Into the Great Wide Open: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “You’re Gonna Get It” (1978)

In addition to the the band refining their sound and the matured songwriting, there is one more quality of You’re Gonna Get It! that clearly shows improvement over Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers — and that is the strength of Tom Petty’s singing.

Tom has some very fine vocal moments on the debut, particularly on “Breakdown,” “Fooled Again (I Don’t Like It),” and “American Girl,” but there are more than a few inconsistencies across the record. Although there are also some on You’re Gonna Get It! — his greatest vocal peak was between Damn The Torpedoes and Long After Dark, arguably — he sounds far more confident and in control as a whole than he did on the first record.

There is no better example than the title track. In fact, “You’re Gonna Get It” starts off immediately with Petty’s vocal, which no other song in his catalog does. It’s the perfect in-your-face beginning to a very in-your-face song. The lyrics are a relatively standard set, but he delivers each line with such a fierce conviction that it eliminates the need for a more involved set of words. Particularly exciting is his vocal climb at the end of each verse; “Can’t try any harder than you tried for me.” His high notes are biting and crisp, and the immediate, husher “you’re gonna get it, babe” is spectacularly effective.

The half-spoken lines at the end of the chorus are peculiar. Singers and songwriters often lead verses into choruses so effortlessly in a clear attempt to set up the big hook; here, it’s the exact opposite. Petty rushes through the last line to accent “I was just a foo-oo-ool,” which then segues back into the verse. It’s a very uncommon trick, but naturally, he pulls it off just fine. (It’s also worth noting that his delivery at the end of the choruses foreshadows his half-spoken approach to the verses of “Here Comes My Girl.”)

Of course, behind Petty’s outstanding vocal performance is another tight, precise execution by the Heartbreakers. Petty himself plays the piano part that drives most of the track, as he wrote the song on piano. This leaves Benmont Tench to work his magic with an ARP String Ensemble synthesizer, similar to the one he played on “Fooled Again,” and that Stan Lynch played on “Luna.” To set this song apart from those tracks, they brought in a small string quartet to double what Benmont played. The haunting, droning effect of the actual strings combined with the synthesizer adds an extra layer of tension to the track.

In typical fashion, Mike Campbell’s solo is appropriately searing. He makes efficient use of space in between his lines to create an intensified atmosphere. In atypical fashion, he also provides sparse accordion, most audible at the end of the first chorus. His trickery and mastery no doubt play a huge part in the spacey post-solo bridge, which also features some killer drum fills from Stan. It’s a nice standout part for Lynch, who for the rest of the song is mainly relegated to strict time keeping. Not that that’s a bad thing; his playing is fitting and complimentary throughout.

Like quite a few early songs, “You’re Gonna Get It” gained quite a bit of muscle in live settings. The bridge was often extended to feature more incendiary drum fills and excellent effects courtesy of Campbell and Tench. Mike was also given an extended outro to reprise his solo, which he would naturally build to reach greater, more thrilling heights.

The Heartbreakers haven’t performed “You’re Gonna Get It” since the late 1970s, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Perhaps due to the album’s sometimes lukewarm reputation, the two hits (“I Need To Know” and “Listen To Her Heart”) are the only tracks that have received consistent attention in their live sets since Damn The Torpedoes was released. Furthermore, despite it being a good song, the group has far better and more well-known songs in their arsenal that deal with a similar subject matter (“Fooled Again,” “You Got Lucky,” “I Should Have Known It,” etc.). But this doesn’t take away from the strong performance and production of the track; it may be one of the album’s more middle-of-the-road songs, but that speaks to how good the record actually is.

Dylan Sevey

Dylan Sevey

A Rhode Island-based writer and musician, Sevey is an avid listener of blues, jazz, folk, and rock 'n' roll. He serves as frontman for Dylan Sevey and the Gentlemen ( dylanseveymusic), and is the drummer for Smith and Weeden ( smithandweeden). Twitter and Instagram @dylansevey; contact Something Else! at
Dylan Sevey