S2E5 Too Much Ain't Enough

Somewhere You Feel Free


Length: 14:02 - Release Date: December 22, 2021 -

Hey folks! In today's episode, we're talking about the last song on side one of the second album, Too Much Ain't Enough.

If you want to listen to the song before you listen to the episode, you can find it here: https://youtu.be/FJatokoNyg8

Check out this killer live version from 1980 and watch how they really cut loose and just enjoy jamming around the main lick: https://youtu.be/FyCrUp1P-rQ

Tom says that this song was musically inspired by the Fleetwood Mac song, Oh Well. If you don't know that track, it features the best blues guitarist that England ever produced; Peter Green. You can find that here: https://youtu.be/0yq-Fw7C26Y. Tom and the Heartbreakers also did the song live on numerous occasions and this version live from Gainesville is top notch: https://youtu.be/H34Uc9JWECQ


(* Note - the transcript is as-written before recording. I usually change a few sentences or words here and there on the hoof as I'm speaking.)

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, my fine friends. Today we’re continuing with episode five of the second season of the Tom Petty Project Podcast. As always, I am your host, Kevin Brown! I hope that, if you celebrate Christmas, or just enjoy having time with your families over Christmas, that you’re all finished your shopping and that you’re all able to safely visit at least in some capacity, with your loved ones. Being in lock down last year was really tough as Christmas is all about family for me. I grew up with lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins and this time of year was when we’d all get together. Just remember to be safe and enjoy the holidays as best you can! Hopefully this is the last disrupted Christmas we have to work through!

Today we’re talking Too Much Ain’t Enough, the fifth track on the album and the last song on Side One. Go check out the link in the episode notes to listen to the song, then come back, pull up a chair, and we’ll chat about it. Great to see you’re back. Let’s get into it.

Paul Zollo’s book has been an invaluable source of information for this podcast and talking about this song in the book, Tom says “I wrote it after seeing Fleetwood Mac, and they played that song “Oh well”, that has this great bluesy lick. I was trying to find a riff like that, or like what Muddy Waters would have.” He goes on to say “So I came up with this blues lick. And then I made my own kind of phrasing, my own kind of chord pattern. And The Heartbreakers were really kind of thrilled with it when I brought it in. They were like “All Right! We’ve been wanting something like this!” It’s a fun song to do live.”

As soon as the song opens I get those anticipation goosebumps. I love that fret scratch grandfather clock effect (I assume it isn’t actually a grandfather clock). Tom’s guitar tone when he comes in on the left channel is so beefy and nasty, with a killer natural distortion. I doubt that’s a pedal. Just feels like a really good tone coming out of the amp. When Mike comes in after two bars, he’s rocking a serpentine phased, slide guitar. So, so swampy and cool! After another four bars, we get Stan coming in with one of the best, if not the best drumbeat on the first two records. As much as I disliked the way the drums were mixed on Magnolia, I love, love, love how sharp and tasty that snare crack sounds on this one and those little grace notes on the snare that he’s adding into this one give it such a fantastic kinda freight train country-blues swing. That feel of a train rolling on the tracks is driven home for me by Mike’s sweet slides. It almost feels like Mike is also playing a very gentle wah wah on this but I think that’s my brain adding that in rather than it being there. It’s such a densely processed and cool tone. His tone is way more direct and aggressive when it was played live, at least in the early days, but it’s deliberately tripped out on this track so that it doesn’t jar with Tom’s killer rhythm part.

If you listen to the guitar part Tom is playing throughout this track. It’s super simple. The main lick is a simple little run over that B power chord. Into the verse, he’s just playing those chords on the 1s and 3s. One thing that always strikes me about watching Tom play live is that he isn’t a windmiller. He’s usually pretty economical with his strumming technique, but he shows that it’s all about tone and control. He still gets that big fat sound that a lot of guys would hammer the strings to get. 

Benmont’s part on this song is really interesting because if you’re not listening closely, you could definitely miss it. In the right channel, if listen to the rhythm guitar part, you can hear the organ, mixed low, and playing basically the same part an octave higher. In the chorus, that switches to mirroring Mike’s lead line. It’s mixed so low though that I have to really pay attention, which is hard to do because this song rocks and swings so damn hard! 

Once we’ve been through two verse chorus loops - and really, the chorus is just that repeated line “It ain’t enough”. Though you could also say that that’s still a part of the verse and the section that leads into the guitar solo, which acts as a bridge, is actually the chorus. Or you could say that this song just doesn’t have a chorus and the “too much ain’t enough, it ain’t enough” is a solid enough refrain that it doesn’t need one. I go back and forth on what how to describe that but I think I might be leaning closer to the last option. Future Wilburys bandmate Roy Orbison was well-known for messing around with song structures, so this could just be an example of that type of songcraft!   

We haven’t talked about Ron Blair yet. Let’s talk about Ron Blair. If you’re able to do it, sit and listen to the song and try to filter out everything else and just listen to what Ron is doing. He comes in a couple of bars after the drums with a really jumpy, busy bassline through the verses, mixed dead centre, with the kick drum. This is a really furious, hopping bass line that builds up to an octave higher between the verses before dropping back down into that low register. Heading into the bridge, he hangs off completely for almost two full bars before walking up to the key change in that middle eight. He throws in some really familiar rock and roll four note patterns in that middle section too and sits an octave or two above his floor, before dropping to the low register for the solo, which lets Mike’s guitar really sing in that treble space.

In the bridge, we get the first vocal harmonies in the song and some reverb-heavy call-response type group vocals. 

Tom tells Paul Zollo, “Campbell just burned that solo. I have a memory of Mike playing the solo and all of us going “Wow! That’s great!” This is Mike channeling his inner Chuck Berry, especially in the second half of the solo, and doing it not particularly subtly. It fits so well and keeps that energy up so you can’t really complain about it being derivative because, as always with Mike Campbell, it’s exactly what the song needs. And as Lemmy from Motorhead once said “We’re all just ripping off Chuck Berry”. 

We get one more verse, when Stan ups the ante and throws in a few more bigger hits and Benmont adds in more colour on the organ. The song fades out around that main lick and we’re done in slightly less than three minutes of pure rock n roll energy.

It’s time, once again my friends, for some Petty Trivia! I hope you’re keeping score of how well you’re doing!

Last week, I asked you, which 1996 album, which featured the entire Heartbreakers lineup at the time, contained songs written by Tom Petty, Beck, Chris Cornell, and Johnny Cash? The answer, as a few of you correctly identified Johnny Cash’s 1996 album, Unchained as the record in question. The second album in his American series chronology, the man in black covered the Heartbreakers sublime ballad Southern Accents, Beck’s Rowboat, Soundgarden’s Rusty Cage (penned by Chris Cornell) and featured three original Cash compositions. I’ll be completely honest and say that I’ve never quite found the hook on the American Series chronology, though I love Johnny Cash. Maybe I need to go back and revisit them.

Your question for this week is a seasonal one! Tom Petty’s 1992 Christmas song, Christmas All Over Again, was recorded for the charity album “A Very Special Christmas”, but can you tell me which charity the album was raising money for?

OK, back to the song.

The lyrics to this one see Tom again in very combative mood. He could definitely pull off that angry-young-man swagger on these early records and this one is a prime example of him fighting back. “You just can’t be satisfied, too much ain’t enough”. My favourite line in the song is “You’re standing by the telephone, waiting for the word. And ever since that bathroom scene, there’s been a slight concern”. Beautifully understated and sets a scene without really fleshing it out. That way he had of doing just enough to paint the picture, then letting your imagination add motion and colour is one of my favourite facets of his songwriting and that line is one of those that does that. 

The title is such a cool play on words and came from something he saw written on a building in New York. In Conversations with Tom Petty, Tom says, “I’m the kind of person who sits in restaurants and listens to everyone talking. I’ll write things down. Or get out of bed at night and write things down. Sometimes during that little time right before you fall asleep, your mind gets into a certain place and you get a lot of ideas”. I’ve woken up plenty of times with an idea for a riff or a lyric. It’s easier these days as we can just hum or speak into the voice memo on our phones. I have hours of ramblings and humming on my phone right now!  Tom says that he got that title idea from his notebook and it’s such a great one to build  a song out from.

The song is included on the Playback boxset, Anthology: Through the Years and there’s also the live version from the 1978 new year’s eve concert in the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on the Live Anthology. So it’s well represented in the box sets!  It was a live staple in late 70s and was resurrected in 2001/2002 when it was almost ever present. Clearly this was a song that the band enjoyed playing live. If you listen to that 1978 version, you can see and hear how much fun the band is having playing it. 

A lot of people say that the band’s last album, Hypnotic Eye is a return to the Heartbreakers early sound and while I think it’s far more sophisticated than that, there are some songs that you could definitely hear on both that last album or on this one. Too Much Ain’t Enough would fit perfectly on that last record and just think how the arrangement might have been changed with a third guitar, or maybe some screaming Scott Thurston harmonica. It also has a close cousin on the Mojo album, where that railroad snare pattern is used again on the fantastic Jefferson Jerricho Blues.

OK thanks as always for listening folks! This is one of my favourite tracks on the album and really is a killer live song to see them play, so I’ll add a link to a live version from 1980 in the episode notes. I’m going to give Too Much Ain’t Enough a really strong 8 out of 10 as, for me, it’s a) a perfect way to close side one of a record, and b) it just swings man. You have to tap your foot and move your body to this song. If you don’t you have to be dead from the brain down!

I told you last week that I was recording a special episode with the wonderfully talented Jake Thistle. Well, Jake and I had a fantastic time chatting and he played a couple of killer Tom Petty covers. Once we’d signed off, all hell broke loose and we had independent, unrelated technology problems which meant that we actually lost the whole damn recording! Thankfully, Jake was very gracious in agreeing to jump on a call again with me early in the new year. He also had the fabulous idea of streaming our chat, which we’re going to do! I’ll get details out to you as soon as we lock in the date and you’ll be able to join us live on the internet, to talk about Tom, Jake, and lots more in between. Don’t forget to look our for a special episode this Saturday where I’ll be talking about Somewhere You Feel Free, the Making of Wildflowers. I think that will be more conversational and less in-depth analysis, but I wanted to re-watch the show and record my thoughts about it.


Petty Trivia

QUESTION: Tom Petty’s 1992 Christmas song, Christmas All Over Again, was recorded for the charity album “A Very Special Christmas”, but can you tell me which charity the album was raising money for?

ANSWER: The answer is the special olympics. Tom was one of only two artists on the record who recorded an original song, rather than covering a standard or another artist’s track. It was also the lead track on the album and Tom very generously donated the rights to the song to the charity so that they were able to take all the profits from its use. An understated gesture that Tom didn’t need to make but did quietly and humbly. All the more reason to love the man.


Looks like you got a little more to lose
Now little more at stake
I see you had a hard time
Livin' with the change
You got me on the line
Now tryin' to call your bluff
But you just won't be satisfied
Too much ain't enough

It ain't enough, it ain't enough

Yeah, you're standing by the telephone
Waiting for the word
And ever since that bathroom scene
There's been a slight concern
I'm tryin' to make this easy baby
You seem to like things rough
You just can't be satisfied
Too much ain't enough

Too much ain't enough
Too much ain't enough
Come on baby I'm down on my knees
Guess some little pill just can't be pleased

Little miss queen of hearts you are a strange thing
Why you wanna make so vague
I'm wanderin' through this mess you made
To see what I can save
I'm livin' on the line now
Tryin' to call your bluff
But you just won't be satisfied
Too much ain't enough
Too much ain't enough
Too much ain't enough