S3E3 Even The Losers

               
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Length: 12:58 - Release Date: March 2, 2022 -

Heya peeps! Hope you're all well wherever in the world you are. Episode 2 of Season 3 is here for you and today we're talking about the marvellous Here Comes My Girl.

If you want to listen to the song before you listen to the episode, you can find it here: https://youtu.be/n4nPa35CZPI

If you're on Facebook, check out this fantastic video of Mike talking about how he put together the guitar parts for the song: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=202390328719537

And it you want to hear Stan talking about the drums on the track, you can find that here: https://youtu.be/loWGL-jvhlU?t=471

Transcript

(* 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. Welcome to the third episode of season three of the Tom Petty Project Podcast! I am your host, Kevin Brown. This is the podcast that digs into the entire Tom Petty catalog song by song, album by album and includes conversations with musicians, fans, and people connected with Tom along the way. Today we’re digging into Even The Losers, which is the third track from the band’s breakout album, Damn The Torpedoes. If you wanna listen to the song before we get started, there’s a link in the episode notes, so go give it another listen and then we can begin!

You would think that following Refugee and Here Comes My Girl, that the album would have to shift down a gear and couldn’t possibly maintain that level of genius into the third track. Well, Tom pulls out another one of the big guns with Even The Losers. Arguably the most memorable of all Tom’s song titles, the story of this song is another example of Tom’s extraordinary ability to find a phrase that fits at just the right time. The song was essentially completely written when Tom brought it into the studio, but worryingly, didn’t have any words for the chorus. He had the melody, but no words. Still, he felt that it was worth cutting the track and then figuring out the missing words at a later point. In Conversations With Tom Petty, Tom recalls to Steve Zollo, “I had no idea what I was going to sing when I got to that point. And boom, divine intervention, it just came out.” So one of the all time great rock n roll lyrics was ad-libbed on the spot. Absolutely extraordinary. The song also famously features Mike Campbell’s wife Marcie in a brief spoken cameo. Mike had been working on the song at home and had been recording, when he called to complain about the noise from the washing machine. Marcie shoots back the immortal line “It’s just the normal noises in here!” in response.

The song opens with an unusual, heavily processed drum sound with bass and what sounds like an electric guitar that isn’t plugged in. Whether this was an offcut from another song idea or just added in on a whim, who knows, but it stands in very stark contrast to the way the song goes once it starts for real. The drums in this section are mixed to have virtually no bass at all, and the guitar is likewise heavy on the treble. The individual parts drop out at different times and then we get Marcie Campbell’s “It’s Just the Normal Noises in Here”. The song begins in earnest at the 21 second mark.

The intro-proper is a simple four chord step-down progression that is not then repeated anywhere else in the song. It walks us down from A to G, to Gb to E before the first verse begins in the root key of D. Through the first verse, the two guitars are playing the same part, with slightly different tones; slightly more bass in the left channel, slightly more treble in the right. Moving into the second verse, Mike starts to add in some licks here and there at the end of each line. During the chorus, the guitar is again sticking to a really straight progression that has the same rhythm with a slightly pattern. The verses are D-A-G-A and in the chorus we drop that last change back up to A to settle on three chords. Removing that change back up to A really gives the chorus a fresh feel even though it’s not a huge change. In the verses, that final change to A in the first three lines gives each of those lines that little bit of tension. The last line in each of the verses changes to a C, which acts as a definite end point to each verse. In the chorus, we hear a different, almost opposite approach to the last phrase, where we drop through D-A and G but then move up to G (the 4th) and then up to A (the fifth) to build momentum back out of this section.

After two short verses and a chorus, we move into a 12 bar guitar solo that plays over the same chord progression as the verse. During the recording session, Mike was having trouble finding a guitar solo that would fit. Tom asked him “What would Chuck Berry do?” and within minutes, the solo was finished. Mike definitely leans into those Berry bends in this one and they feature on numerous solos throughout the Heartbreakers’ catalog. Then again, they feature on most rock n roll bands’ catalogs somewhere because they’re a staple of that style of guitar playing!

We come out of the solo and into the bridge and into a simple A / A suspended 4th guitar pattern which then builds out back into the chorus and from here on out we’re not hearing too much different from the guitars until the outro where Mike starts to play some of those Berry licks again into the fade out.

Benmont’s organ throughout this track just shines so brightly in that top register. For the most part, he’s just following the guitar pattern and playing nice, full chords. At the end of each verse where the key changes to C, you get some great vibrato. As we head into the chorus, the organ takes the melodic lead and we get that fabulous run down echoing Tom’s vocal melody. Through the solo, we’re just keeping that organ there as texture but it’s dialed back a little again to allow the space for Mike’s solo to cut through. We then get an almost prog-rock sounding organ progression in the second half of the bridge, walking over that A sus 4 chord and again taking the lead melody duties back from Mike. So that interplay between guitar and organ is almost like a game of musical tag. And again, coming back out of the bridge, Benmont moves up an octave and leans into the vibrato to punch us back into the chorus, We then get those two repetitions of the chorus before the song plays out with that main line “Even the Losers Get Lucky sometimes” repeated to the close. Benment stays up in that higher octave during the outro, to keep the intensity high and the sound as full as possible.

Stan Lynch relaly cuts loose on this track and we get drum fills at basically every transition point. Even in the short intro, we get some tom hits and then between the two verses and the second verse and the chorus, we get some big snare hits. We’ve already talked lots about Stan’s torturous time making this record, with the exacting standards and intensity of Jimmy Iovine and how he wanted the drums to sound. But yet again, the drums really thunder throughout this entire song and even in the places where the guitars drop out, he’s still adding in fills. Between the two choruses in the outro, we get a Bonham-esque tom roll and each little phrase that Stan throws in is different each time. He doesn’t drop into repeating himself and this gives the song so much energy. A really cool little switchup he throws is when he throws in an offbeat later in the solo. When you’re counting, he brings the band back to the one where the four should be and the following bar is 5 measures rather than 4 effectively. 

Ron Blair dials himself way back in this song. There are so many moving parts, with Stan’s riproaring drum track and the interplay between Benmont’s organ part and Mike’s guitar licks. Throw in a really upbeat vocal delivery too and all Ron needs to do is sit on those kick notes and play the root for each chord. He does move up and down an octave, throwing in the 5th note in the chord here and there, but this is an exercise in restraint and just holding that rhythm down without drowning anyone else out.

Alrighty, it’s time for some Petty Trivia! 

Last week, I asked you:Which Live album was released as a limited edition vinyl LP for the 2011 Black Friday Record Store Day? The answer is Kiss My Amps. Featuring 6 tracks from Mojo and the B-Side to Room at the Top, Sweet William. The tracks were all recorded during the 2010 Mojo tour and, with the exception of Sweet William and Takin My Time, had been previously released digitally to Highway Companions Club members for download.

Your question for this week is this: Which album kept Damn The Torpedoes from hitting #1 for 9 straight weeks?

OK, back to the song. 

The song was famously inspired by an acid trip and a girl named Cindy, who Tom had a crush on in middle school but had rejected his advances. After Tom’s very brief stint in art school in Tampa, he reconnected with an old friend and went to a party at his house. In the middle of an acid trip, Tom saw Cindy again and this time she was more receptive to his overtures, but just for the night, joining him on the rooftop to smoke cigarettes and stare at the moon. As Tom tells Warren Zanes in his 2015 biography, “She let me know it was just for that night. She said “You keep trying but you and me isn’t going to happen.” When I wrote Even The Losers years later, that night came back.” There are so many brilliant lines in this song that I would say it’s probably the strongest lyric, as a whole, on the album. The image you have right from the start is one of longing for days gone by and love lost. Tom wrote plenty of that type of song in these early years, like Magnolia, or the Wild One, but Even the Losers does it so much better and captures teenage angst as well as any song I’ve ever heard. “It couldn’t have been that easy to forget about me” is a line that betrays the singer’s insecurity rather than projecting any confidence. Even the losers get lucky sometimes. An all time classic, but it’s also followed by the equally brilliant “Even the losers keep a little bit of pride, they get lucky sometimes”. For anybody who wasn’t one of the cool kids in high school, these lines scream at your very soul. If you had to describe most of John Hughes’ 80s teen movies in two lines, those would work as well as any I would say! Tom sings those lines with absolute honesty and you don’t doubt a single word. He sits in his upper mid range for most of the song before throwing in some vocal stabs in the outro. But the words tell the story here and Tom doesn’t torture his vocal or shrink back from it at any point. It’s an absolutely superb lyric, beautifully delivered. 

OK folks, that’s all for this week. 

Like Refugee last week and Here Comes My Girl in the past two episodes, I can’t give Even the Losers anything less than a 10/10. Soaring organ, reserved but somehow urgent guitar playing, epic drums and a pristine vocal simply add up to greatness. Rolling Stone ranked the song 19th of Tom Petty’s top 50 songs and it’s hard to argue with placing it so highly. It’s an emotionally charged song about love lost but redemption nonetheless for the outcasts. A real rallying cry for geeks and nerds the world over! The song was obviously played live prolifically through the years, but somewhat surprisingly, didn’t make the cut for the 40th anniversary tour.

Before I wrap things up, I just wanted to comment very quickly on world events. I’ve avoided doing this on the pod so far as I really wanted to focus on the music and I know you probably get your news and opinion on current affairs from much better sources than me. The current situation in Ukraine however is completely unprecedented and extremely upsetting. I don’t know if I have any listeners in Ukraine but if you are out there listening, I really hope that you’re safe and getting through this inexcusable act of selfish aggression. My thoughts are with all of you at this time and I continue to hope that sanity can be restored sooner rather than later. Everyone else, if you have any spare money that you’d be able to donate, the Red Cross and many other excellent organizations are funding aid and relief efforts and anything you could donate would be greatly appreciated by those currently fearing for their futures. I’ll leave a link in the episode notes for you to check out.

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Petty Trivia

QUESTION: Which album kept Damn The Torpedoes from hitting #1 for 9 straight weeks?

ANSWER: The answer is Pink Floyd’s epic rock opera, The Wall. the album sat atop the Billboard charts for 15 weeks, with Damn the Torpedoes occupying the #2 slot for 9 of those. The contrast between two rock n roll albums could hardly be more stark. The Wall, a sprawling narrative detailing the mental collapse and existential crises of its protagonist, Pink. Damn the Torpedoes, a cohesive collection of rock n roll with a hint of country to close out the album. Two of the all time great albums occupying the top two spots on the chart at the same time.

Lyrics

Well, it was nearly all summer we sat on your roof.
Yeah, we smoked cigarettes and we stared at the moon.
And I'd show you stars you never could see.
Baby, it couldn't have been that easy to forget about me.

Baby, time means nothing, anything seemed real.
Yeah, you could kiss like fire and you made me feel
Like every word you said was meant to be.
No, it couldn't have been that easy to forget about me.

Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes.
Even the losers keep a little bit of pride.
They get lucky sometimes.

Two cars parked on the overpass,
Rocks hit the water like broken glass.
I should have known right then it was too good to last.
God, it's such a drag when you're livin' in the past.

Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes.
Even the losers keep a little bit of pride.
They get lucky sometimes.

Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes.
Even the losers keep a little bit of pride.
Yeah, they get lucky sometimes.

Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes.
Even the losers get lucky sometimes.
Even the losers get lucky sometimes.
Even the losers get lucky sometimes.
Even the losers get lucky sometimes.

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