Into the Great Wide Open: Tom Petty , “When The Time Comes” from You’re Gonna Get It! (1978)

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Time has solidified Damn The Torpedoes as the Heartbreakers’ breakout record, which leaves the reputations of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and You’re Gonna Get It! up in the air for some critics and fans. Generally, however, the debut is praised for being a pretty consistent collection of songs and an impressive first effort, whereas You’re Gonna Get It! is often seen as a minor bump in the road, not as notable as the first album, or at best, a tread-water album.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine of certainly views it as the latter: “There are some wonderful moments on this record, but it often feels like leftovers from a strong debut. … Not necessarily a transitional effort — after all, it pretty much mirrors its predecessor — but a holding pattern that may not suggest the peaks of what’s to come, but still delivers a good soundalike of the debut.”

There is some evidence to back up this popular opinion. Like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, You’re Gonna Get It! was produced by Denny Cordell and engineered by Noah Shark and Max Reese, giving the two albums a slightly similar feel. Petty and Shark both took a co-producer credit the second time around, due to Cordell not having as much time to dedicate to the project, but that slight change did little to change the overall atmosphere. And some tracks, particularly the closing two, do feel like toss-offs. Many are quick to point out the year and a half gap between the two albums as curious. Couldn’t they have branched out a little more if they had that much time?

Petty himself has made excuses for the record. “The second-album dilemma,” he explains in the Runnin’ Down A Dream coffee table book, “is that you have most of your young life to write the first album and a year or less for the second. Add to that the fact that there’s pressure to show the world that the first wasn’t a fluke. … [You’re Gonna Get It!] went on to sell more than the first one, but, honestly, we didn’t really need to have a new album out when we brought it out.” Even in Conversation With Tom Petty, when Paul Zollo says the project “came out really well,” Petty replies: “Yeah, it did,” then quickly adds, “for what it was.”

At least recently, Petty has softened his stance on You’re Gonna Get It!, citing its sound and conciseness as a partial inspiration for Hypnotic Eye, the Heartbreakers’ upcoming studio album due to be released on July 29th. And a thorough listen to the record suggests there is a lot more to it than popular sentiments often lead to believe.

For starters, the Heartbreakers finally sound as if they have come into their own. Although there are some great performances on the first record, it’s clear that a year on the road helped them to truly hone their style. Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench have always been the two most important members in terms of shaping the band’s soundscapes, and while they shined in particular on a few tunes on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, this is the first record where they are locked into each other the whole way through.

There are also signs of maturity in Petty’s writing and the group’s execution of his songs. The record’s opening track, “When The Time Comes,” is a prime example. The song starts with a moody descending figure that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Elvis Costello or Patti Smith record from around the same time. “When I hear it, it reminds me of the days of New Wave,” Petty says in the Playback liner notes, and jokes in Conversations, “it might have started the New Wave.” Ron Blair and Stan Lynch chug along in the back as Tom and Mike stick to their driving guitar work. Tom gives a warning: “This might sound strange, it might seem dumb, depends on the side that you’re taking it from.” Not just that, but it also “depends on the time, depends on the day, depends on a lot of things …”

It’s quite the build up, musically and lyrically, and as the verse ends, it explodes into … a super melodic, power pop chorus about commitment and devotion? “I just want to let you know that I will stand by you through whatever might come, wherever you run,” he sats, “Will you stand by me when the time comes?” On first listen, it’s a rather unexpected switch, but the band pulls it off superbly. The only song on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers that arguably tries something similar is “Rockin’ Around (With You),” with verses based around long, drawn out words contrasted by a chorus with a rapid fire vocal delivery and electric guitar punctuations. Of course, “When The Time Comes” is smarter, better written, and better performed — not to mention a far superior album opener.

The romanticism of the chorus gives meaning to the first verse’s hesitancy. It’s nice that he feels this dedication to this girl, but it gives an ominous sense that she isn’t exactly feeling it. The second and third verses, as well as the bridge, further suggest this. “Are you tuning me out ‘cause I’m coming off weird?” … “But I look in your eyes and there is no real life at all.” … “When your heart feels right, seek me out.” It hits home for anyone who has dealt with a friend, family member, or significant other going through hard times and unable (or unwilling) to accept help. Nonetheless, the chorus’s insistency at the end of the song ultimately sends a positive message.

Stan once again proves to be an outstanding harmony vocalist, flawlessly sitting above Tom in the chorus and bridge. Benmont creeps in shortly after the first chorus with a ringing organ line and lingers in the background for most of the song, swelling up only when absolutely necessary. Wisely, everyone hangs on and builds on the minor chord in the bridge after “This ain’t the right time to say what’s on my mind, I know,” expertly matching the disappointment and frustration that that line entails. These are all strong aspects that the band employed at points on the debut.

However, it’s telling that these touches are all on exhibit right from the get-go on You’re Gonna Get It! This great attention to detail continues throughout most of the record.

For the first time in over 30 years, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers dusted off “When The Time Comes” in 2013, for a few performances at their Beacon Theatre and Fonda Theatre residencies. These renditions included a bonus extended solo in the outro for Mike Campbell, and were a treat for the hardcore fans who recognize how underrated You’re Gonna Get It! is. “When The Time Comes” kicks it off wonderfully, and remains an enjoyable deep cut today.

Dylan Sevey

Dylan Sevey

Dylan Sevey lives in Nashville, where he plays drums full time with Ron Gallo (, writes songs, and continues his 10-year obsession with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Instagram and Twitter: @dylansevey; contact Something Else! at [email protected]
Dylan Sevey
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