lynne.

The 65-year-old icon reflected on the 1989 studio sessions, telling Billboard:

Jeff Lyne and I were sitting around with the idea of writing a song and I was playing the keyboard and I just happened to hit on that main riff, the intro of the song, and I think Jeff said something like, ‘That’s a really good riff but there’s one chord too many,’ so I think I cut it back a chord and then, really just to amuse Jeff, honestly, I just sang that first verse. Then he starts laughing. Honestly, I thought I was just amusing Jeff but then I got to the chorus of the song and he leaned over to me and said the word, ‘freefalling.’ And I went to sing that and he said, ‘No, take your voice up and see how that feels.’ So I took my voice up an octave or two, but I couldn’t get the whole word in. So I sang ‘freeee,’ then ‘free falling.’ And we both knew at that moment that I’d hit on something pretty good.

Petty goes on to describe the conception of the sights and sounds of Reseda — the ‘vampires’, the ‘bad boys’, the ‘good girls’, etc. — were all inspired by his drive to and from those Full Moon Fever sessions between the valley and Beverly Hills on that lovely singable hook, heading “West down Ventura Boulevard.”

Somethings from nothings, folks, all day everyday. Meanwhile, Petty also shared that while “Free Fallin’” was getting mixed — in a single day! — they just decided (as you do) to create “I Won’t Back Down.”

So the next time you buzz through your hometown’s main drag, remember, Tom Petty could write a number one hit tune about it in a day.