The classic Tom Petty song Roger McGuinn turned down

Tom Petty

No law says every songwriter must be in love with every piece of music they create. While some masterpieces will endure, just as many tracks will impact the author similarly to their initial thoughts. These may impact the author in the same way they had initially thought while laying things down. While Tom Petty has some wonderful stuff in his back catalog, he said that this early ballad didn’t resonate with him the way other songs did.

Tom Petty appeared to be one of the numerous casualties of the music industry before he even got his start. After signing a deal with the band Mudcrutch in the mid-1970s, Petty’s band was discarded. This move was in favor of him as a songwriter, leading him to bring back key members to form The Heartbreakers.

The band’s early release date placed them in the punk era, but Tom Petty’s musical intentions diverged from the Ramones and Sex Pistols. Throughout songs like ‘Breakdown‘ and ‘American Girl,’ Petty was significantly more interested in writing songs. He aimed to create tracks that sounded like a natural development from bands like The Byrds and The Beatles.

As the band prepared to enter the studio for their second album, they were under pressure to deliver another blockbuster single. Petty mixed rockers with uptempo ballads on ‘I Need To Know‘ and ‘Listen To Her Heart’. However, the debut made minimal impact in the US.

Magnolia‘ is one of the album’s key hits, recounting the story of a doomed affair that only lasted a few nights. Although this demonstrated Petty’s talent to write an exquisite ballad, he never thought much of the song. It didn’t compare favorably to the other tracks in his backlog.

When discussing the song, Petty stated that he originally composed it for Roger McGuinn to sing after working with The Byrds. While Petty claimed to be a tremendous fan of McGuinn, when McGuinn heard the song, he immediately declined.

Years later, Petty told Paul Zollo, “That was one written and made to order for Roger McGuinn.” Because he refused, I did it. I just forced myself to write a song. They wrote it with Roger in mind. Perhaps to a fault. I did an excellent imitation of Roger. I’m not sure why he didn’t like it, but he refused to do it.”

Even if he didn’t agree with ‘Magnolia,’ McGuinn remained a fan of Petty’s. After recording his version of ‘American Girl,’ McGuinn enlisted Petty’s help again. Petty contributed to putting together McGuinn’s solo tune ‘King of the Hill,’ featured on his comeback album Back From Rio.

That didn’t stop Petty from perfecting his craft even further on Damn the Torpedoes, where he delivered even more sorrowful ballads like “Louisiana Rain.” Although Petty had his brand of heartland rock, he wouldn’t have gotten there without McGuinn vicariously teaching him the craft.

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