Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - Into The Great Wide Open [Single/Album Version]Details

"The title track [Into The Great Wide Open] is one of the weakest [on the album]; opening with a very George Harrison-like vocal and guitar sound, the narrative lyrics try to emulate Bruce Springsteen, but it sounds too half-hearted and doesn't get out of the bottom gear until the chorus."
John Van der Kiste (1992 - Face The Music fanzine #10)

"'That was one of the first ones I wrote for the [Into The Great Wide Open] album,' [said Tom Petty]. 'I really liked the video for that, one of the only times I've ever felt fulfilled by a video. The song was such a narrative that the video was a piece of cake to make. I even had people coming to me wanting to make it into a movie. I said, 'It's been done.' I really think an entire movie would be more than is required. But it was a lot of fun. Very funny song and a very true song.'"
Bill Flanagan (1995 liner notes for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Playback)

"And I know [The Heartbreakers] were happy with things like Learning To Fly and Into The Great Wide Open. [...] Well, [the slide guitar on Into The Great Wide Open] might have been [inspired by George Harrison]. George really liked Mike's playing as well. They had a mutual admiration for each other on slide guitar. There's a lot of good guitar on that track. The 12-string he plays on that track is really good. He added quite a bit to that album. Yeah, it was [one of the first songs I wrote for the album]. It's a narrative. It's a story. And I think it has some truth in it. It's light-hearted in a way. With a kind of black humor to it. The video was the great thing with that song. The video was as good as the song, I think. It's a rare instance where they really complemented each other. And we actually had to extend the song for the video. The video is seven minutes long. Because we shot so much, and we didn't want to lose it. So we went back and did a re-edit and remix of the song to make it fit the video. [Laughs] Yeah. Well, [the line from the song, 'the sky was the limit' is] what people think when they come out of California. Strike it big. Some people hit it, some people don't. I just kind of fell into [the story of the song]. You don't know where those things come from. I was just playing those chords, and this little story started to appear. I carried it around in my head for a while, and refined it a bit. And I had it pretty well written, and then I played it for Jeff, and he helped me, and added a few ideas too. Like that chord turn-around. [Sings chords.] Jeff's idea. And we added that in, and we altered a couple of chords. Gave them a little bit more exotic treatment under the melody. But it was pretty much all done. I pretty much had it when he came aboard."
Tom Petty (November 1, 2005 - Conversations With Tom Petty)

"Songs [written by Tom] like I Won't Back Down, Don't Do Me Like That, Into the Great Wide Open and I Need To Know, speak volumes about the necessity of not only doing things his way, but to reinvent himself in the process, with a myriad of images of fleeing, falling and starting over that reoccur over and over in his canon, culminating in what are perhaps his most salient words to the wise: 'Comin' down is the hardest thing.' [on Learning To Fly]."
Jaan Uhelszki (July 2006 - Harp Magazine)

"When I was making the video for Learning To Fly, all of us were out in Tucson, Arizona because we wanted the clouds, to get those John Ford kind of clouds. And we waited for days for these clouds, y'know. So, of course, there'd be a rainstorm in the middle of the day. So we were in a trailer in a rainstorm, and then in from the rain came Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway. And apparently Johnny knew Benmont somehow. Well then I thought, what about getting those two to play Eddie and the fairy godmother [for the Into The Great Wide Open video]. They'd be perfect."
Tom Petty (2007 - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin' Down A Dream)

"I got asked to do the video [for Into The Great Wide Open]. And I called Faye and I said, 'I'm going to do this video for Tom Petty, maybe you should come play the fairy godmother. And she became a teenage girl, squealing, you know, 'Oh, Tom Petty!' She was really into it."
Johnny Depp (2007 - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin' Down A Dream)

"Well, the thing is, I think the way Tom wrote it, it was so true to life. People get these expectations [that] they'll have a hit and, you know, it's a bit of luck. And you can have that happen to you, or you can go for years and years and never get anything and suddenly have a hit ten, fifteen years. And, wow, what do you do with that? It's all equally confusing and, you know, it's lonely. It's kind of not knowing really where you stand and... It's not a very secure kind of job, you know what I mean? And you never know where you are until you've made it at a certain level when, you know, your talent has grown with you so you can actually know you're gonna reach a certain standard every time you do something. And, you know, you don't just forget how to do it every night. "
Jeff Lynne (October 29, 2012 - Deep Tracks SiriusXM radio show)

"More great tracks came in the 1990s with the hits Into The Great Wide Open, You Don’t Know How It Feels, You Wreck Me, Learning To Fly, and the band’s biggest hit, Mary Jane’s Last Dance."
David Farr (October 12, 2017 - Sturgis Journal)
Editor's Note: Mary Jane’s Last Dance was not Tom Petty's biggest hit, reaching only #14 on the Billboard charts. Rather, his biggest his is Stop Draggin' My Heart Around with Stevie Nicks, which reached #3 on the Billboard charts.

"Other songs, like Into The Great Wide Open, share in that sense of enthusiasm, even if it’s ultimately doomed. A pseudo-folk ballad, this song tells the story of Eddie, a young man who heads to Los Angeles with nothing but a dream, yet ends up in the same position as when he left home. Somewhat autobiographical, the song is a perfect example of the contrast between cheerful instrumentals and somber undertones. The harsh reality of being human, that 'rebel without a clue,' conflicts with that primal urge to pursue your desires 'into the great wide open.' Emotionally charged and musically concrete, this is just one example of Petty’s songwriting talent."
Edward Clifford (October 18, 2009 - The Massachusetts Daily Collegian)

"Mr. Petty’s songs were staples of FM rock radio through decades, and with hits like Refugee, Don’t Come Around Here No More, Free Fallin’ and Into the Great Wide Open, Mr. Petty sold millions of albums and headlined arenas and festivals well into 2017."
Jon Pareles (October 3, 2017 - New York Times)

"The video for [Into The Great Wide Open] was also in constant rotation on MTV, thanks in no small part to cameos by Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway and a then-unknown Matt LeBlanc."
Unknown (October 3, 2017 - BBC News)

"Mr. Lynne, who formed a close working relationship with Mr. Petty in the Traveling Wilburys and on Full Moon Fever, came along as a producer when the singer returned to the Heartbreakers fold in 1991. He’s the reason the group’s next album, Into the Great Wide Open, has that refreshed glow. The title track is an affectionate parable about a 'rebel without a clue' named Eddie, who moves to L.A. and becomes a rock star. Everything seems to be going swimmingly, at least until the last verse, where our hero hears the words every major-label artist dreads: 'Their A & R man said I don’t hear a single.' Mr. Petty makes you feel bad for the poor kid even as you laugh at his wry delivery."
Simon Vozick-Levinson (October 3, 2017 - The New York Times)

"Losing Tom Petty is rough. He’s the one artist who I can listen to and immediately feel like I’m back in high school. Mary Jane’s Last Dance was one of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar. I think I still have some pretty shitty versions of the song on tape somewhere. But the song I’d pick would probably be Into The Great Wide Open because he mentions 'a roadie name Bart' and Barts don’t get shoutouts in songs too often (or ever)."
Bart Winters [Melkbelly] (October 4, 2017 - Stereogum online magazine)

"As a lyricist, he conjured little mind movies with, again, just enough detail so that the listener had the fun of co-directing. Like the opening verse of Into The Great Wide Open, for example, a song about a young guy following his dream of moving to L.A. and becoming a rock star: 'Eddie waited ‘til he finished high school; He went to Hollywood, got a tattoo; He met a girl out there with a tattoo, too; the future was wide open.' Well, except to the end of the chorus, where Eddie is revealed as a 'rebel without a clue.' That song could be interpreted as a humorous depiction of a dream gone awry. Or, it could be seen as sly shot at the superficiality of the record industry."
Bruce Cameron (October 4, 2017 - The Barrie Examiner)

"[Petty] may have been creating music with the Heartbreakers since disco was still in style, but Petty’s mainstream success also mirrored the rise of MTV, casting the star somewhere between elder statesman and up-and-comer for audiences of the groundbreaking channel. Given Petty’s innovative use of the burgeoning media of music videos to create stories striking at the soul of the American dream, most notably 1991’s video for Into the Great Wide Open, it’s little surprise he claimed the career-spanning Video Vanguard Award in 1994."
James Ellis (October 12, 2017 - Newsweek)

"His album, Into The Great Wide Open, again is considered a classic rock album with a lineup of amazing songs, Learning To Fly and Into The Great Wide Open became extremely popular."
Kalyani Majumdar (October 22, 2017 - Free Press Journal website)


  • Running Time: 3:43
  • Record Date: 1991
  • Record Location: Rumbo Recorders, Studio C, Canoga Park, California, USA
  • Written By: Tom Petty & Jeff Lynne
  • Produced By: Jeff Lynne
  • Engineered By: Richard Dodd
  • Performed By: Tom Petty (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, backing vocals, percussion), Mike Campbell (lead guitar, keyboards, baritone guitar, bass, bouzouki, mandolin, hammer dulcimer), Stan Lynch (drums, percussion, champagne bucket), Benmont Tench (electric piano, upright piano, accordian), Howie Epstein (single harmony, backing vocals, bass), Jeff Lynne (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals, bass)

  • Released On:
    • Into The Great Wide Open LP album (1991 July 2 — USA — MCA MCA 10317)
    • Into The Great Wide Open CD album (1991 July 2 — USA — MCA MCA 10317)
    • Into The Great Wide Open LP album (1991 July 8 — UK — MCA MCA 10317)
    • Into The Great Wide Open CD album (1991 July 8 — UK — MCA MCD 10317)
    • Into The Great Wide Open 7" single (1991 — UK — MCA MCS 1570)
    • Into The Great Wide Open CD single (1991 — UK — MCA MCS 1570)
    • Into The Great Wide Open 7" single (1991 — USA — MCA MCAS7-54131)
    • Into The Great Wide Open cassette single (1991 — USA — MCA MCACS-54131)
    • Into The Great Wide Open CD promo single (1991 — USA — MCA CD45-1485)
    • King's Highway CD single (1991 — UK — MCA MCSTD 1610)
    • Greatest Hits CD album (1993 — UK — MCA MCD10964)
    • Greatest Hits CD album (1993 November 1 — USA — MCA MCAD-10813)
    • Playback CD album (1995 November 20 — USA — MCA MCAD6-11375)
    • Anthology: Through The Years CD album (2000 — UK — MCA 1701772)
    • Anthology: Through The Years CD album (2000 October 31 — USA — MCA 088 170 177-2)
    • Greatest Hits CD album (2008 May 20 — USA — Geffen B001032702)
    • Greatest Hits CD album (2008 June 2 — UK — Universal 1774395)
    • The Complete Studio Albums Volume 1 (1976-1991) LP box set album (2016 December 9 — Worldwide — Universal Music Enterprises 00602547952158)
    • Into The Great Wide Open LP album (2017 June 2 — Worldwide — UME B0024292-01)
    • The Best Of Everything - The Definitive Career Spanning Hits Collection 1976-2016 LP album (2019 March 1 — Worldwide — Geffen Records B0028984-01/060256793403)
    • The Best Of Everything - The Definitive Career Spanning Hits Collection 1976-2016 CD album (2019 March 1 — Worldwide — Geffen Records B0028986-02/00602567934394)
    • The Best Of Everything - The Definitive Career Spanning Hits Collection 1976-2016 digital album (2019 March 1 — Worldwide — Geffen Records 602577036279)

  • Top UK Chart Position: N/A
  • Top US Chart Position: 92

  • Used in the Film or TV Program: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin' Down a Dream (2007)
  • Cover Versions: Brings on their Knapp album (1999) [under the title Ins blaue]