Certain Songs #1008: Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – “Even The Losers”

Album: Damn The Torpedoes
Year: 1979

What made Damn The Torpedoes an instant success were the two massive hit singles “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Refugee,” which were all over both AM and FM radio as the 1970s crashed into the 1980s.

But what made it an enduring classic is the dynamite first side: “Refugee,” “Here Comes My Girl,” today’s song “Even The Losers,” the lovely “Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid),” and the rollicking “Century City.”

Every single one of those songs is a winner, even “Even The Losers,” a wistful look back at a failed relationship — in Warren Zanes’ biography, Petty TP mentions that it was someone he’d been chasing since Jr. High — that’s packed with vivid detail.

Well it was nearly summer, we sat on your roof
We smoked cigarettes and we stared at the moon
And I showed you stars you never could see
It couldn’t have been that easy to forget about me

You can picture that, and wonder where it all went wrong. But, at least in this case, you’re never going to know what the entire story was, because the guy in the song seems just glad that it happened at all, and Petty sings they key line “it couldn’t have been that easy to forget about me” like maybe he was afraid that it maybe was.

Making great use of stop time both at the end of the verses, the chorus and even the bridge in order to accentuate the points Petty’s trying to make about not forgetting about him, getting lucky sometimes and not living in the past.

Also helping make those points: Stan Lynch’s drum roll the that sets up the bridge, Benmont Tench’s roiling organ on the bridge and Mike Campbell’s long buzzsaw guitar solos that bisects the song and provides the focus on the coda.

As a high school loser who never made it with the ladies, a song like “Even The Losers” gave me hope. If it could happen to the guy in the song — even if he was Tom Petty — it could happen to me!

Fan-made video for “Even The Losers”

“Even The Losers” performed live in 1978

“Even The Losers” performed live at Farm Aid, 1986

“Even The Losers” performed acoustically, 1988

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