S9E12 All the Wrong Reasons

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Length: 25:50 - Release Date: December 13, 2023

There are, again, some very big ideas packed into this very simple almost-four-minute pop song and as always, Tom isn’t preaching or judging, just observing. As my wonderful guest Matt Jaffe said during our Ten Questions episode, Tom is never didactic. He’s not saying that celebrity is bad, he’s not judging the family’s luck or the girl’s choices, and importantly he’s not prescribing an antidote, he’s just making the observation and letting it stand alone. It’s up to us to decide what we think about the ideas he’s presenting and at the end of the day, despite the downbeat nature of the lyrics, we can all enjoy singing along with that utterly glorious chorus line.

Today’s episode covers the opening song on side two of "Into The Great Wide Open", "All The Wrong Reasons'".

You can listen to the song here:https://youtu.be/_x7osTT2b7g

Check out Honest and Unmerciful Record Review Podcast: http://tinyurl.com/jnbwxvmt

Album version


(* 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 ninth episode of season nine of the Tom Petty Project Podcast! I am your host, Kevin Brown. This is the weekly 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’ve been ruminating all week on one of Russell Mark’s answers to my Ten Questions. When I asked him which artist he’d like to hear cover a Tom Petty song, his answer was Taylor Swift, as she’s the biggest artist on the planet right now, by some distance, and if she covered one of Tom’s songs, it would introduce his music to a huge new potential audience. Of course, since the last episode released, the wider world has been listening to Love Is a Long Road more than ever, because of its use in the trailer for Grand Theft Auto 6, which isn’t even due to be released until 2025. The use of that song led to a 37,000% increase in streams of that song. And there’s a knock on effect even from there, so on the off chance that you’ve stumbled across this podcast because of a video game trailer, welcome! Season 8 Episode 3 of the Tom Petty Project covered Love is a Long Road and downloads of that episode have risen by 5000% in the last week. It’s now the fourth most downloaded episode I’ve released behind only the trailer and the first two episodes. It just shows that there is still an audience out there for rock n roll and that Tom’s music can appeal to all ages and it only takes something like this to make a song or an artist go viral, even if just for a short while. Even if a few more thousand Pettyheads are born as a result of this latest event, thank goodness for it! 

Over on Social Media, last week’s track All Or Nothin’ got plenty of love. I was discussing Tom’s lyrical style with Bob Reidy in a comment and JP Koffman made a great point, saying “I think how he constructs the rhymes sometimes are hilarious. Tom can make two things that don't rhyme rhyme with the best of them! Sergeant Major and But he made ya! One of his Top ten. Up there with "...Around the clouds.. what goes up... must come down(ds)." The way he sings them, you can tell he's makin' em rhyme!” And that’s something that people either love or hate. Justin Hawkins of The Darkness is famously not a fan of imperfect rhymes, but Tom always seems to be able to do it so effortlessly and his southern drawl often allows him to use rhymes that would feel and sound forced in someone else’s mouth. JP goes on to say “It just makes my day each time seeing how much you appreciate this album. I always felt it didn't get the love it deserved. So much genius on it and you are uncovering so much of it in the lyrics and production, some things that I missed too! Thanks for that!” And thanks right back JP! It’s the ongoing conversation that makes this project more and more fun by the day. I’m only ever throwing ideas out into the world and I hear as many fantastic takes on things I’ve maybe overlooked or not zoomed in on in an episode, so let’s keep that discussion going! The ever-insightful Pete Nestor from the Honest and Unmerciful Record Review podcast says “This could be my favorite song on the album. This album for me suffers in the same way as FMF. It’s so meticulously crafted over the first few songs that it feels robotic and soulless at times. Beginning with The Dark of the Sun, Tom, and most importantly the band, start to shake loose of the constraints placed on them by the stiff arrangements and production and the mood lifts. A much more enjoyable listen as we are heading into side 2, where the momentum carries through.” Pete will be a guest on the show this season and it’s going to be really interesting to talk to him about the production on Full Moon Fever and Into The Great Wide Open and even to contrast and compare that to the production on Highway Companion which was again produced by Jeff Lynne but has a different sonic quality to it. Pete concludes by saying “I know this isn’t a popular opinion, but that’s the beauty about opinions. None of them are right or wrong. But it does lead to interesting discussions. Also, Kevin, this is yet another excellent episode. As we’ve come to expect.” Well from a podcaster and musical autopsy clinician who I respect immensely, I can only say thanks! And opinions needn’t be popular as long as they’re informed and Pete’s opinions are most certainly that. Y’all really need to check out the Honest and Unmerciful podcast - it has the best ratings system of any podcast in the world and you can hold me to that! I’ll leave a link to their latest episode covering John Cougar Mellencamp’s Scarecrow, in the episode notes for you. My Associate Producer, Paul Roberts says “A real humdinger.... The real surprise is how little this was played live. A showcase for Mike's slide guitar prowess. IMHO Not quite a creme de la creme 10 but a substantial 9.5.” And who am I to argue with that! The slide guitar in All Or Nothin really is an absolute powerhouse performance and one of those reminders that though Mike is always serving the song, he can also drive it when necessary. Mark Lindsay, from the incredible Sight & Sound program writes “This is a great addition to Tom's lifetime theme of defiance. "Won't back down", "Don't do me like that", "Refugee" and parts of Last DJ. As if he were talking to record executives in a battle over increasing album prices by a $1, or a crappy record deal where he had to hide his tapes from the label every night after recording in the studio. This lifetime theme may potentially have developed from his poor relationship with his father but regardless he did not tolerate nonsense. Also, the guitar riff, and the great use of his voice, the abrupt ending, make this a standout track. We have all feel like this at some point, and of course, the master that is Tom Petty can be our muse.” I sat down with Mark last week and will be releasing that conversation as a special bonus episode in the new year. You won’t want to miss that one as Mark has seen Tom somewhere around forty times and had a ton of great stories and insights to tell as well as breaking down the amazing work he’s doing with the Sight & Sound initiative, which I’ll tell you more about once we get nearer to that episode!

Today’s episode looks at the opening track from side two of Into The Great Wide Open, the wonderfully anthemic “All The Wrong Reasons”. If you’re new to the podcast, I don’t include clips from the song in the episode itself to avoid getting into any sort of copyright trouble or treading on the toes of the Petty estate.

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way right off the top. If you hear a similarity between this song and Free Fallin’, it’s because they’re really, REALLY close! Same basic chords, in a slightly different order. The chord progression in Free Fallin ends on the major 5th, the C chord (well, C sus 4 actually), where this song falls back onto the Root, F. It’s the same kick snare pattern on the drums and a very similar strumming pattern on the acoustic guitar and a very similar tempo. Free Fallin clocks in a little faster at 84bpm compared to All The Wrong Reasons’ 79, but they do sound extremely similar in terms of feel. And at the same time, they don’t. And we’ll get to the significant difference later.

It’s been a weird one to approach this one because where I’d normally go through section by section and comment on what’s changing, what’s being added or removed etc. there’s almost no grand movement in this song save for one thing. So I think I’m going to slightly upend the usual format of the episodes and talk about the instrumentation more as a whole, then dive into the vocals and lyrics. 

Like Free Fallin’, All The Wrong Reasons starts without any percussion or bass. We have a nice brightly-toned rhythm guitar strumming those sixteenth note phrases then we have the lead melody being played on both guitar and bouzouki. If you’ve never seen a bazouki before, it’s a Greek instrument in the lute family that kinda looks a bit like a really long-necked mandolin. It’s a six or eight string-ed instrument and I’d bet Mike Campbell is playing the 8 string version on this song. The strings are arranged in pairs which gives it that really bright, jangly tone that you also get from a 12 string guitar. This is the second time we’ve heard this instrument on a Heartbreakers song, the first being Don’t Come Around Here No More and I’d love to know if that’s an instrument that Mike actually owned and is the same one. The bouzouki is mixed slightly over into the left channel and the guitar is sitting slightly over to the right, to give us that gloriously expansive tonal feel to this string opening. The intro then repeats that opening four bars, but with the drums added and here, you get something I’m not sure I’ve heard on a Heartbreakers’ song to this point; timpani. There’s absolutely no mistaking that for a floor tom as it thunders the drums into the full instrumentation. We get the same loose, heavy snare sound that pervades the rest of the album, but the reverb is dialed back a little and we don’t hear it resonate off quite so much. 

The bassline is kinda the coolest part of the song instrumentally as it’s the part that’s adding some movement around the root notes. I’ve isolated that part using some AI software and I’m going to play a little of it so you can hear how fluid and interesting it is. Where most of the basslines on Full Moon Fever and this album are very very straight and very unobtrusive, the bass here is keeping a really nice groove going by adding in grace notes through the slides and pull offs that are happening. [insert a little of the bassline]. And this playful, cheery part proceeds through the entire song. 

As I said earlier, the kick snare pattern is exactly the same as Free Fallin’ and we have a tambourine being shaken throughout the chorus and instrumental sections. There’s not a ton to it and it would have been something that Stan Lynch likely wouldn’t have been overly excited to play, given the rudimentary nature of it and the lack of fills. The only little bits of flare that are added are the timpanis that lead out of the chorus back into the instrumental lead into the verse. There’s also some extra snare work in the last chorus where Stan is playing a straight 16th snare fill at the end of each bar starting on the 3-and. I’ve pulled that out so you can hear what I mean and, again, this is not an actual master of the drums, so it doesn’t sound pristine, but you can hear that part that I’m talking about. And I’d be willing to bet that the timpanis in this song were added in later by Jeff Lynne, who is credit with percussion on this album, in addition to Stan Lynch.

When the first verse comes in, the lead guitar is dropped out and the electric guitar strumming those 16th notes is replaced by an acoustic, most likely a 12 string again, and there’s a low synth pad also playing the chord changes.  There’s really not a ton to talk about here until the chorus, when there’s a nice chunky, overdriven guitar that comes in and joins to play those chord changes. This is basically all there is to the first two verse chorus pairs and we’ll talk a little about the A and B sections later on. After two verse chorus pairs, there’s an 8 bar instrumental break which is basically just the intro lead guitar/bouzouki part repeated twice. 

This leads us into the last verse and to continue the comparison to Free Fallin, we get a dynamic change. In the Full Moon Fever mega hit, we get that marching snare line here, the rhythm section drops out again completely, leaving that strummed acoustic guitar, or guitars, and the introduction for the first time of the bouzouki in the verse, which is playing some really nice little descending arpeggios and stronger single notes. So again, this changes the mood of the song very subtly for four bars before the second half of the verse leads us back into familiar territory with the full band arrangement. The synths are also playing those lush sustained chords too to pad out the upper end of the frequency range and it’s all very pleasant and very slick.

The chorus is basically two lines sung over four bars but the last chorus here adds an additional four bars to make it three lines instead of two before the main guitar/bouzouki line plays for two bars instead of four end we end on the root F major, which decays off beautifully.

Alright folks, It’s time for some Petty Trivia! 

Your question from last week was this: In my conversation with Jon Scott, what did he tell me he crawled around looking for on a hotel floor, with a bikini-clad Olivia Newton-John? Was it a) a contact lens, b) a ring, c) an earring, or d) her lucky two-headed quarter?

Well, let’s go back to Jon Scott to fill us in on the details! Man oh man. A fun job indeed!!!

In my 10 Questions with Russell Mark this past week, we ended up talking about the painfully underappreciated album Echo and on Youtube,@steve5674 commented “My favorite TP album, and he never played any of it in concert after the original Echo tour because it represented the darkest period of his life.” While this isn’t strictly true, a small handful of songs being aired in the following years, my question for you is this. According to Setlist.fm, eight of the fifteen songs from Echo were never played live, but which track from the album was played the most in concert? Is it a) Echo, b) Free Girl Now, c) Room At The Top, or d) Swingin’?

OK, back to the song. So like I said, it’s a tougher one to pull apart this one because, maybe somewhat unusually for the Heartbreakers, there’s very little difference between the sections in this song. But it’s a song that really just serves to feed that fantastic chorus; “Oh oh oh oh…”.  In Conversations with Tom Petty, Tom tells author Paul Zollo that Benmont Tench really likes All The Wrong Reasons and at first you’d think that this track should have been a shoe-in as a live performance but the song was never once aired in public. That oh oh oh oh chorus part is just tailor made for crowd participation. But, as I’ve already drawn a line between this song and Free Fallin and as you basically have to play that song pretty much every show, putting both of these songs in the set would maybe have been too much of a good thing in Tom’s mind. But wouldn’t it have been cool if they’d made them into a medley and included the Oh oh oh oh section toward the end of Free Fallin and really got the crowd going. You could just have the drums playing and Tom conducting the crowd and it would have sounded great! Maybe I’ll suggest this to my guests Petty Theft, or The Waiting - Montana as an idea to try out! I think it would sound fantastic. Maybe I'll even mock up a little edit to see what people think!

Vocally, Tom doesn’t stretch at all on this one. He’s in that same range that he employs on Into The Great Wide Open. It’s a confident, knowing voice that tells a tale of woe. Where he pitches up on Free Fallin’ and really belts the notes in the chorus, on this song, that dynamic is provided by the fabulous harmonized vocals on that “Oh oh oh oh” which I’m gonna guess are Howie Epstein and Jeff Lynne. It sounds very much like Howie taking the higher note and Jeff taking the lower and I’d be curious to know if they sang their parts together to get the intonation exactly right. It’s much easier to sing harmonies like that if you can look at the person you’re singing with. It makes the timing easier to get nice and tight like they are  n that section of this song. And where this song is incredibly simple, as I’ve suggested, I think it’s to make sure that that section really, really pops. It’s this euphoric sonic moment in a song that really is about loss and pressure. 

When Paul Zollo asks about the lyrics in Conversations with Tom Petty, Tom replies that “I remember writing that one. It was inspired. There was a family that we knew through one of the the kids. And they were a very wealthy family, with all the trimmings. The big cars and the big house. And suddenly the economy started failing and all their money went. They had to pack up and go.” He goes on to say “I think that was the germ of the idea “That big old house went up for sale, they were on the road by morning” Because they were gone overnight. GONE. From the top of the world to Gone.” Tom then goes on to comment that the song was written during the George Bush senior administration and that he felt the country was becoming “a kind of cheap place to live, morally speaking. The value system was changing. The culture was becoming more celebrity-driven and empty.” So it’s easy to see, from that mindset, where the line “All The Wrong Reasons” was born. Like every track on this album, the lyrics are really, really tight and very well put-together. You can really feel that both Full Moon Fever and Into The Great Wide Open are a polar opposite reaction to the looseness of Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) in that Tom wanted to be very precise and very measured in the way he wrote.

Lyrically, we have a three act structure here that doesn’t fall easily into the narrative form of Two Gunslingers or the more emotional space of The Dark of the Sun, but lands somewhere in between the two, with both specific woes and more general feelings of impending misfortune. The first verse describes the family which Tom says inspired the idea for the song in the first place. “Trouble blew in on a cold, dark wind. It came without no warning. And that big ol' house went up for sale. They were on the road by morning”. Nice little Pettyism there, “it came without no warning” which of course is a double negative, which could have been deliberate and it’s Tom saying that it was trouble that someone should, or maybe could, have seen coming. But more likely is using vernacular language that people use, especially in the south. It also fits the cadence of the music better and as I’ve mentioned before, this is often the difference between song lyrics and poetry. In a poem, it would read just as well if it were “It came without any warning” or “It came without warning”. They both work and both mean the same thing but neither are exactly how most people phrase things when they’re speaking out loud.

The second verse seems to be Tom making that observation about the vacuousness of modern culture, which it has to be said seems only to be sliding further and further into self-obssession and celebrity worship as time goes by.  “Well, she grew up hard and she grew up fast In the age of television. And she made a vow to have it all. It became her new religion.” And it’s an excellent choice here to have the subject of this verse be female. Women and girls are often under staggering pressure in the modern world to look a certain way, act a certain way, strive for specific objectives of beauty and instruments of social acceptance. So in these four simple lines, Tom is showing that shallowness without tagging any blame or criticism on the subject herself. “She grew up hard and she grew up fast” remember. That’s a great description of a society that encourages kids to become adults long before their time.

The last verse then becomes more meditative on this theme. “Where the sky begins, the horizon ends Despite the best intentions. And a big old man goes up for sale. He becomes his own invention” So, if we’re talking about the family in the first verse, the sky could be the future and the horizon would be the success they’ve enjoyed and where they meet is the collision point that forces their downturn in fortune. If this is talking about the girl in the second verse, the sky could be social expectation and the horizon is her childhood, receding behind her never to be seen again. Then we get this enigmatic line, “A big old man, goes up for sale” which could be referencing celebrity itself and the way that many artists and people who spend their professional lives in the media become commodities as much or more than they are private individuals. If that thought carries through, then “He becomes his own invention” is the idea that this slide into being a caricature rather than an individual character could be arrested, but at the end of the day, you do become that parody of yourself rather than the authentic you. You can name any number of people in the online world who have fallen prey to this and it’s sad in a lot of ways and quite repulsive in others. 

The chorus in this song is another one of the ways that Tom adds movement into this deliberately simple arrangement. The pair of lines in each chorus is never the same twice and only one line is repeated at all. And each chorus summarizes or underscores the idea in each verse. 

The first chorus pair “The days went slow into the changing season. Out in the cold for all the wrong reasons” combine with that first verse to describe the family’s change in fortunes. THe second, “down in her soul, it was an act of treason. down they go for all the wrong reasons” describes the despair of forced conformity and the selling of oneself for acceptance. “Down in her soul, it was an act of treason.” Clinically superb. The last pair the paraphrases the first line of the first chorus but changes the tense. Instead of “the days went slow”, we’re brought into the present and ongoing with “the days go slow into the changing season” and then Tom comments on the surrender of integrity by writing “bought and sold for all the wrong reasons”. That additional, third line, then underscores everyone from the first three verses, all very different circumstances but all with negative outcomes. “down they go for all the wrong reasons”. 

There are, again, some very big ideas packed into this very simple almost-four-minute pop song and as always, Tom isn’t preaching or judging, just observing. As my wonderful guest Matt Jaffe said during our Ten Questions episode, Tom is never didactic. He’s not saying that celebrity is bad, he’s not judging the family’s luck or the girl’s choices, and importantly he’s not prescribing an antidote, he’s just making the observation and letting it stand alone. It’s up to us to decide what we think about the ideas he’s presenting and at the end of the day, despite the downbeat nature of the lyrics, we can all enjoy singing along with that utterly glorious chorus line. 

When Paul Zollo tells Tom that he should listen to Benmont’s constant badgering him to play the song live, Tom responds “I cracked up when reading Bob Dylan’s book. There’s a bit in there about Benmont pestering him to play certain songs. God bless him. Benmont keeps the vigil. He keeps us honest.”

OK PettyHeads, that’s it for this week! This is another song that has burrowed its way deep into my Pettyness since I started writing for this album. It’s another track I’d kind of overlooked and not paid much attention to, but when you really look beyond the simple repetition of the A and B sections of this song, there’s lyrically thematic gold to be mined here. I defy you to listen to this song and not sing, or at least hum to yourself, that chorus refrain. It’s catchy, it’s melodic and it’s marvellous. I can’t quite get this one to the tip top of the pile and I think that with a little more variety in the instrumentation I could make a case for this song being on a par with it’s melodic soulmate Free Fallin. It’s a deep cut that is on all my playlists now and a song that I’d love to actually cover some day. Maybe I’ll talk to my pal Randy about doing something as a Christmas release! If I was giving half points, this would be an 8.5 but I’m going to leave some room for some of the other titanic songs that I still have ahead of me and give All The Wrong Reasons a solid 8 out of 10!


Petty Trivia

QUESTION: According to Setlist.fm, eight of the fifteen songs from Echo were never played live, but which track from the album was played the most in concert? Is it a) Echo, b) Free Girl Now, c) Room At The Top, or d) Swingin’?

ANSWER: Well, the title track, Echo, was only played once, on March 13, 1999 during the Heartbreakers second Fillmore residency. It’s hardly surprising that the heartwrenching ballad was not a fixture in the setlist, as I imagine it was tough for Tom to think about, let alone sing those lyrics. Free Girl now was played 45 times on the Echo tour and once in 2001, while Room At The Top was played 39 times, all on the Echo tour in 1999. So your answer is…. Swingin, which was virtually ever present on the Echo tour, usually being performed as the fourth song after Breakdown. In all, the song was performed 62 times by the Heartbreakers with its last performance coming at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, New York on July 26th, 2017 as a part of the 40th Anniversary tour.


Trouble blew in on a cold dark wind
It came without no warnin'
And that big ol' house went up for sale
They were on the road by morning

The days went slow into the changing season
Out in the cold for all the wrong reasons
Well she grew up hard, and she grew up fast
In the age of television
And she made a vow to have it all
It became her new religion

Oh oh, oh oh. Down in her soul, it was an act of treason
Oh oh, oh oh. Down they go, for all the wrong reasons

Where the sky begins the horizon ends
Despite the best intentions
And a big old man goes up for sale
He becomes his own invention

Oh oh, oh oh. The days go slow, into the changing season
Oh oh, oh oh. Bought and sold for all the wrong reasons
Oh oh, oh oh. Down they go for all the wrong reasons