Certain Songs #1031: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – “Supernatural Radio”

Album: Songs and Music from the Motion Picture “She’s The One”
Year: 1996

This is probably the weirdest entry in Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers catalog: ostensibly a motion picture soundtrack, She’s The One (as I’m going to call it) doesn’t really feature soundtrack music per se (exception, “Airport,” a jazzy instrumental at the end), has a few leftovers from Wildflowers (which had they been on Wildflowers would have been credited to TP only) and — weirdest of all — the only covers that ever appeared on a Tom Petty studio album: Beck’s “Asshole” and Lucinda Williams “Changed The Locks.”

Which was the last song I wrote about before Tom Petty died.

And so while She’s The One didn’t quite cohere into an album the way that Wildflowers or Echo did, there were quite a few standout tracks beyond “Walls:” the quiet love ballad “Angel Dream,” the rollicking “Zero From Outer Space,” the jangly “California” (which I almost wrote about because I tend to love songs about California, in case you haven’t noticed) and my favorite, the slow, weird “Supernatural Radio.”

Moving at a little more than a snail’s pace — Benmont Tench tossing in electric piano over low-key guitars — “Supernatural Radio” feels ominous, especially when Petty sidles into the opening verse.

If there’s gonna be trouble tonight
You can meet me at the usual place
If there’s gonna be a fight tonight
Remember what you said to my face

But Petty almost instantly drops that thread, instead he swerves back into how he doesn’t want to get his heart broken, and in fact decides to drive away from everything, with the radio off, cos he doesn’t even want to hear any more songs.

But that’s not what the songs want. They want him to hear them. So Mike Campbell sends a radio signal slowly spiraling to the heavens, and even with his radio off, Tom Petty can hear it, and it freaks him out a bit.

I can hear you singing on my
Supernatural radio
I hear you singing on my
Supernatural radio

After that, Campbell launches his radio signal again, over and over and over, blanketing the entire universe with it, and Petty is caught up in it, at first murmuring and then screaming:

100 million watts
Yeah, I’m picking up a signal
Yeah, It’s 100 million watts!
Raw power!
I can hear Jesus singing on my
Supernatural radio!

Sure it doesn’t make much linear sense but think of “Supernatural Radio” as a fever dream, a nightmare, or even Halloween tale, fueled by a supernatural guitar lick.

“Supernatural Radio”

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