Tom Petty – Waiting for Tonight

“If she hung around too much I might take her for granted…

…but when I was away she seemed an angel”

While some artists deal with politics or social issues on a regular basis, Tom Petty is a straight shooter who takes his ques from the Chuck Berry school of songwriting.  Write what the listener can identify with.  ‘Don’t bore us get to the chorus’ is a motto that springs to mind.  For Chuck, it was girls, cars, the soda fountain…any assortment of ’50s and early ’60s cliches.  His magic was in the poetry of these topics put on top of a rollicking backbeat with solid guitar riffs.  Tom comes from this school.  He writes what we all feel…’You Don’t Know How it Feels’, ‘Refugee’, ‘I Won’t Back Down’. 

‘Waiting for Tonight’ should have been a hit.  Could have been a hit.  But it was cut between album sessions and never gelled with the themes he was hitting on at the time.  1987 saw the release of the ramshackle ‘Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough)’…no radio hits in sight on this loose LP cut amidst his tour with Bob Dylan.  But this song was cut, by his account, after this but before the creative firestorm that saw the massive hits ‘Full Moon Fever’ and ‘The Traveling Wilburys Vol 1’.  It was a solo song, but didn’t see the light until the boxed set ‘Playback’ in the mid 1990s.  Petty tried a second time to revive it as the bonus cut on the ‘Anthology’ double disc set in 2002.  Had it been included on ‘Full Moon Fever’, it would have been treated to considerable airplay.

“…I was feeling lucky just to have a place to go.

Yeah, my nerves were feeling shot.”

On this track, he brings his usual attitude to us in a different way.  The lyrics are very specific, almost like a diary entry.  The music is his trademark swinging rock n’ roll with a hint of melancholy in the background vocals by the flavor of the week Bangles.  It rides just on the edge of the beat, like the beauty of the melody could break down at any minute.  His confession gives the listener a glimpse into his mindset…something we could use more of from this master of the pop single. 

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