If you’ve ever been to a Tom Petty concert, you know that the parking lot is Party Central. Drinking there before the show is half the fun. You also know that leaving the lot after the concert is one of the most excruciating experiences known to man. We’re here to get you ready for both the show and the long drive home with a Tom Petty playlist. The mix runs about an hour, so you’ll have plenty of time to get a good buzz on before the show (and to come down after it’s all over). And since there’s a good chance Petty and the Heartbreakers will play about 75 percent of these songs at their Blossom Music Center concert tonight, you can high-five your buddies about the good times you just had as you’re sitting in traffic. So start downloading, burning, or, if you’re strictly old-school, taping.
“Breakdown” — Petty’s breakthrough song is a fitting place to start. It begins with a crawling, looping bass line that takes its good ol’ time picking up speed. For maximum effect, track down the longer live version.
“American Girl” — Nobody was paying attention to the first song on the mix because, last time we looked, beers can’t open themselves. Once “American Girl”’s chiming riff kicks in, this party is officially started.
“Listen to Her Heart” — Another early song, and Petty’s most Byrdsian jingle-jangle. It makes a great singalong too, though you might not be ready for one yet. Added bonus: a cocaine reference, in case you blow that way.
“You Got Lucky” — Unassuming at first, this track sneaks up on you with its ginormous hook of a chorus. It’s a real head-nodder too. It’ll also prepare you and your pals for the next three leftfield songs on the mix.
“Rebels” — Petty’s most underrated record, Southern Accents, is a concept album produced by the guy who was in Eurythmics. So it’s not for everyone. But “Rebels” is a great song and one you probably won’t hear on this tour.
“Learning to Fly" — Producer Jeff Lynne threw so much goop on top of the Into the Great Wide Open album, it’s easy to forget that there was a great rock & roll band at the center of it. This is one of its few standout songs.
“Don’t Come Around Here No More” — Another song from Southern Accents, this one was a hit. It also freaks out with sitars, echoing synth drums, and an awesome changeup. It’s one of Petty’s best singles.
“Refugee” — Back to the stuff everyone knows. After 15 minutes of songs people like but no one really loves, it’s time to bring out the big guns. And this is one of Petty’s biggest. The intro will get fists pumping. Guaranteed.
“Here Comes My Girl” — Some Petty fans have Mojo, his new album with the Heartbreakers. But everyone has Damn the Torpedoes. And this is one of its key cuts, complete with another jangly chorus and a Godzilla-size hook.
“Even the Losers” — The first couple of beers should be kicking in right about now, so you’ll be ready for a singalong. And this song packs a massive chorus. It’s also perfect for air drums and guitars. We know.
“The Waiting” — You won’t be waiting too much longer: You’ll be walking into Blossom in about half an hour. Get there early to see the Drive-By Truckers — they’re one of the best bands making music today.
“Free Fallin’” — You’re heading into the homestretch now. So you’ll want Petty’s best song ever leading the charge. So crack open that last beer and sing along at the top of your lungs. Everyone else will be.
“I Won’t Back Down” — Like “Free Fallin’,” this is another favorite from Petty’s terrific first solo album, Full Moon Fever. It’s also a great song to pack up to. Clean up your mess, and make sure you have your ticket, dude.
“Don’t Do Me Like That” — Pound that final beer with one of Petty’s most relentless songs. The drums don’t stop, and it just keeps getting louder … which comes in handy if you’re gonna head to the bushes for one last pee.
“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” — This languid, bluesy track is a perfect cap to the playlist. And not just because you might be having your own last dance with MJ before rolling into the show … if you know what we mean. —Michael Gallucci (follow me on Twitter @mgallucci)