Free Fallin' / Tom Petty / Julien Temple / 1989

Free Fallin' / Tom Petty / Julien Temple / 1989


Footnotes

I don’t know the girl in ‘Free Fallin’ is. I was having to make this drive every day. The studio was in the valley and I was driving from Beverly Hills to the valley and back every day and on that drive I just used to look at Ventura Boulevard, and just life’s great pageant was going in up and down that street. And I tried to grab a little bit of these characters on the road and it was kind of how I saw it. It’s pretty true of that time and that era, I remember...maybe it’s still that way, I don’t know. The skateboarders and the shoppers and the young kids in the trendiest possible clothes and the auto-tellers and the drive-thru banks. It’s a scene, it’s a never-ending scene. I thought, you could probably start at one end of this road and by the time you got to the end of it you could purchase everything you could ever need in your life. It was kind of like that. ➡︎

I was asked back to meet the director, Julian Temple. He asked if I could skateboard and made his hands go up and down. I had been skateboarding nearly every day after school since I was 3-4 years old. I responded, “You mean a half-pipe?” He said, “Yes, that thing.” 
My enthusiastic passion came prior to the audition. I was living on the north shore of Oahu, listening to “Free Fallin’” over and over on top of the mountain while gazing into the most stunning sunset wondering what I was going to do with my life. The lyrics captured the essence of my attention inspiring me in a direction that took hold of my dreams. 
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Those first strums still incite a singular euphoria—the opening up of some kind of horizon, a hazy sunset to gun it for. It’s a song about—what else?—getting the hell out, which is probably why it always sounds incredible in a moving car. Petty liked outlaws and fuck-ups (“Free Fallin’ ” takes place in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley, and recounts the relationship between a good girl and a bad dude), but he didn’t romanticize much. His vocal is soft and measured on the verses, nearly repentant—he knew that these departures could hurt the people left behind. ➡︎

But you don’t need to know the city and its geography to feel the sense of Free Fallin’: it’s one of those perfect rock songs in which meaning is conveyed not by any one part of it, but by the combination of lyric, melody, arrangement. It’s the place where joy, nostalgia and melancholy meet, a combination that’s incredibly easy to misjudge in song; Petty nailed every element. Standing in the midst of a vast crowd at a Petty show when he kicked into Free Fallin’, and tens of thousands of people sang along to the chorus was a profoundly moving thing. There would be tears, and it was impossible to tell whether they were tears of sadness or joy. ➡︎


Extras

◼︎ Tom Petty’s ‘Greatest Trip’ Was to Los Angeles / Justin Sablich / The New York Times / 2017

◼︎ Tom Petty's Los Angeles / Daphne Carr / LA Weekly / 2008


Sources

◼︎ Tom Petty Originally Wrote 'Free Fallin'' Just to Make Jeff Lynne Laugh / Cathy Applefeld Olson / Billboard / 2016

◼︎ The Girl in the Video: “Free Fallin’” (1989) / Noblemania / 2013

◼︎ Free Falling With Tom Petty / Amanda Petrusich / The New Yorker / 2017

◼︎ From Free Fallin' to American Girl: five of the greatest Tom Petty songs / Michael Hann / The Guardian / 2017


It's Funky Enough / The D.O.C. / Tamra Davis / 1989

It's Funky Enough / The D.O.C. / Tamra Davis / 1989

A Street/A River / FORM follows FUNCTION / 2015

A Street/A River / FORM follows FUNCTION / 2015