Feel a Whole Lot Better: For His Birthday, Five Great Non-Petty Tom Petty Songs

Tuesday just happens to be the 59th birthday of Rocks Off's personal hero, role model and by all accounts someone who smokes even more weed than we do, Thomas Earl Petty. Speaking of, it's also Snoop Dogg's birthday, which means 10/20 deserves to be a NORML holiday even more than 4/20 does. But until that happens, here's our choice for the best Tom Petty songs either written by or credited to someone else.

Mudcrutch, "Orphan of the Storm" (Mudcrutch, 2008): Of course, this had to be first - it's about Houston, y'all, specifically a hard-luck woman forced to relocate here after a hurricane (Katrina, we're guessing). Petty's country ballad might well be just as poignant if it were set in Pittsburgh or Portland, but his portrayal of the Bayou City as a junkie's paradise with a "copper-colored sky" could have come straight out of Houston. It's Worth It.

Carl Perkins, "Give Me Back My Job" (Go Cat Go, 1996): Recorded for the late "Blue Suede Shoes" rockabilly maestro's comeback album, "Give Me Back My Job" - written by obscure folksinger Jim Garland - sounds a lot more relevant today than when it was released during the flush mid-'90s. Between Petty's opening verse and Perkins coming along to mop things up, here's who else you'll hear, in order: Bono, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. Not bad.

Tom Petty, "Feel a Whole Lot Better" (Full Moon Fever, 1989): If oldies radio remembers the Byrds at all, it's for cribbing either Bob Dylan on "Mr. Tambourine Man" or the Bible on "Turn, Turn, Turn." But even before Gram Parsons and Sweetheart of the Rodeo came along, they were influential enough to merit a reference in Don McLean's "American Pie" ("eight miles high and falling fast"), and they influenced few musicians more than Petty and Fever producer Jeff Lynne, who works that Roger McGuinn 12-string sound to the hilt here.

Interesting trivia: Petty would come full circle when he played on and helped arrange McGuinn's 1991 album Back From Rio, but "Better" was actually written by Gene Clark. And live is a different story, of course, but this is the first cover to appear on any Petty studio album, solo or with the Heartbreakers.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, "Oh Well": Petty and the Heartbreakers have never recorded this demon blues-rocker, but they love doing it live, and do composer/Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green proud every time. Rocks Off remembers this song especially well because it's the last full song they played before being chased offstage by a lightning storm during their headlining set at the 2006 Austin City Limits Music Festival. They later returned; this clip from Gainesville is from their very next show, one you can see in its entirety on 2007's Runnin' Down a Dream DVD.

Ringo Starr, "I Call Your Name" (???): Yes, Ringo Starr sings lead, Petty only plays bass and we could have easily gone with "End of the Line" or "Handle With Care." But this song - which, from what we can tell, is only available on YouTube (please correct us if we're wrong) - was written about John Lennon, whose birthday was barely ten days ago and whom we're still missing... a lot.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray