S4E2 - A Woman In Love (It's Not Me)

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Length: 17:06 - Release Date: May 18, 2022 - US Chart #79

Welcome back to Season Four of The Tom Petty Project podcast. Thanks so much for staying with my on this journey, or, if you're just finding this ridiculous vanity project, I welcome you with open arms! Today's episode covers the second track from Hard Promises; A Woman In Love (It's Not Me).

If you want to listen to the track before we dig in, check out the official video: https://youtu.be/fKDYErlu5Kc

If you want to watch Stan break the fourth wall, as I talked about in the episode, check it out from this point! https://youtu.be/fKDYErlu5Kc?t=167


(* 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 second episode of the fourth season 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. 

I hope everyone’s doing OK out there. I just spent a very frustrating evening fitting a new kitchen faucet. I can’t tell you how much I hate doing home repairs and renos! Unless you have the right tools, jobs which should take 20 minutes often end up being a couple of hours. It certainly makes me re-appreciate tradespeople and their craft! Speaking of craft, today’s episode is a sparkling example of superb songwriting. We’re talking today about the second track from Hard Promises, A Woman In Love [brackets], It’s Not Me. Don’t forget to go listen to the song first at the link I’ve left for ya in the episode notes, then come back and we’ll dig in.

The second track from the album was also the second (and in most of the world, final) single released from the album. Most fans will be aware that the runout deadwax on the original vinyl pressings of Hard Promises features a tribute to the recently murdered John Lennon, the inscription reading simply, WE LOVE YOU JL in capital letters. Paul Zollo asks, in Conversations with Tom Petty, “Do you remember where you were when you heard he got shot?” and Tom explains that the band was actually recording vocals for A Woman In Love when the call came in. Their initial response, as Tom says, was “We just thought it was nonsense. And then a call game right back in about fifteen minutes that said that John’s dead. So we stopped work. And went home.” I can remember very vividly the day that that news came through. My mum and dad being such big Beatles fans, it came as a real shock. At seven years old, I was sad, but I’m sure I didn’t really understand the enormity of what had happened. For working musicians, I can only imagine how jarring it must have been that a fan had walked right up to John Lennon, at the doors of his home, and killed him in plain sight. Obviously Tom had his own brush with fan obsession when he was the victim of a terrifying arson in 1987. In 1999, his great friend George Harrison was also the victim of a horrendous assault at his Friar Park home. I imagine that these incidents would have been extremely formative in the protective shell he wrapped around his personal life. It would have to be in the back of your mind that you just don’t know exactly what’s going to happen when so many people know your face. Thankfully however, it didn’t make him paranoid to the extreme and when Paul Zollo asks him “Do you still have security”, Tom’s measured answer is “When necessary, but I don’t like to walk around with a big gorilla. You’ve got to have a little bit. Just to be safe”. 

A Woman in Love is one of the best rope-a-dope songs Tom ever wrote. By that I mean that as the song opens, you drop immediately into a kind of Damn The Torpedoes mindset and figure you know exactly where this song is going to go. However, after Stan’s initial Tom hit and that great guitar lick, the track drops into a really straight 4-4 rock groove, and it would be easy to think that this is going to be a predictable but (you know) well-written 80s rock song. But, after 8 bars of intro, the whole mood of the song changes and takes you into a space you’re not expecting at all. One really cool thing is that during the chord progression during the verses, there’s only one minor chord, but it’s punched home so hard by being so stark and, I dunno, isolated, that you really feel it resonate even through those major chords that follow. We get a killer laid back drum/bass combo in the verse in the verse, with Stan going to side-stick, which he rarely did on those first five albums. He’s easing up a lot on the hats and letting the kick and that side stick really create the atmosphere. Then once the verse is over, you get that gargantuan fill into the first chorus. Stans drums are EFFING HUGE on this song once it steps out of its moody shadow. I think I’ve talked before about how I always think it’s a little unfair to label Stan as a “power drummer” as that usually overlooks the subtlety that a drummer can employ. Both sides of the Stan Lynch coin are in full force on this song. The verses are so delicate and whispered percussively, and then thunderous and aggressive during the choruses. If you didn’t have that rhythmic dynamism and someone who could nail it feel-wise, this song just wouldn’t work.

If you check out the official video in the episode notes, there’s a bit right at the end of the middle eight where Stan is playing a fill and looks right down the lens that I love. It’s incredibly rock n roll and cool. Especially in black and white! You just get pure rock god energy from Stan!

A Woman in Love is the third and final Heartbreakers song to feature Duck Dunn on bass. It’s also the only one of those three that I think “Well, Ron could most definitely have played that part”. Of course, this was the album after which Ron left the band, so the timing of that situation could be a factor, but both Mike and Tom play bass on this album and I would argue that either of them would have done a great job on this track. Though that takes nothing away from the fantastic bass part that Duck plays. But it’s not as distinct as the swing groove he plays on Hometown Blues from the debut album or funk he lays down on You tell me from Torpedoes. What I think Duck does bring to the bass part on this song is more notes. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I think Ron Blair would have sat even deeper in the pocket on this one and let that pensive space really grip your unease. His bass tone is definitely different too and if I ever get to talk to Ron, I’d love to ask him how much he listened to that when he was playing the song live vs how much he just made it his own part. In those verses, he alternates between coming in on-beat and off beat - 1 and uh huh or and uh huh…. And again, I don’t know if Ron would have played it that way. Or Tom for that matter. 

A Woman In Love is one of three co-writes between Tom and Mike on the album. Incidentally, all three are songs I adore. But this one is almost stereotypically a Mike composition musically. It’s really guitar centric, but not in a virtuosic way. I would kill to hear the demo that Mike sent Tom for this one, to see where the changes were and if that verse-chorus juxtaposition was as stark and obvious. Right out the gate, we get that great lead guitar with plenty of reverb, which is also mixed really middle-trebly with barely any bass. Production-wise you’d typically want to do that to let that kick/bass pairing really resonate in the lower frequencies. The rhythm guitar is subdued to the point of virtual anonymity in that intro and during the choruses. Where it comes more to the fore is during the bridge. Looking at various online sources for chord charts etc. that middle section that starts at around the 2:21 mark is often referred to as the solo, but I’d dispute this wholeheartedly. It’s not a solo at all. Mike is simply playing a suspended arpeggio over a heavily augmented chord progression that really puts me in mind of The Stranglers or The Hollies, at least melodically. Mike really breathes a ton of life into this one during the verses however, with some ultra-clean, super-simple fills that really put me in mind of his work on Boys of Summer by Don Henley. I actually wonder if that was a lick/structure he had in place around the time of Hard Promises/Long After Dark and reworked for that track.

After Benmont’s virtual cameo on The Waiting, he’s back to his Torpedoe-esque best on this track, with a great, big organ sound through the verses and a piano/piano pad sitting on the eighth notes. Again, nothing virtuosic on this one, but definitely much more of a presence throughout. 

Alrighty, it’s time for some Petty Trivia! 

Last week’s trivia question; Which original track was recorded during the Wildflowers sessions to be included on 1993’s Greatest Hits album? The answer, as pretty much every one of you guessed, is Mary Jane’s Last Dance. The song became one of the last tracks that drummer Stan Lynch would record with the band and of course has very a very ambiguous central theme. Kim Basinger, who starred in the dark, brooding video for the song said of the reason she appeared in the video at the peak of her stardom; “I did the Mary Jane’s Last Dance video for one reason: Tom Petty”.  I think that’s a recurring sentiment that’s been echoed by many collaborators over the years.

I was informed on social media by my friend Pete Nestor that this last question was way too easy. So (ha ha), your question for this week is this; The Heartbreakers released ten songs, on original studio album release with subtitles. So not deluxe editions or compilations. By subtitles I mean something added in brackets after the main title. I’m giving you an easy one with today’s song, so my question is this. Can you name the other nine? 

OK, back to the song.

Once we come out of the bridge and into arguably the sultriest vocal line Tom ever sang, “Time after time. Night after night. She would look up at me and say she was lonely.” That line is achingly beautiful and would be fine on its own, but it’s followed by “I don’t understand the world today. I don’t understand what she needed. I gave her everything, she threw it all away on nothing.” Wow. Talk about leaving your killer punch for the last round. This is a superb lyric and a powerhouse vocal performance all round but those two stanzas of that last verse, standing as they do as a reflection on the rest of the song are so powerful. The second verse might well be one of my favourite moments on the album too. He comes in so much later than you’re expecting and gives us that line “well all right, do what you want. Don’t try to talk, don’t say nothin”. The sheer despondency and resignation in those lines but not from a position of frustration with a lover, but a kind of empathy for the anxiety of someone else’s life always blows me away. To me, this is a really sympathetic lyric which captures the rollercoaster of emotions of a relationship. As Renee McCormick comment on my social media, “The way the music rises and falls, jus like most relationships of women in love”. I think that sums it up beautifully!

A woman in love would have to go down as one of Tom’s best early vocal performances, or even one of his all time best vocal performances for that matter. Listen to the way he drops the volume off on the second syllable of woman in the line “She used to be the kind of women” and goes to the falsetto. Also how he clips the word love short on the first line of the chorus. Most singers would drag out the word LOVE on both lines, but Tom doesn’t do that. He switches it up. Again, all these little attention to detail things that I think we really focused and deliberate during the Iovine era and carried throughout the rest of the Heartbreakers career make all these songs so much stronger than they already are.

Something that Tom did throughout his writing and recording career was to write songs that didn’t sound remotely like anything he’d written before. He would often fall back on familiar ground, but almost every album had a song or two on it that makes you sit up and think “Didn’t see that coming!”. This is one of those songs for me. I was talking to John Paulsen on the Torpedoes wrap episode about being a big fan of Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl obviously had a tenure as the drummer of Nirvana when they were pretty much the biggest thing on the planet. One of the things that Nirvana did really well was to write songs that were quiet, then loud, then quiet then loud. This is a sonic trick that they credit to the Pixies (if you don’t know The Pixies, do check them out, you’ll understand Nirvana a lot more if  you do!). But there were other bands that used this songwriting device before the Pixies and this song is one of the most glorious examples of how to change the tempo, mood, and vibe of a song between sections. The chorus is fairly straightforward rock and roll, but the verses are so unexpectedly different that they elevate this song into an entirely different aural space. 

OK folks, that’s all for this week. 

A Woman In Love is such a unique song in the Heartbreakers catalog, along with a couple of others from the same side of this album, that I can’t rate it any lower than a ten. It’s gloriously produced, beautifully played, and has that drop-off-a-cliff change into the verses that presaged a whole different way of writing popular rock music. And let’s be honest, it’s a vocal tour-de-force from Tom. As good as anything he did in his career. So yeh, a second 10 out of 10 for me and maybe I’ll catch heat for that one but again, I’d start from the standpoint of, show me where the flaws are and how you’d change this song. Vocals? Immaculate. Guitar? Immaculate. Rhythm section? Flawless. Lyrics? Perfect. There’s a reason that this song ranks so very highly on a lot of Tom Petty fans lists and that’s because it’s sonically superb but emotionally resonant at the same time. 


Petty Trivia

QUESTION: I was informed on social media by my friend Pete Nestor that last week's question was way too easy. So, your question for this week is this; The Heartbreakers released ten songs, on original studio album release with subtitles. So not deluxe editions or compilations. By subtitles I mean something added in brackets after the main title. I’m giving you an easy one with today’s song, so my question is this. Can you name the other nine?

ANSWER: From the debut album, we have Rockin' Around (With You) and Fooled Again (I Don't Like It), from Damn the Torpedoes we have Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid), from Southern Accents, we get Make It Better (Forget About Me), from Let me up (I’ve Had enough) we have the album-closing title track, and from Songs and Music from "She’s the one" we have Walls (Circus) and Walls (No. 3) as well as Angel Dream (No.2) and  Angel Dream (No.4)


She laughed in my face, told me good-bye
Said, "Don't think about it, you can go crazy
Anything can happen, anything can end
Don't try to fight it, don't try to save me"

She's a woman in love
She's a woman in love
And he's going to break her heart to pieces
She don't want to see
She's a woman in love, but it's not me

Well, all right, do what you want
Don't try to talk, don't say nothin'
She used to be the kind of woman, you have and you hold
She could understand the problem, she let the little things go

She's a woman in love
She's a woman in love
And he's going to break her heart to pieces
She don't wanna know
She's a woman in love, she can't let go

Time after time, night after night
She would look up at me and say she was lonely
I don't understand her [Incomprehensible] , I don't understand what she needed
I gave her everything, she threw it all away on nothin'

She's a woman in love
She's a woman in love
And he's going to break her heart to pieces
She don't want to see
She's a woman in love, but it's not me

She's a woman in love