In honor of the recent loss of one of most important figures in rock and roll history, this is a look at one of Tom Petty’s most famous and iconic albums, Full Moon Fever.
By 1989, Tom Petty had already made a name for himself with his group Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, rock icons of rebellion and youth. But when it came time, he decided to work alone on his next project. Driving from the same creative force behind some of the Heartbreakers, with his new producer Jeff Lynne, Petty was at full swing. Even though this album is considered a solo effort, many other artists were included and put input into the album, with the recording being done at Mike Campbell’s (the Heartbreakers’ lead guitarist) home studio.
Unlike most rock albums to come out in ‘89, Full Moon Fever took a much more laid back approach to songwriting. Even on the most energetic tracks, Tom Petty takes a much more slow, almost melancholic take on rock. With all songs written with a 12 or 6 string guitar, the overall sound of the album is much more folk and country than early ‘90s rock. This experimentation with instruments and writing in rock led this album to stick out amongst the crowd of heavy, rage-filled music rising out of the underground into the mainstream. If you were to play this to somebody without telling them who it was, they would probably mistake the album to be from the early ‘70s, fitting along side of Bob Dylan (who Petty would later work with).
The loose guitar riffs and simple songwriting makes Full Moon Fever such an easy listen. This is probably why this album is one of Petty’s most popular. Some of his most iconic songs like “Free Falling” and “Won’t Back Down” come off this album, becoming staples for future concerts and classic rock radio marathons. Littered with other references to rock idols, such as The Zombies and Buddy Holly, Petty does not shy away from his love of rock and which artist influenced him. This is a major key to the attractiveness of the album, this idea that there is an influence for every type of person in this album.
If you were ever to ask someone to describe Tom Petty, the image that most Americans have in mind is that of which is represented in Full Moon Fever. A calm, soothing, look at life through the means of music, trying to hold onto the fleeting feeling of love, youth, freedom, and rock and roll.