Tom Petty ranked? You bet. His whole catalog? Ha! What do you think I am, insane? No, I’m just ranking the songs on Full Moon Fever.


There’s an argument to be made that Tom Petty‘s solo debut isn’t just his best solo album, but the best album in his entire catalog. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers included. And Mudcrutch, too.


But again, I’m not here to dive deep into the catalog and debate. I’m here to celebrate this amazing album. But before I do, I have to talk to you about how it almost wasn’t released.


Full Moon Fever Back Cover

Tom Petty getting the last laugh on the back cover of ‘Full Moon Fever’


Tom Petty Ranked: Azoff Hated Full Moon Fever

Petty recorded Full Moon Fever in 1987 and 1988 for MCA Records. Upon submitting the album to label head Irving Azoff, it was shelved. Azoff felt there were no hits on the album. I can’t type that without laughing.


Lucky for Petty (and the rest of us), Azoff resigned from MCA a few months after turning the record down. When new label management took over and heard what they had on their hands, they couldn’t put it out fast enough.


Full Moon Fever hit shelves on April 24, 1989. It yielded 5 charting radio singles; almost half the album! In the last 35+ years, it’s sold 5 million copies. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1989. Azoff wept.


Full Moon Fever Cassette

Were you even a living rocker in ’89 if you didn’t have this on tape?


Tom Petty Ranked: Full Moon Fever‘s My Fave

In 1989, I was 12 years old. My dad drove a GMC Jimmy. We took a lot of trips to New Hampshire in the summer of ’89 and the winter of ’90. Full Moon Fever on cassette was our soundtrack.


I guess it’s my favorite Tom Petty album because it’s the one I’ve heard the most. Which puts me in a decent position go song-by-song, Tom Petty ranked-style. So let’s get runnin’ down the track list, shall we?

  • 12) “Feel A Whole Lot Better”

    This one automatically gets the low slot because it’s not Tom’s song. It was written by Gene Clark of the Byrds. Great tune, it would just be weird to rank someone else’s song higher than any of the songs Petty & Co. wrote for this album.

  • 11) “Zombie Zoo”

    There’s a reason this song is the last one on the album. It’s silly. My kid brother and young cousins loved it. Look at Tom, throwing in a track for the kids.

  • 10) “Alright For Now”

    Here’s my obligatory “there are no bad songs on this album reminder.” Seriously; it’s a near-perfect album. And this one’s a fine song. It just doesn’t really go anywhere.

  • 9) “A Mind With A Heart Of Its Own”

    Petty buries this one pretty late on the B Side, but it serves it’s purpose. It’s an uptempo tune to bridge the gap between the downtempo “Alright For Now” and album closer “Zombie Zoo.”

  • 8) “Yer So Bad”

    This is a fun song. It’s almost too fun, to the point of being a little precious. Or at the very least, cheeky. I like the acoustic guitar work on the chorus.

  • 7) “Depending On You"

    There are a few songs on the album that feel like they’d be a better fit on a Heartbreakers album than on a Petty solo release. This is definitely one of those songs.

  • 6) “The Apartment Song”

    It’s not easy to write an incredibly relatable song that’s not a love song. Petty does that with this one. I can remember being a 12-year-old and hearing this and not getting it completely, but getting enough of it to get what it was about.

  • 5) “I Won’t Back Down”

    There’s a reason politicians of all stripes are constantly trying to hijack this one. It’s universal, it’s anthemic, and people love it. Some may even say it’s the best song on Full Moon Fever. I say it’s fifth-best.

  • 4) “Love Is A Long Road”

    Another Heartbreaker-heavy song. Which make sense, since Heartbreaker guitarist Mike Campbell has a songwriting credit on it. What a great friggin’ song.

  • 3) “Runnin’” Down A Dream”

    “Shouldn’t this song be No. 1?” Maybe. I mean, it is one of the greatest songs Tom Petty ever wrote. But in the context of this album it’s my No. 3.

  • 2) “Free Fallin’”

    Joe Strummer’s “three chords and the truth?” Tom Petty only needed two for this song. And it’s quite possibly the greatest song he ever wrote. Which is wild. And yes, I know I just typed pretty much the same thing about “Runnin’ Down A Dream.” That’s how brilliant he was and how great this album is.

  • 1) “A Face In The Crowd”

    Of every song on Full Moon Fever, this is always the one that grabs my undivided attention every time. It fits in with the rest of the album just fine, but it has its own vibe and its own mood and it’s absolutely magnificent. Best damn song on a damn fine album.

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