S3E4 Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid)

Even The Losers
Century City


Length: 13:24 - Release Date: March 9, 2022 -

Hey folks. Today's episode covers track four from Damn The Torpedoes, Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid).

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

Check out this fantastic live version, recorded on March 6th, 1980 at the legendary Hammersmith Odeon in London: https://youtu.be/_WW-1Fn7NZQ


(* 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   Today we’re digging into the fourth track from the band’s third album, Shadow of a Doubt, brackets, a Complex Kid. If you wanna listen to the song before we get started, there’s a link in the episode notes, so go check that out and I’ll meet you back here to dig into it!

Shadow of a Doubt was a mainstay of the Heartbreakers set between 1979 and 1981 before taking a two-decade hiatus and being resurrected for The Last DJ tour in 2002/2003, when it was played right before Won’t Back Down. In Conversations with Tom Petty, Paul asks Tom  if Mike’s recollection of the song basically being written in the studio as a jam is accurate. Tom says “As I remember it. I kind of have a picture of us doing that song. I remember thinking it had some humorous lines in it”. I think that’s a great place to start talking about this song. I usually dive straight into the music, but let’s switch it up this week and talk about the words first! 

To me this is another good example of what I would gues was a phrase or an idea that Tom had jotted down somewhere. We use the expression “without a shadow of a doubt” to commonly mean without question. But it’s not an expression you ordinarily hear used inversely in this way. Tom goes back to some of the sentiments from the first couple of albums and has a female antagonist who either isn’t or may not be playing straight with him. Lines like “I think she loves me, but she don’t want to let on”, “She likes to keep me guessin” set things up perfectly in the first verse. The second verse paints his subject as not enjoying work and hating her boss, so it’s possible that it’s not just her relationship with the song’s protagonist that may be difficult. After all, she’s a complex kid. It’s another interesting lyrical structure with not much musical distinction between the verse and chorus, with either the verse being only two lines, or the chorus being only one. I love those choices. The song also contains the playful line, “And when she’s dreamin’ sometimes she sings in French. But in the morning, she don’t remember it. Tom highlights this to Paul Zollo in his book and you could see it getting a laugh from the band in the studio. The two lines represent another feature of this song in that they don’t end each phrase with a perfect rhyme. For the most part they employ neither assonance or consonance slant rhymes either, as we hear the “French” rhymed with “it”, “off” with “boss”, and even “fence” with “kid”. So those are made to fit by the way Tom enunciates the vowels to either flatten them or draw them out to get closer to a standard rhyme. This songwriting trick works well on this song as it allows the melody to follow a consistent pattern while having the syllabic structure move around it, to make it more interesting.  So vocally, Tom is having fun here and really stabs at some of those syllables. Those two lines, “sings in french” and “don’t remember it” he really attacks and puts a little humour into them just because of the way he delivers them. Otherwise, it’s a fairly straightforward vocal from Tom and really consistent with his performances on the other faster tracks on side one of the album. 

The track really does feel like a live performance, recorded “off the floor” as it is sometimes called with the main body of the song being recorded with the whole band playing in synch, with overdubs and re-takes being added later where necessary. We get a four count to start the song to really emphasize that live feeling. 

Stan plays a neat little bongo part. I’m not sure if that would have been played this way during the record, it has more of a feel of being added in later, but in live performances, Stan wold play that part. Listen carefully too to Stans little fill into the first verse. It’s a super cool little hat run onto the snare where he closes the hat so you get one open and one sloppy (or partially closed) hat note before the snare and tom roll comes in. From here, Stan is sitting on the ride cymbal and keeping a steady beat, adding in some good off beat breaks and ride bell hits leading into the chorus line. So when you listen to the lines “she always been so hard to figure out” and “always been so hard to get around”, right at the end of each, you’ll hear that break from the beat, which gives a nice musical transition into what we can call the one-line chorus. In the previous two lines to that, we also here the bongos coming in as fill, which I’m pretty sure would have been an overdub. During the bridge, we hear the bongos yet again being mixed with a couple of decently rowdy little drum fills centred on that epic snare sound. That bridge is stretched from 8 bars to 10 and Stan puts in some hi hat lifts before heading back into the main groove for the guitar solo. Into the third verse we’re hearing some additional percussion, which sounds like maracas perhaps and he’s opening that ride sound a little fuller to add more shimmer to that last verse. In the build to the ending he starts really wailing on that snare.

Mike and Tom go back almost to a Listen to Her Heart kind of feel for the guitars in this one. They’re big and jangly and multilayered. The left channel is dialed into to Mike’s lead with Tom galloping that rhythm in the right channel but I think there’s a third part that’s being dropped in there are times too. The Gb E A riff is super cool too as it starts off sitting in a suspended position with the open A chord that the rhythm guitar is playing. There’s a really juicy little ld time rock n roll lick during the chorus line too. It’s basically an E5 chord that’s playing then the run up takes in the third note to give it a kinda Fats Domino swing feel to it. The lead into the second verse is the same as the first, then we get a little trading of lead between Mike and Tom, with some licks coming in either channel with a deadly little bend fill from Mike over top of the line “hates her boss” that’s well worth listening out for. During the bridge they do a subtle left turn into a very country-feeling vibe, tonally the same, but the rhythm is slightly different and has a bit more oak to its bones, if that makes any sense! In the solo, Mike picks up where he left off with Even the Losers, pulling out those Chuck Berry bends again before shredding his way through the second four bars. The solo is mixed surprisingly low to me and I think you lose a little punch with that being the case. It’s also in the same sort of sonic space as those airy cymbals that Stan is washing through the drums and the treble-heavy rhythm section, so I’d love to have heard that mixed higher, so the solo could really shine through. We get a few more nicely improvised little fills before heading into the big outro, where we again get some huge honky tonk string bends.

Alrighty, it’s time for some Petty Trivia! 

Last week, I asked you: Which album kept Damn The Torpedoes from hitting #1 for 9 straight weeks? 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.

Your question for today is this: Which composer, who provided the scores for Die Hard, Highlander, Lethal Weapon, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, provided the orchestral arrangements on 1994’s Wildflowers? (Michael Kamen)

OK, back to the song. 

Ron Blair is busy in this song. Really busy. On Even the Losers, Ron stayed out of the way for the most partbut on Complex Kid, he’s ripping it up, matching Mike’s little lead lick and then moving around the kick pattern and providing an all out rock n roll riff during the “always been so hard to figure out” lines. During the shadow of a doubt line, Ron really elevates the song by going up a full two octaves above his root notes to push the chorus line. The bridge sees some great slides and again that move to the upper octaves and he ends on a really high note that hardly even sounds like a bass! It’s a great part from Ron and one that I’d love to hear isolated one day. When I said off the top that Ron is busy, that might have sounded like I thought he was playing too much, but that isn’t the case. Again, the chord progression is pretty steady in this song and Stan is keeping the time more than adding in that bottom end movement around the kit, so having Stan provide a little pizazz in that frequency space really works well.

After three straight songs that really feature Benmont’s keyboard parts front and centre, he really takes a back seat in the mix on this one. He’s still there and you can hear a couple of quiet organ sweeps and then some piano fills during the end of the verses, but he’s never really prominent in the mix. Most likely this is because those guitars are so trebly and jangly you don’t need a ton of extra noise in that range. So you just get that subtle organ texture, mainly in the right channel as you come through and out of the chorus. We do hear him more clearly in the bridge, with some tremolo and a slightly beefier organ sound. Again that builds in the last verse so that organ can be heard more clearly. So this is likely Jimmy Iovine using the organ as something to provide that gradual crescendo into that rowdy ending and outro when you hear Benmony hammering on the piano too, before the song ends with a really heavily reverbed Glissando to finish.

OK folks, that’s all for this week. 

This song is a really healthy mix of old fashioned rock n roll and country music, to my ear. Some of those guitar licks have plenty of yeehaw too them and when they’re coupled with Ron’s straight up rock n roll bassline and the driving rhythm of the drums, it creates a wonderful blend of sensibilities that really work. I like the feel and casual nature of this song. I like the instrumentation and arrangement, I’m just usually felt feeling that the mix was never quite right on this one. When you listen to live versions of the song, it always feels a little crisper and a little less saturated in the treble space. That’s just a personal preference of course, but I will dock a couple of marks for it as I think that it stands out all the more coming on the back of three songs that were constructed perfectly in every way. So I’m gonna give Shadow of a Doubt a 7/10. I’ll put a couple of live versions into the episode notes for you to see if you agree with me. I’ll include the version recorded in 1980 at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, that was included on the deluxe version of the album.

Before I wrap things up, just a reminder that you can support humanitarian efforts in the Ukraine in many different ways and I would urge you to do so if you have the means. I’ll keep adding a link to the Red Cross donation page in the episode notes for the foreseeable future. At least until sanity is restored to the region.


Petty Trivia

QUESTION: Who played drums on Tom’s third and final solo album, Highway Companion?

ANSWER: The answer, which a few of you got, but a few more didn’t, is Tom Petty himself. The album was truly a three-man effort, with Tom playing guitars, drums, harmonic, piano, and keyboards; Mike Campbell playing guitars and vibraphone; and Jeff Lynne taking on guitar, bass, keyboards, and autoharp responsibilities. All three men co-produced the 2006 release, which is the only Tom Petty release to include no co-written songs.


There goes my baby
There goes my only one
I think she loves me
But she don't wanna let on

Yes she likes to keep my guessing
She's got me on defense
With that little bit of mystery
She's a complex kid
And she's always been so hard to figure out
Yes, she always like to leave me with a shadow of a doubt

Sometimes at night, I
Wait around 'til she gets out
She don't like workin'
She says she hates her boss

But she's got me asking questions
She's got me on defense
With that little certain something
She's a complex kid
And she's always been so hard to get around
Yes, she always likes to leave me with a shadow of a doubt

Just a shadow of a doubt
She seldom keeps me running
I'm trying to figure out
If she's leading up to something

And when she's dreaming
Sometimes she seems depressed
But in the morning
She don't remember it

But she's got me thinking 'bout it
Yes, she's got me on the edge
With that little bit of mystery
She's a complex kid
And she's always been so hard to live without
Yes, she always like to leave me with a shadow of a doubt

Well a shadow of a doubt
Well a shadow of a doubt