Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Into The Great Wide Open

I’ve always liked this song and album. I saw them on this tour and it would be the only time I got to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The song is a cautionary tale about stardom and the record business. The album of the same name peaked at #13 in 1991. This was the first Heartbreakers album since Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) in 1987. Tom Petty released his solo album Full Moon Fever two years before this.

The song peaked at #4 in the Billboard Album Rock Tracks.

The video to the song was well made. Petty later commented that he was approached about making a movie out of the song. The video not only featured Johnny Depp but also Faye Dunaway.

From Songfacts

“‘Into The Great Wide Open’ had a lot of dark humor,” Tom Petty told Mojo in 2009.

The song tells the story of a guy named Eddie who moves to Los Angeles, meets a girl and becomes a rock star. On their journey, there is a struggle, but always a possibility, as the future is wide open. Eddie plays from the heart, and it pays off with a record deal and a hit. But once he’s achieved his dream, the sky is no longer the limit, as his A&R man spouts that industry cliché, “I don’t hear a single.”

Petty, who knows a thing or two about record company machinations, leaves it to the listener to decide what happens next. There’s a good chance it doesn’t go so well for Eddie.

In the music video, Johnny Depp stars as Eddie. It was directed by Julien Temple and also features Faye Dunaway as Eddie’s manager, Gabrielle Anwar as his girlfriend, and appearances by Matt LeBlanc, Terence Trent D’Arby and Chynna Phillips. As in many of his videos, Tom Petty opens the book to reveal the story. In this one, Petty also plays the roadie Bart, the tattoo artist, and the reporter.

In the video, Eddie becomes a boorish narcissist and his career tanks. Dropped by his label, he goes into the same tattoo parlor where he started and sees himself inking up a newcomer (LeBlanc).

This was the first music video in which Johnny Depp starred. He was a big deal at the time (it was after Edward Scissorhands but before What’s Eating Gilbert Grape), and Petty remarked, “I never met so many women in my life as when we had Johnny Depp in this video.”

Depp later featured in videos for Lemonheads (“It’s A Shame About Ray”), Johnny Cash (“God’s Gonna Cut You Down”) and Alice Cooper (“I’ll Bite Your Face Off”). He also played guitar on songs by a number of high-profile artists, including Oasis (“Fade In-Out”), Patti Smith (“Banga”) and Paul McCartney (“My Valentine”).

This was used in the 2013 Family Guy episode “12 and a Half Angry Men.”

Into The Great Wide Open

Eddie waited till 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

They moved into a place they both could afford
He found a nightclub he could work at the door
She had a guitar and she taught him some chords
The sky was the limit

Into the great wide open
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open
A rebel without a clue

The papers said Ed always played from the heart
He got an agent and a roadie named Bart
They made a record and it went in the charts
The sky was the limit

His leather jacket had chains that would jingle
They both met movie stars, partied and mingled
Their A&R man said “I don’t hear a single”
The future was wide open

Into the great wide open
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open
A rebel without a clue

Into the great wide open
Under them skies of blue
Into the great wide open
A rebel without a clue