You could see it in the album cover.
There were very few Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers albums that even attempted to feature the entire band on the cover, and only two that truly succeeded. But if you looked closely enough, you could see the entire story of the band in those covers.
The first cover to feature the entire band was their second album, 1978’s You’re Gonna Get It! That cover depicted the band as bunch of serious young dudes — with their calm and confident leader right in the middle who were were clearly focused on a single thing: conquering the entire world.
In 1987, Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) used a collage of parts of each member’s face to create a single composite face on the cover, and while it was probably meant to demonstrate band unity, each of those strips were separate from each other, easily peeled away to do solo albums, session work or produce albums.
A dozen years later, just as the old millennium was crashing into the new one, Petty couldn’t even get poor Howie Epstein to the Echo photoshoot, and while Scott Thurston had put in enough years to be on the cover, Steve Ferrone apparently hadn’t, so the cover was as blurry as some of its best songs.
But take a look at that Mojo cover. Six old geezers having a helluva time, and remarkably four of those six — Ron Blair had replaced poor Howie Epstein who had replaced Ron Blair and was playing on his his first full Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album since Hard Promises — remained from that You’re Gonna Get It! cover.
And and so Mojo was the sound of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers doing blues-based rock songs, like the early Stones and Yardbirds records they’d grown up loving. Nothing super consequential, not a true pop song in the batch, but rather something they were doing just for the hell of it.
And why not? If Mojo is the least essential record in their catalog, it didn’t matter, because they’d had a lifetime pass for decades, and besides, we would never have gotten a song which is basically Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers doing an AC/DC song.
“I Should Have Known” is based upon a piledriver of a Mike Campbell riff, a distant cousin to the “Running Down a Dream” riff, but bigger, slower, and blusier, featuring Steve Ferrone playing slightly behind the beat right up until the moments he needs to jump right on top of it.
Meanwhile, Tom Petty is singing genre-appropriate lyrics.
Every promise was just a runaround
I should have known it
Yeah, you’re gonna let me down
Well it’s over now you see
It’s the last time you’re gonna hurt me
After a couple of minutes of stopping and starting around the main riff — and a wailing slide guitar solo from Campbell, natch — “I Should Have Known It” comes to a dead stop for a second, gathers its breath and with a “yeahhh!” from Petty rips into a rave up, Campbell spinning circles around Petty’s and Thurston’s power riffing while Benmont Tench keeps up with some boogie piano.
They’re all having a shit ton of fun, as you can tell from the video.
And you think — and not for the first time — oh yeah, this band is so great that they could have done just about anything. And then you realize — and not for the first time — oh yeah, they pretty much did.
Official video for “I Should Have Known It”
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