S9E20 Out in the Cold

10 Questions with Russell Mark« PREVIOUS EPISODE   NEXT EPISODE »


Length: 20:30 - Release Date: January 3, 2024

In Conversations With Tom Petty, Tom says “I struggled with the lyrics quite a bit. It was one of those things where you struggle and you always wonder if you got everything out of it that you could.” He does go on to say that during a rehearsal for the song he found that he enjoyed the lyrics, but I think the way they’re crafted belies any notion of uncertainty on his part. I love that alternating point of view in the two halves of each verse and then the two halves of this relationship, in someone’s arms and then their hands.

Today’s episode covers the third song on side two of "Into The Great Wide Open", "Out in the Cold'".

You can listen to the song here:https://youtu.be/19Z06genVX8

If you want to hear the live version from the Take the Highway release, you can find that one here: https://youtu.be/JwOluzWdoYQ

Album version

Live version from Take the Highway


(* 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 twentieth 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 hope that you all enjoyed the Guestember episodes that I put out last month. It was a lot of fun to chat to so many fantastic people and I still have my 10 questions with Mark Lindsey for you this Friday. I simply ran out of time over Christmas week to get that one edited, so it will be an early 2024 bonus episode for you lovely folks. I hope everyone had a great holiday break. We celebrated with family, music, beer, and way, way too much food. Exactly the way I like it. I also just wanted to wish everyone a very happy new year. I hope it’s full of love, laughter, and time spent well. I always say at the end of the episodes to try to say “I love you” to someone at least once a day and I’m not being glib or trite when I say that. I find the act of doing that makes me feel good as much as it hopefully improves the mood of the person I’ve said it to! 2023 was a challenging year for so many people and this year will be much the same in many parts of the world and many parts of our respective societies, so any small acts of kindness help people with their day. I’m at risk of becoming a little preachy here so I’ll stop, but if we have one new year’s resolution, let’s make it an overabundance of kindness!

Over on Social last week, we were discussing the last song we covered, “Too Good To Be True”. I asked how you’d rate this song and the vote came back overwhelmingly in the 7-9 range, which I think is about right. There was one vote each for a 10/10 and between a 1 and 6, but overall, I think we’re all agreed where that one sits. Bob Reidy gave the song a 9 and commented “Great song and episode [thanks Bob]. The first two songs are the best. The rest are great but the best two you already did. On this album and Full Moon Fever Tom front loaded the album with the best songs even though every song is great. Not to start a who’s better debate but Bruce Springsteen on albums like Born To Run, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, The River, Born In The USA, and Tunnel Of Love, he better distributed the elite songs. On Wildflowers Tom evenly distributed the great songs.” And I think before I started this season I would have agreed, but once I’m done it, I’m not as sure I will end up in the same space. The deep cuts on this record are consistently good to excellent and we’re heading into another one of those killer deep cuts today. Mark Lindsey from Sight and Sound said “Solid 8. 10 on any other artist's album.” and I think as Petty fans that’s something we all sort of agree with. Even Tom’s weaker tracks are usually better written than most artist’s greatest hits. My executive producer Paul Roberts rated this one an 8 and Pete Nestor from the Honest and Unmerficul podcast commented “8 - but elevated as part of the tapestry of this run of songsā€¦.the whole is greater than the sum of the parts! By the way I’m really seeing this album in a different light because of your podcast. Not a bad trick you’ve pulled off - entertaining the masses while also giving us an even greater appreciation for TP and the HB’s music.” That’s such a wonderful compliment from a music nerd and musician I have tremendous respect for! Thanks so much Pete - and that’s what’s snuck on me with this record. The cohesion and flow of it is so much tighter and cleverer than I think I’ve ever really noticed before.  

Thanks as always for your comments. You keep leaving em, I’ll keep reading em! Today’s episode looks at the third track from side two of Into The Great Wide Open, the breathlessly-paced “Out In The Cold”. Go check the episode notes for a link to the song if you want to listen to it before we dig in.

In Conversations with Tom Petty, Tom tells author Paul Zollo that this song was originally an idea of Jeff’s. He says “That is his arrangement. He started that song and then brought it to me. Which was unusual. He came in and said he had an idea. It went through a lot of changes from where it was brought in, like from major to minor. Be he kicked it off.” He concludes “It wound up being a good rock and roll song. It’s nothing earthshaking, but it’s a good rock n roll song.” 

And though a good rock n roll song, the track was never played after the tour for the album wrapped up and was last played both nights of a two-night stand in Hamburg. 

The song starts as it means to go on - furiously. Stan Lynch plays a six-note machine gun snare fill that leads straight into the full band blistering into the intro, in B minor. It’s pretty hard to imagine this one being a major key riff and you have to think that the switch to minor would really have sparked the song into life. Underneath that wonderful lightly distorted lead guitar riff that Mike Campbell is playing there’s a second guitar playing the same line, on a more fuzzed out guitar tone. So that riff, though only playing single notes, still has some meat to it because of the doubling and the different tones being used. The rhythm guitar is just chugging power fifths and the bass guitar is drilling out the 8th root notes of each chord. Immediately, the song has a sense of breathless momentum and it doesn’t let up through the entirety of the song, until the very, very end.

After that 8 bar intro that ends on that big two chord push and Stan Lynch’s six-note fill, we head straight into the first verse. “The day fell down, the air got cold, I walked out in the street”. Straight away this one to me becomes a very close soulmate to Runnin Down a Dream. It has the same driving power to it, the same guitar-forward melodic hook, but a dark rather than a light theme and lyric. In this A section, that muted chugging rhythm guitar becomes more fully palm muted and sounds like it has less distortion on it which is joined by a brighter guitar playing broken chords. The chord progression follows through the intro, Bm, G, E, for two bars each. It then changes to land on an Em7 for this first pass through. The second time through however it lands back on the A major with Stan Lynch then thundering his floor toms into the chorus. Tom is holding his vocal here right on the edge of that clean natural voice but threatening to jump into his harder-edged tone at any moment. It keeps the tension and suspense high throughout the instrumentation and melody.

Heading into the chorus, the doubled riff comes back in, we have a wide open distorted guitar playing those broken chords again and the chugging rhythm guitar drops out to leave the bass keeping the pace up. We need this slight change here to leave some space for the call and response vocals in this section. There’s also a not-so-subtle change here that makes the B section feel faster. Through the intro and verse section, the chord changes happen after two bars, but in the chorus, there’s a chord change on every four beats instead of every eight. So without actually changing the tempo or the time, the song feels like it has a slight pickup. On the 8th bar of the chorus, we get that fantastic descending run on the lead guitar from Mike, dragging into an extra (9th) bar as the instrumentation dies off before that signature six-note fill drives us back into a two bar instrumental break into the next verse which is just the first (Bm) chord from the intro. This song is not hanging around!

The second verse/chorus pair really don’t do anything differently at all. There are a couple of brighter notes mixed a little higher in the right channel on those broken chords in the verse, but the song almost just wants to get to the bridge as quickly as it can. The percussion in this bridge changes as the kick moves to play all four beats of the bar instead of the backbeat it has played to this point. We also have a floor tom now joining those 8th notes and a cowbell matching the kick. The riff is now a straight B5 A5 alternation with two big crunchy chugging guitar parts joined by that cleaner-tone guitar playing a suspended four note pattern. This plays for four bars, the second four of which Tom adds in a spoken-word “I'm out. Standin' in a doorway”. We get a two bar build once more with the bass and both heavier guitars playing that updown pattern to lead into the solo. 

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

Your question from the Too Good To Be True episode was this; Other than Learning to Fly, which single from Into The Great Wide Open reached number 1 on the US Rock chart? Was it a) Into The Great Wide Open, b) Out In The Cold, c) Kings Highway, or d) Makin’ Some Noise?

As we’ve already said, today’s track hit #1 on the US rock chart despite not being released as a single. The fact that this song and Makin’ Some Noise both did well on the US rock chart irked Tom a little at the time. In Conversations With Tom Petty, he tells Paul Zollo, “I was kind of irritated with it. I thought they were going after it because it had the big beat. I think I wanted people to hear the versatility on the album.” but he goes on to say that years later, when rehearsing the song, he found that he liked it more than he remembered.

Your question for this week is this: What was the only song from Into The Great Wide Open that the Heartbreakers played during their 1997 residency at The Fillmore? Was it a) Into The Great Wide Open, b) Learning to Fly, c) Two Gunslingers, or d) King’s Highway

OK, back to the song. This is where the song really strikes you as having a very Runnin Down a Dream similarity as Mike Campbell shreds a very off-the-cuff sounding bluesy solo that has phrases that showed up during his classic Full Moon Fever masterpiece. It has all the swoops and dives and fast hammer ons that you expect, but it’s again perfectly constructed so as to maintain the careering, almost-out-of-control tempo of the track. Underneath this solo we still have that chugging guitar and the arpeggiated guitar keeping plenty of meat on the bones of this section by playing the verse progression fully through. When Paul Zollo mentions to Tom that “Again, Mike’s playing on that one is great”, Tom says “Yeah, well he’s always good. He really stepped out on that one. I remember the way he played in the stops. The were some stops where he really wowed us all. Shazam! How did he do that?”

Unlike Runnin Down a Dream, this solo doesn’t lead the song out. Rather, it plays for 16 bars before leading back into that bridge pattern, with Tom adding more spoken words “I’m out, walkin’ around, hands in my pockets” before crashing back headlong into the chorus. We get a small change in this last chorus, with Tom changing the delivery on the line “With nowhere to go”. This last chorus also hangs on the 7th and 8th bars rather than adding that additional 9th bar before going back to the intro progression. After 8 bars, MIke Campbell plays a trademark single note solo and Tom adds some yeahs and whoos. At this point you might be expecting a fade, but this is one of my favourites, if not my very favourite ending on the record. After passing through that intro progression twice with the vocal and lead guitar builds, we go back to that full throttle four on the floor kick, floor tom, cowbell drum section for three bars before a huge syncopated push to finish the song. Well, we think it finishes the song! After the notes fade away, we hear a door open, Tom say what’s in here, some crowd noise that sounds something like a noisy street scene, before Tom says “Oh” and closes the door. For me, this is almost like writing a movie that you know is going to have a sequel and leaving a small cliffhanger. Think “It’s your kids Marty, something’s gotta be done about your kids!” in Back To The Future. The movie stands alone as it is, but that scene leads into the second perfectly. The ending to this song feels like the same thing; a little teaser into the next episode. Now, whether we get the sequel on this album or a future one, or at all, remains to be seen, but you’d better believe I’m gonna do my best to find one! 

Lyrically, this one is definitely written from the point of view of a relationship that has soured but again is written just broadly enough that you can look at it through a few different lenses. The first verse is scene-setting. It’s the same thing he does in Something Big, where he sings “it didn’t feel like Sunday, it didn’t feel like June”. Here instead we’re told that “The day fell down, the air got cold, I walked out in the street”. And I love that metaphor for the onset of night; “The day fell down”. It’s more than just a waning, it’s a capitulation. Like Two Gunslingers, it has that very visual element too; Daydreamed for a mile or two, staring at my feet”. We can see this in our mind’s eye. After this, the lyrics become more focused on the misfortune that has befallen the subject of the song; “like a working boy out of luck, falling through the cracks. Night rolled in, I turned back home, a hard wind at my back.” So now we suspect that this walk that the narrator has been on is probably to try to clear their head. Then we get the chorus line “I’m out in the cold, body and soul. There’s nowhere to go. I’m out in the cold.” The two central ideas in that first chorus are summarized by the line “I’m out in the cold, body and soul.” It’s literally cold outside which reinforces the emotional chill that this character is feeling. 

Verse two then sets the scene again, now we’re seeing the protagonist awaken, seemingly disoriented and imbalanced, again both physically and metaphorically as they fall trying to grab their keys. The second half then switches again to a more introspective point of view. “I thought of you starry-eyed, I wonder where we stand”. It’s now fairly apparent that the narrator simply doesn’t know where he or she is at. We then get the excellent closing line “Did I just fall from your arms down into your hands”. There’s a clear and defined difference between being in someone’s arms; which is usually linked to security and connection, versus being in someone’s hands; which has a much more dependent connotation; “my life is in your hands”. In Conversations With Tom Petty, Tom says “I struggled with the lyrics quite a bit. It was one of those things where you struggle and you always wonder if you got everything out of it that you could.” He does go on to say that during a rehearsal for the song he found that he enjoyed the lyrics, but I think the way they’re crafted belies any notion of uncertainty on his part. I love that alternating point of view in the two halves of each verse and then the two halves of this relationship, in someone’s arms and then their hands. We also get that one more duality in the rhyming scheme of the chorus. Out in the cold is the first and last line in each couplet, rather than consistently the first/third or second/fourth. In a short, frenetically-paced song like this, I think it’s a really economical snapshot of the decline of this relationship. And as I mentioned, though this one seems fairly overtly narrative about an interpersonal relationship, we don’t know whether the antagonist is a man or a woman. We don’t know if it’s marital or physical, parental, a mentoring relationship, a business relationship. There’s no reference to any of these elements, so although our first intuition is that this is probably a romance gone wrong, we can apply this to so many aspects of our lives. That’s just damn good songwriting and something Tom is knocking out of the park in pretty much every single track on this album. 

The more I listened to this song in isolation, there’s something that makes me think of it as a companion to Runnin Down a Dream sonically, but Love is a Long Road thematically. I actually created a three song playlist with those songs sequenced with Running Down a Dream first, this second, and then Love is a Long Road last. You get that “Oh!” in this song followed by those opening synth chords and man does it play well! I’m gonna call it the “Down and Out” EP. 

OK PettyHeads, that’s it for this week! Although Tom was slightly miffed that the radio had this one on pretty regular rotation, I think there’s a reason for that outside the, in his words, “big beat”, it’s also got a really hummable, catchy riff, a very cool middle section, and a superb ending and a memorably chorus! There’s pretty much nothing I don’t like about this song so I’m going to put it at the same level as some of the other great deep cuts from this record and give it an 8 out of 10.


Petty Trivia

QUESTION: What was the only song from Into The Great Wide Open that the Heartbreakers played during their 1997 residency at The Fillmore? Was it a) Into The Great Wide Open, b) Learning to Fly, c) Two Gunslingers, or d) King’s Highway



The day fell down, the air got cold
I walked out in the street
Daydreamed for a mile or two
Staring at my feet

Lke a working boy
Out of luck, falling through the cracks
Night rolled in, I turned back home
A hard wind at my back

I'm out in the cold, body and soul
There's nowhere to go
I'm out in the cold

When I woke up my brain was stunned
I could not come around
I reached out to grab my keys
And tumbled to the ground

I thought of you starry-eyed,
I wonder where we stand?
Did I just fall from your arms
Down into your hands?

I'm out in the cold, body and soul
There's nowhere to go
I'm out in the cold

I'm standing in a door-way
I'm out walking 'round, hands in my pockets

I'm out in the cold, body and soul
There's nowhere to go
I'm out in the cold