Certain Songs #1006: Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – “Refugee”

Album: Damn The Torpedoes
Year:1979

With their third album, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers added a new extra ingredient to their Stones/Byrds mix: Bruce Springsteen. Or at the very least, Jimmy Iovine, one of the people who helped Bruce construct the massive sound of Born to Run just four years prior.

Bigger and fuller at every level, Damn The Torpedoes sounded fucking amazing from the moment Stan Lynch’s drum and Benmont Tench’s organ kicked off “Refugee,” a song that clearly signaled that they weren’t fucking around in their pursuit of massive mainstream stardom.

With Tench’s keyboards weaving in and around Mike Campbell’s sinuous guitars, “Refugee” was one of those anthems that was quiet in the verses, but exploded into the chorus, with his gang right there with him.

Honey, it don’t make no difference to me
Baby, everybody’s had to fight to be free
Say you don’t have to live like a refugee
(Don’t have to live like a refugee!)
No, you don’t have to live like a refugee
(Don’t have to live like a refugee!)

With Tench’s organ solo exploding out of the bridge, Petty’s “Oh! Oh! Oh!” interjections, Lynch’s slight pauses before hitting his crash cymbal and Campbell’s laser-focused guitar lines, it didn’t even matter that Petty rhymed “around some” and “for ransom” in the last verse.

Gang, I can’t even begin to describe how exciting this all sounded to a 17-year-old kid who was also getting into The Clash, The Rolling Stones, Ramones & Bob Dylan. Somehow Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers fit in with all of them while not really sounding fully like any of them.

Sure it was mainstream rock, power-tooled to compete with Journey & Rush on AOR radio, and since I was getting into punk rock at that exact same time, I guess I could have rejected it for not having the raggedness of The Clash or the vision of the Ramones or some such shit like that.

But no way, I absolutely fell hard for “Refugee,” which led me into the rest of the album and completely solidified my love for Tom Petty, and probably ensured that I would buy every single one of his albums for the rest of my life.

Of course, I wasn’t the only one: Damn The Torpedoes went to number two — blocked only by the fucking Wall — and spawned his first two Top 20 singles, “Don’t Do Me Like That” and this eternal classic right here.

“Refugee”

“Refugee” performed at Live Aid, 1985

“Refugee” performed live in late 90s / early 2000s??

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