Saturday, August 26, 1989

Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” topped the album rock chart

Free Fallin’

Tom Petty

Writer(s): Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne (see lyrics here)

First Charted: May 6, 1989

Peak: 7 US, 6 CB, 9 RR, 17 AC, 11 AR, 64 UK, 5 CN, 59 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.4 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 121.8 video, 421.27 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

From his debut in 1976, Tom Petty became one of America’s most beloved rockers. He was the #2 album rock artist of the 1980s, only behind John Mellencamp. With his group the Heartbreakers, he topped that chart three times with “The Waiting” (1981), “You Got Lucky” (1982), and “Jammin’ Me” (1987). In 1989, he released his first solo album, Full Moon Fever, although fans still got the same reliable heartland rock and roll (even though he was from Florida) they’d come to expect.

Mike Campbell, a guitarist with the Heartbreakers, worked on the album. He said the group had fallen into a rut and this just came along as something fun to do – mostly him, Petty, and Lynne. Surprisingly, Petty’s label, MCA Records, rejected the album in 1988, claiming they didn’t hear a hit. However, after a management change in 1989, the new regime liked the album and released it. SF

The album gave Petty three more album rock chart-toppers with “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin’,” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” “Free Fallin’” was the most successful, reaching the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was his first top 10 hit since he’d reached #3 in 1981 with the Heartbreakers on Stevie Nicks’ “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”

Petty wrote the song with Jeff Lynne, best known for his work with Electric Light Orchestra. The pair worked together in 1988 in the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, and Roy Orbison after Petty had recorded Full Moon Fever. Petty wrote about things he saw on frequent drives around Los Angeles, including Ventura Boulevard, Mulholland Drive, and the San Fernando Valley neighborhood of Reseda. The video echoed that with scenes from various locations around Los Angeles.


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First posted 11/7/2021; last updated 3/16/2023.

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