Tom Petty – I Won't Back Down
Label: MCA Records – DMCAT 1334
Format: CD, Single, Mini
Style: Pop Rock
1 I Won't Back Down
Written-By – Jeff Lynne
2 The Apartment Song 2:32
3 Don't Treat Me Like A Stranger 3:06
Producer – Jeff Lynne, Mike Campbell, T.P.*
Written-By – Tom Petty
"I Won't Back Down" is the first single from Tom Petty's first solo album, Full Moon Fever released in 1989. The song was written by Petty and his writing partner for the album, Jeff Lynne. It reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Album Rock Tracks chart for five weeks, starting the album's road to multi-platinum status.
Background and writing:
Petty recalled the recording of this song to Mojo magazine: "At the session George Harrison sang and played the guitar. I had a terrible cold that day, and George went to the store and bought a ginger root, boiled it and had me stick my head in the pot to get the ginger steam to open up my sinuses, and then I ran in and did the take."
A message of defiance against unnamed forces of difficulty and possibly oppression, the lyric is set against a mid-tempo beat:
Well I know what's right, I got just one life
in a world that keeps on pushin' me around
but I'll stand my ground, and I won't back down
Due to its themes, the song was played often on American radio following the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Petty and the Heartbreakers played a quiet but full-of-resolve version of the song at the America: A Tribute to Heroes telethon following the 2001 attacks.
In the 2007 documentary Runnin' Down a Dream, Petty said that he felt some initial hesitation about releasing the song, given its clear and unabashed message.
The music video, directed by David Leland, was shot on March 22 and 23, 1989 on a sound stage at Pinewood Studios and released on April 24, 1989. George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Mike Campbell and Ringo Starr are featured in the video along with George's famous painted stratocaster "Rocky". Starr is depicted in the video as playing the drums on the song, though in reality, drumming was performed by Phil Jones.
Tom Petty – lead and backing vocals, acoustic guitar
Mike Campbell – lead and slide guitar
George Harrison – acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Jeff Lynne – bass guitar, backing vocals
Howie Epstein – backing vocals
Phil Jones – drums, percussion
Chart (1989) Peak position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 12
U.S. Billboard Album Rock Tracks 1
U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks 29
U.S. Cash Box Top 100 Singles 11
Canadian RPM Top Singles 5
German Singles Chart 66
New Zealand Singles Chart 49
UK Singles Chart 28