Certain Songs #1010: Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – “The Waiting”

Album: Hard Promises
Year: 1981

It was around this time that I came to develop my Tom Petty Theory. Which is this: with his band, his melodic sense and his dedication to rock ‘n’ roll, it was simply impossible for Tom Petty to put out an album that I didn’t like.

It was a good enough theory to last for more than twenty years, until The Last DJ blew it to smithereens, but in 1981, listening to Tom Petty’s fourth album in five years — it seemed like he was just getting better and better, especially as it led off with what is probably my favorite of all of his songs, “The Waiting.”

Oh baby don’t it feel like heaven right now
Don’t it feel like something from a dream

To this day, “The Waiting” is my platonic ideal of a Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers song: rocking out with a combination of 12-string & six-string guitars, organ runs galore and a call-and-response chorus that feels like heaven right now, and forever.


I said yeah, yeah
(Yeah yeah)
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you get one more yard
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

That was also around the time where out at the spot near Forkner and Herndon where they’d built the streets but not the houses, we’d sit in my car drunk and/or stoned and sing like Tom Petty. With the second verse: “Aooolll it ever ghat me was dawhn” On the bridge: “Don lat this go to faaaa / Don lat this get to yuuuuuhh” And, of course, at the end, over a Lynch-driven build: “The weeeeaaaiiiting is the harrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrdesssss parrrrrt”

Mike Campbell just kills on “The Waiting.” First, over the stop-time opening, he’s sly and spare, bringing us directly into the first verse; then linking the chorus and the next verse; after the bridge, a high-pitched, keening solo; and a two-note lick on the last chorus that is gorgeous and emotional all at the same time; at the end, bringing back the same sly spare lick he started with at the fade.

It all added up to another top 20 single for Petty, but more importantly, a song that I’ve heard countless times and never even remotely gotten sick of.

BTW, to see how great and elastic “The Waiting” truly is, check out the various performance videos, each with a different spin on it.

“The Waiting”

“The Waiting” official video (mono)

“The Waiting” performed live 1985

“The Waiting” performed acoustically 1988

“The Waiting” performed live w/ Eddie Vedder (late 1990s / early 2000s I think)

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Comments are closed.