Tom Petty - Runnin' Down A Dream [Single/Album Version]Details

"And there's a line in there about 'me and Del were singing Little Runaway, I was flying' you know, so I worked Del in there because he was around. It's starting to sound like I had all these famous people around, but I didn't, really. [Laughs] That wasn't-- I knew Del for years and years and years. And he was good enough to come over. But he was really the inspiration for that song... of hearing that great song on the radio. And then Mike Campbell played I think the best solo he's ever done. I gave him the last two minutes. It's quite a long song. Yeah, we were all really just jazzed about that, when he did that. I did [the tension of the music and the calmness of my voice on the song] on purpose because I hate these songs where you get a riff, you know, and there's some guy wailing in the upper registers of his voice. [Imitates a wail.] You know, I never understand that, you know, why they have to be so excited and screaming like that all the time. And I thought it might be interesting to do one that had the intensity of one of those heavy metal songs, but just go, [sings gently] 'it was a beautiful day, sun beat down, I had the radio on, I was driving.' You know, just very calmly, like you'd be driving. You would be in your car going [scream sings]. You know, I hate all that. I can't stand it. [...] I don't know how he does it. You know, he did that solo. I remember... Bugs is the Heartbreakers' roadie for since we started all those years [ago] was laughing at Jeff Lynne looking at Mike Campbell doing that when he did it because he did it with completely straight face; there was no expression at all on his face. [Laughs] He was just looking straight ahead, playing it, and just burning it up. And there was one point where Bugs is telling me he saw Jeff lean around to look at the front of Mike's face and he just [shook] his head like, you know... How he did it, I don't know how he did it or where that came from. I just told him [that] this is where, you know, they finally hit fourth gear in the Corvette and it's really ripping out and just play something like-- 'Cause it's really two songs, you set it up and then there's gear changes through the rest of it. That was the theory I went on. And so he just really ripped it up, you know, and I was just jumping around the room losing my mind over it. And Jeff just kept looking at him and just going, you know, 'Wow, that's really weird that he doesn't... He didn't change expressions when he did that.' But he's like that. I remember him when we were just out of school, he used to sit in his bedroom in the dark, you know, I'd go over there and I'd hear all this wailing coming out of the room and I'd walk in his room and all I could see was the pilot light of the amplifier. And I'd turn the light on he'd just be sitting there, looking straight ahead playing this wild stuff. So I don't know how he does it, you'd have to ask him. I'm just glad he did it."
Tom Petty (1989 April 24 - In The Studio radio show)

"Love Is A Long Road and Running Down A Dream [sic] are pretty standard Petty tracks, giving Mike Campbell a chance to strut his stuff with some meaty guitar solos, which he does as well as always, but it's not exactly ground-breaking."
Maria Hanna with contributions by Andrew Whiteside (1989 - Face The Music fanzine #6)

"A Petty Suit?: A lawyer sued rock singer Tom Petty for copyright infringement Wednesday, claiming that a song he wrote 14 years ago was misappropriated for a tune on Petty's latest album. In the lawsuit filed in U.S. Distric Court in Los Angeles, Martin Allen Fine, an attorney with a Beverly Hills firm, seeks profits from Petty's song Runnin' Down A Dream, released last year on his Full Moon Fever album. In his lawsuit, Fine claims Runnin' Down A Dream has 'musical identical' to a song he wrote called Ascending."
Beth Kleid (March 2, 1990 - L.A. Times)

"As reported on Channel 4's Oracle Teletext service, American songwriter Martin Allen Fine has filed a lawsuit against Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Mike Campbell, MCA Records and Warner Bros. He claims that Petty's song Runnin' Down A Dream is identical to Ascending, a song he wrote in 1976. Allen says he gave a copy of Ascending to Jeff Lynne, who, together with Petty and Mike Campbell, wrote Runnin' [sic], and he is seeking damages from them all."
Andrew Whiteside (1990 - Face The Music fanzine #7)

"No, I do have some weird dreams, but that one [Runnin' Down A Dream] I just, uh... That was inspired really by driving. In all those years, I'd never really written a car song or one about driving. I wanted to write one about someone driving or running away in a car."
Tom Petty (1991 August 7 - Rockline)

"Mike [Campbell] remembers, 'I had a demo that was half the speed of the final record. I was playing that riff with a with a slow kind of AC/DC beat. Jeff heard it and said, 'That's a great riff but you should put a backbeat across it.' Tom and Jeff took the riff and wrote the rest of the song around it. I was delighted, I'd had that riff lying around for a long time.'"
Bill Flanagan (1995 liner notes for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Playback)

"Tom (on Runnin' Down A Dream): 'Mike Campbell played this lick on the guitar and it was about the only one of those licks left, you know. I think they've all been taken, all those. Jimmy Page got 'em all! Somebody got 'em, all those good licks and somehow Campbell played this great lick and I said: There's the one left! and so I thought: it would be fun 'cause it sounded like going real fast in a Corvette or something to me. I just wrote this story about driving down the road.'"
Patrik Guttenbacher, Marc Haines, & Alexander von Petersdorff (1996 Unexpected Messages)

"...with Shannon hanging out in the studio with Lynne, Petty, and Campbell, Runnin' Down A Dream was inspired and written around Del. With memorable lyrics 'It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down, I had the radio on, I was drivin'. The trees went by, me and Del were singing Little Runaway, I was a-flyin'....', the song featured the intensity of a heavy metal song, but with the lyrical calmness as if one was driving in a car. With Mike Campbell's searing guitar solo at the song's end, it makes one feel like they're ripping the Corvette into 4th gear and tearing it down the road and off into the Hollywood sunset."
Brian Young (circa 2000 - Rock On! The Traveling Wilburys, The Trembling Westover published on

"And we really did write a song a day and we recorded the next day. We did almost all of it. I think we did nine songs. The last one [during that session] was Runnin' Down A Dream. We wrote that around a riff Mike had. [Sings descending riff.] [...] Actually all Mike wrote was that one descending riff. Yeah [it's the engine of the song]. He had that riff, but in a different time signature. It was kind of a broken beat, much slower. I liked the lick a lot, and I'd sit around, playing it on my guitar, experimenting with it in different ways. I came to think it sounded good in a really straight beat, really fast. And I played it for Jeff, one night when he was over at my house, and he said, 'Oh, that's good. That might be one of those last riffs left.' [Laughs] So we sat down and came up with some chords. Just blocked it out. Didn't have any words. I had the lion's share of the chords. He [Jeff] may have helped me with the chorus. I remember writing the bridge and all that myself. So we had a vague tune that we kind of blocked out, and hummed it into the tape recorded. And over that weekend, I worked on it for two different afternoons. I didn't feel completely confident about it. Because I was singing in a low register. I remember saying to them, 'Do you think we should change the key?' Jeff said, 'No, no, no, it's perfect, it's perfect the way you're doing it.' Del Shannon was around. He was running around with us a little bit during that time. That's why I threw in that line: 'Me and Del were singing, Little Runaway.' I put that in for him. He was very pleased. I got a big smile from him on that. And 'Little Runaway' fit the whole concept. So that was that. The most incredible thing about that one to me, which to this day amazes me, was the solo at the end. Mike played that. There was no one there but me, Mike, and Jeff. And Mike was engineering. We were in Mike's tiny little studio in his house. Four people could barely fit in. If any more came, they had to stand in the garage. You had to pull the cars out to work. Mike was just sitting there with his head down. And that bit came, and he started to play. And he played that incredible solo. But he looked like a stone statue. He didn't ever blink or move. And he had his back to us. I remember Jeff looking around his shoulder and looking back at me, and making this face, like, 'Is he really doing this?' It was one take. One take. And he played that incredibe solo. [The song was over four minutes] because he got on that roll at the end, and he just kept playing, and I wasn't going to edit it out or fade out, because it was just so good what he was playing."
Tom Petty (November 1, 2005 - Conversations With Tom Petty)

"Of the other twelve [songs on Full Moon Fever], Jeff co-wrote seven, including the singles I Won’t Back Down, Runnin’ Down A Dream, and Free Fallin’."
John Van der Kiste (August 2015 - Jeff Lynne: Electric Light Orchestra - Before and After)

"I've always liked that song [Runnin' Down A Dream] meself."
Jeff Lynne (November 11, 2015 - radio interview on Wave 105.2 FM)

"From the edgy swagger of Running Down A Dream to the somnambulistic sway of A Face In The Crowd, through the perfect copy of The Byrds’ Feel A Whole Lot Better, Petty’s greatest commercial success was never by accident, but purely by design."
N. Rama Lohan (April 3, 2017 -

"That's how it is on Runnin' Down A Dream. There's no keyboard on that except a little chimey thing that Jeff did. "
Benmont Tench (June 12, 2017 - Sound Opinions (

"The pristine Jeff Lynne production of Full Moon Fever summed up an era in the best way. The kick and the snare were crisp as razor wire. The 12 string guitars rang out like a gorgeous wonder. Of course, Free Falling [sic] was the super smash, but Running Down A Dream [sic]... that riff, the lyric in the second verse— 'the last three days the rain was unstoppable”'is the first lyric I heard as a pre-teen that maybe made me understand what grown-up melancholy was."
Mark Ronson (October 2, 2017 - Instagram)

"Full Moon Fever, the solo album that Mr. Petty released in 1989, is his second front-to-back classic LP (the first was Damn the Torpedoes, a decade before). Several of its songs, including the pleasantly defiant I Won’t Back Down, the delightfully bizarre Runnin’ Down a Dream and a spot-on cover of the Byrds’ I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better [sic], are among his strongest work."
Simon Vozick-Levinson (October 3, 2017 - The New York Times)

"The singer behind major hits such as Free Fallin’, Refugee and Runnin’ Down a Dream passed away just one week after completing his 40th anniversary tour, according to The Guardian. [...] In 1989, Petty released his first solo album, Full Down Fever. The album included major hits I Won’t Back Down, Free Fallin’ and Runnin’ Down a Dream. [...] With its lyrics about turning up the radio and driving down the highway, Runnin’ Down a Dream is an ideal road trip song and also reflects Petty's thoughts about rock 'n' roll. 'To me, American music was all about listening in the car,' Petty told Rolling Stone. Runnin' Down a Dream is also the name of a documentary/biography released in 2007 about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers."
Lottie Elizabeth Johnson (October 3, 2017 - DeseretNews website)

"Runnin’ Down A Dream is probably my favorite of his songs. The song is about continuous travel, about a drive that after days of being grueling and overcast finally becomes a little clearer and more liberating. To me, besides my personal nostalgia for it as a travel song, it conveys a contentment and purpose in transience, and captures the feeling of what keeps a person moving towards an uncertain goal, or an elusive dream that we have to perpetually seek because it won’t quite come to us."
Julien Baker (October 4, 2017 - Stereogum online magazine)

"Runnin’ Down A Dream is probably my favorite Petty song. There are so many good ones but that one is almost sorta lighthearted and goofy in its delivery. But then he’ll hit you with a downer line like: 'I felt so good like anything was possible/ I hit cruise control and rubbed my eyes/ The last three days the rain was unstoppable/ It was always cold, no sunshine.'"
Nathan Williams [Wavves] (October 4, 2017 - Stereogum online magazine)

"Free Fallin’ was not only Petty’s biggest-selling song immediately following his passing, but also his most-streamed tune, as the song collected 530,000 streams on Oct. 2. The rest of his top five most streamed tracks that day were: Learning to Fly (436,000), Runnin’ Down a Dream (391,000), American Girl (385,000) and Mary Jane’s Last Dance (385,000)."
Kevin Caulfield (October 4, 2017 - Billboard)

"Campbell... laid down the insistent riff that propels Runnin’ Down a Dream. That song’s journey toward being history’s most chilled-out jock jam rides on Campbell’s blistering skill, both on the song’s signature riff and on the pyrotechnic playing that closes it out. Petty’s meditative, rueful vocal acts as a knowing counterpoint, its descriptions of frantically driving around in search of 'somethin’ good waitin’ down this road' winds around Campbell’s forward momentum."
Sam Sodomsky (October 5, 2017 - Pitchforkcom)

"In 1989, Petty collaborated with Lynne and came out with his first solo album, Full Moon Fever that featured classics like Free Fallin', I Won't Back Down and Runnin' Down A Dream."
Bulbul Sharma (October 7, 2017 - The Sunday Guardian)

"Some of [Tom Petty's] other best hits include Mary Jane’s Last Dance, Learning To Fly, and Runnin’ Down A Dream."
Nicole Johnson (October 9, 2017 - University of Denver's The Clarion)

"Running Down A Dream [sic], I Won’t Back Down,” and Free Fallin', remain radio staples to this day."
David Farr (October 12, 2017 - Sturgis Journal)

"[Runnin' Down A Dream is #6 of Tom Petty's top 50 songs.] Full Moon Fever was released as a Petty solo album, but every Heartbreaker (with the exception of drummer Stan Lynch) played on it. Runnin' Down A Dream, the album's propulsive rocker, was built around a heavy riff from Mike Campbell, originally written in a different time signature. Petty straigtened it out and took it to producer Jeff Lynne, Campbell also played the song's guitar solo (a combination of searing held notes and frenetic shredding), nailing it in one take. Petty gave the hard-charging vivid lyrics about the freedom of flying down the highway, which spoke to his deepest feelings about the meaning of rock 'n' roll. 'To me, American music was all about listening in the car,' he said. The line 'me and Del were singing Little Runaway' was a friendly salute to his new pal Del Shannon, who had a Number One hit in 1961 with Runaway, a song Petty had grown up loving as a kid in Florida."
Unknown (October, 2017 - Rolling Stone's Tom Petty: The Ultimate Guide)

"Featuring Free Fallin', Runnin' Down A Dream and I Won't Back Down, Full Moon Fever is perhaps the album most closely associated with Petty's enduring sound today. In fact, during the 2008 Super Bown halftime show performance, three-quarters of the songs performed were from this 1989 project. [...] Toward the end of the '80's, music video trends had shifted toward including big name stars and clever special effects, so naturally, Petty decided to create an animated music video [for Runnin' Down A Dream] based on the illustration style of Winsor McCay, the cartoonist who created the comic strip Little Nemo In Slumberland. His decision to eschew the style of the time in favor of a more whimsical music video was a good one-- the video's more dreamlike quality is unforgettable, playfully reflecting the song's free-spirited lyrics."
Unknown (late 2017 - Tom Petty Newsweek Special Commorative Edition)

"The simply constructed but firm rocking songs send visions of open highways and open-top cars to fill the senses with freedom, as we follow the simplest of guitar riffs and are taken deeper into his world, Runnin’ Down A Dream the fine example of his ability to build pictures of perfect settings in the listeners mind; 'It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down I had the radio on, I was drivin''"
Kevin Burke (October 7, 2018 - GoldenPlec Golden Vauld #93)

"In one of the all-time examples of record company denseness, MCA was less than overwhelmed with the early results of the sessions. 'What was interesting is that, after seven or eight songs, they took it to the record company and they (MCA) said, Oh, I don’t know, I don’t really hear a single, [Phil] Jones marvels. 'They stopped for a while, and then they had to go back and do three or four more songs. On the first grouping of songs, I Won’t Back Down, Running\' Down A Dream and Free Fallin’ were all in there. And the record company, in their infinite wisdom, said, I don’t know if we want to put this out.' [...] [Jones continued,] 'When they (Petty & The Heartbreakers) did the Super Bowl, where you get four songs, they did Free Fallin', Runnin' Down A Dream, I Won’t Back Down as three of them. That should tell you something.'"
Jim Beviglia (November 18, 2018 - American Songwriter)

"Not only had the record started out with the title Songs From the Garage, it also faced the wrath of a record label that didn’t hear any singles – even though the songs Free Fallin’, I Won’t Back Down and Runnin’ Down a Dream were part of the track listing. [...] When Full Moon Fever was finally released, it reached No. 3 in the album chart and became the 19th best-selling LP of 1989, while Free Fallin’ went to No. 7, I Won’t Back Down hit No. 12 and Runnin’ Down a Dream reached No. 23."
Martin Kielty (April 22, 2019 - Ultimate Classic Rock online magazine)

"Petty showcased his prowess on his solo debut, Full Moon Fever, an album that contained several of his most iconic tracks, including I Won’t Back Down, Runnin’ Down A Dream and Free Fallin', which remain rock radio staples even 30 years later. "
Wyoming Reynolds (July 2, 2019 - website)

  • Running Time: 4:25
  • Record Date: 1988 or 1989
  • Record Location: MC Studios (Mike Campbell's garage), Los Angeles, California, USA and Rumbo Recorders, Canoga Park, California, USA or Sunset Sound, Hollywood, California, USA or Devonshire Studios, Los Angeles, California, USA or Conway Studios, Hollywood, California, USA or Sound City Studios, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Written By: Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, & Mike Campbell
  • Produced By: Jeff Lynne w/ Tom Petty & Mike Campbell
  • Engineered By: Mike Campbell, Don Smith and Bill Bottrell
  • Performed By: Tom Petty (lead vocals, background vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitars, 6 & 12 string guitars, keyboards, tamborine), Mike Campbell (guitar, mandolin, bass, slide guitar, keyboards), Jeff Lynne (bass, guitar, keyboards, background vocals), Phil Jones (drums, percussion)

  • Released On:
    • Full Moon Fever LP album (1989 April 24 — USA — MCA MCA 6253)
    • Full Moon Fever CD album (1989 April 24 — USA — MCA MCAD 6253)
    • Full Moon Fever LP album (1989 — UK — MCA MCG 6034)
    • Full Moon Fever CD album (1989 — UK — MCA DMCG 6034)
    • Runnin' Down A Dream 7" single (1989 — UK — MCA MCA 1359)
    • Runnin' Down A Dream 7" single with pictures (1989 — UK — MCAB 1359)
    • Runnin' Down A Dream 12" single (1989 — UK — MCAT 1359)
    • Runnin' Down A Dream CD single (1989 — UK — MCA DMCAT 1359)
    • Runnin' Down A Dream 7" single (1989 July 18 — USA — MCA MCA-53682)
    • Runnin' Down A Dream cassette single (1989 July 18 — USA — MCA MCAC-53682)
    • Runnin' Down A Dream CD promo single (1989 July 18 — USA — MCA CD-45-17938)
    • Full Moon Fever - The Videos VHS videotape (1990 — UK — MCA MCV 9006)
    • Full Moon Fever - The Videos VHS videotape (1990 — USA — MCA Music Video MCAV-85500)
    • Full Moon Fever - The Videos laserdisc (1992 — USA — Pioneer PA-92-454)
    • 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)
    • Playback VHS videotape (1995 November 20 — USA — MCA 008811136734)
    • Full Moon Fever gold CD album (1998 — USA — Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDCD 735)
    • 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)
    • Playback DVD (2000 December 12 — USA — MCA 088 111 367-9)
    • Playback DVD (2001 July 23 — UK — Universal Island 1113679)
    • Greatest Hits CD album (2008 May 20 — USA — Geffen B001032702)
    • Full Moon Fever digital album (2008 May 22 — Worldwide — MCA 076732625323)
    • Greatest Hits CD album (2008 June 2 — UK — Universal 1774395)
    • Guitar Hero 5 Playstation 2 game (2009 September 1 — USA — Activision ?)
    • Guitar Hero 5 Playstation 3 game (2009 September 1 — USA — Activision ?)
    • Guitar Hero 5 XBox 360 game (2009 September 1 — USA — Activision ?)
    • Guitar Hero 5 Wii game (2009 September 1 — UK — Activision ?)
    • Guitar Hero 5 Playstation 2 game (2009 September 11 — UK — Activision ?)
    • Guitar Hero 5 Playstation 3 game (2009 September 11 — UK — Activision ?)
    • Guitar Hero 5 XBox 360 game (2009 September 11 — UK — Activision ?)
    • Guitar Hero 5 Wii game (2009 September 11 — UK — Activision ?)
    • Full Moon Fever digital album (2015 April 7 — Worldwide — Geffen 602547255150)
    • The Complete Studio Albums Volume 1 (1976-1991) LP box set album (2016 December 9 — Worldwide — Universal Music Enterprises 00602547952158)
    • Full Moon Fever LP album (2017 June 2 — Worldwide — UME B0024291-01)
    • Greatest Hits digital album (2018 November 23 — USA — Geffen 602577174421)
    • 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)
    • Full Moon Fever LP album (2021 February — Worldwide — Geffen/UM 80024291-01)

  • Top UK Chart Position: 55
  • Top US Chart Position: 23

  • Used in the Film or TV Program:
    • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004) [Video game only]
    • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin' Down a Dream (2007)
    • Larry Crowne (2011)
    • NOVA episode S46E17 entitled Rise Of The Mammals (10/2019)

  • Cover Versions:
    • Against Me! during live performances (2017)
    • The Dirty Knobs during live performances (2018)