BMD Picks: Our Favorite Tom Petty Videos

BMD celebrates the rock legend's life by collecting our favorite clips.

Tom Petty is dead.

That's a sentence this writer never thought he would have to write. Petty was an American icon, so permeating pop culture to its core that he became near escapable on classic rock radio or in bar jukeboxes, telling us "don't come around here no more" before recalling his last waltz with a girl we've all known once during our lifetimes. His tunes were the type you could play for your parents, your girlfriend, at your cousin's wedding, or in a car while driving cross-country, Petty's croaky familiar voice seemed like a welcome home, even when you felt like a stranger in a strange land. The fact that he's gone is going to take a while to sink in, as the omnipresent nature of his numerous hits render his passing that much more surreal. 

Sadness aside, we here at BMD thought it best to celebrate this towering figure's life and work by bringing you our very favorite of his music videos -- a tough choice in and of itself, since he was such a pioneer of that form, as well. This is obviously not a comprehensive list, so make sure to chime in with your own picks down below in the comments.

You Got Lucky [1982] (from the album Long After Dark

The early days of MTV promised a new art form that would capitalize on the visual realm as well as the aural. Lots of bands failed to deliver on that promise, skating through with the bare minimum of "see the band play the song." But Tom Petty was out there doin' the damn thing from the get-go, and the Road Warrior-esque hellscape of "You Got Lucky" was a heavy-rotation favorite in late '82. Barely a year and change into MTV's inception, the video is cinematic and meta, as the Heartbreakers stumble upon a machine playing...Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers music videos. It's also an uncharacteristically synth-heavy song for the band, giving it an outlier quality that makes it that much more special. -- Phil Nobile Jr.

Don't Come Around Here No More [1985] (from the album Southern Accents)

Yesterday, when the news initially broke about Tom Petty being hospitalized, Twitter exploded with lyrics, gifs, and video links from the singer's sprawling body of work...but one video seemed to come up again and again, singled out for the creepy impact it had on a whole generation of '80s kids: "Don't Come Around Here No More."

The song, off of Petty's '85 album Southern Accents, has a pretty great backstory, which I will now lift wholesale from Wikipedia for your entertainment: 

The original inspiration was a romantic encounter that producer David A. Stewart of Eurythmics had with Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac. On The Howard Stern Show, Stewart explained that the title's phrase was actually uttered by Nicks. She had broken up with Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh the night before, and invited Stewart to her place for a party after an early Eurythmics show in Los Angeles. Stewart did not know who she was at the time, but went anyway. When the partygoers all disappeared to a bathroom for a couple of hours to snort cocaine, he decided to go upstairs to bed. He woke up at 5am to find Nicks in his room trying on Victorian clothing and described the entire scenario as very much reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. Later that morning, she told Walsh, "Don't come around here no more."

As you can see, the Alice In Wonderland portion of that anecdote has been preserved in Jeff Stein's music video for the song, which features Petty as the Mad Hatter, Wish Foley as Alice, and -- you guessed it -- Dave Stewart as the hookah-smoking Caterpillar. Reports of this video's ability to freak out a generation have not been exaggerated. It's a classic. -- Scott Wampler

Runnin' Down a Dream [1989] (from the album Full Moon Fever

Tom Petty's always struck me as a feel-good musician (even when the songs are sad, there's hope and triumph threaded throughout the lyrics), and few Petty tunes put me in as good of a mood as 89's "Runnin' Down A Dream", off Full Moon Fever

The song's a celebration of that most American of pastimes: hopping in a car with your sweetheart and hitting the road, with no particular destination in mind. Oh, you'll drive through rain and there'll be uncertainty along the way, but so what? That spirit of adventure's something we could all use a little more of, and "Runnin' Down A Dream" captures it perfectly. It's no mistake that it's a perfect road trip song.

The video, directed by Jim Lenahan, is an animated joint that borrows heavily from Winsor McCay's Little Nemo In Slumberland, and adds a welcome, hallucinogenic air to the track. In conjunction with Petty's music, the visuals are flowing and hypnotic, impossible for me not to think of every time this particular jam comes on the radio. It's just a perfect little time capsule of late '80s/Tom Petty weirdness. -- Scott Wampler

Learning to Fly [1991] (from the album Into the Great Wide Open)

A black and white marvel that illustrates how a kid chasing girls is always going to be a kid chasing girls, even after the nuclear explosion of sexuality detonates in his brain. Learning to Fly isn't flashy (what with its boxy, B&W cinematography and moments of Petty & Co. just playing atop a downed airplane) but nonetheless striking. It's debatable whether or not its half-baked notions regarding puberty and blossoming male sexuality even make any sort of linear sense, but who really cares about any of that? The song's so damn good, you could put it on repeat for your whole life. -- Jacob Knight 

Mary Jane's Last Dance [1993] (from the Heartbreakers' Greatest Hits collection) 

Tom Petty was so fucking good at his job, that when he and the Heartbreakers released their Greatest Hits collection in '93, they wrote a song that was just as good (if not better) than every other classic on the goddamn record. Let that sink in for a minute. "Mary Jane's Last Dance" is one of the most haunting rock songs ever written, a bluesy tale that bids adieu to girls, summer, drugs, and existence itself. The video -- starring Petty and Kim Basinger's cadaver -- sunk under the skin of any '90s kid who came across it, no doubt high off their own twilight bud and staring at the screen in glassy-eyed disbelief. This is how you leave a mark on the world, by proving you're better than even your own best work. -- Jacob Knight 

You Don't Know How It Feels [1994] (from the album Wildflowers)

“You Don’t Know How it Feels” and its striking video came out in '94, with Tom Petty at an age at which most musical legends would be lucky to have a hit at all, much less a popular video and one of the most respected albums of their careers. This thing was on MTV and the radio all the time back then. That driving beat, that revolving set, that chorus with the word “joint” put in reverse in a way that somehow felt endearing despite the censorship’s stupidity - it was a song and video that arrested everyone at the time and still does to this day whenever you’re lucky enough to come across it. -- Evan Saathoff