Full Moon Fever

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Full Moon Fever
Studio album by Tom Petty
Released April 24, 1989
Recorded 1988–89 at M.C. Studios, Rumbo Studios, Sunset Sound, Devonshire Studios, Conway Studios and Sound City Studios
Genre Heartland rock, rock & roll
Length 39:58
Label MCA, Universal
Producer Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Mike Campbell
Tom Petty chronology
Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)
Full Moon Fever
Into the Great Wide Open
Singles from Full Moon Fever
  1. "I Won't Back Down"
    Released: April 1989
  2. "Runnin' Down a Dream"
    Released: July 29, 1989
  3. "Free Fallin'"
    Released: October 27, 1989
  4. "A Face in the Crowd"
    Released: March 3, 1990
  5. "Yer So Bad"
    Released: 1990

Full Moon Fever is the first solo album by Tom Petty, though it features contributions from members of his backing band the Heartbreakers, notably Mike Campbell, along with Roy Orbison and George Harrison - who would later join Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Bob Dylan in the Traveling Wilburys.[1][2] The record shows Petty exploring his musical roots with nods to his influences.[3] The songwriting is mainly collaborations between Petty and Lynne, who was also a producer on the album. The album became a commercial and critical success peaking at Number 3 on the Billboard 200 and being certified 5× platinum in the United States and 6× platinum in Canada.[4][5][6]

Background and recording[edit]

Petty had just finished a Heartbreakers tour behind the album Let Me Up (I've Had Enough) when he decided to record a solo album without the Heartbreakers (Similar to the arrangement between Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band at the time).[1] This stirred some controversy among members of the Heartbreakers, although all but drummer Stan Lynch contributed to the album.[1] The recording process was a low-key affair, with many of Petty's friends contributing, including the members of the Traveling Wilburys, minus Bob Dylan.[1] Recorded mainly in the relaxed atmosphere of Mike Campbell's garage studio, Petty would later say it was the most enjoyable record he had ever worked on.[7] According to Rolling Stone, it was these sessions that led to the formation of the Travelling Wilburys; recording of Full Moon Fever was actually interrupted to allow time for recording of the first Wilbury's album. A few songs were recorded during the sessions that did not make Full Moon Fever; "Down the Line" and "Don't Treat Me Like A Stranger" were among them, released as b-sides. "Traveling" and "Waiting for Tonight" were released on Playback, with the former featuring all the Heartbreakers including Stan Lynch, and the latter featuring The Bangles. During the sessions, Petty wrote "Indiana Girl," an early draft of what would eventually become "Mary Jane's Last Dance". When playing the songs live, initially, Benmont Tench and Howie Epstein weren't happy about it. Stan Lynch hated it right up until his departure from the band, saying he felt he was in a cover band.

Musical style and themes[edit]

The album is noted for being heavily influenced by Jeff Lynne, resulting in a cleaner and glossier version of the Heartbreakers roots rock from previous albums.[1][2] Lynne incorporated layers of keyboards and backing vocals, giving it a Beatlesque feel.[1][2] The songs show Petty paying dues to his influences with a Byrds cover ("I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better") and a nod to Del Shannon in "Runnin' Down a Dream." Other songs, such as "Free Fallin'", show Petty addressing nostalgia on his rise to fame. "A Mind With A Heart Of Its Own" uses the Bo Diddley Beat.[3]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars [2]
BBC Music (favorable)[3]
Blender 4/5 stars [8]
Robert Christgau B+ [9]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars [1]

The album, which became Petty's commercial peak as an artist, was helped by favorable critical reviews and three hit singles.[10] The album was released on April 24, 1989 and rose to eventually peak at #3 on the Billboard 200 and #8 in the UK.[4] Five singles were released from the album; two hit the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 and three topped the Mainstream Rock chart.[11] The RIAA certified Full Moon Fever 5x platinum on October 5, 2000 and the CRIA certified it 6x platinum on September 18, 1991.[5][6]

Critical praise was generally high, with Allmusic giving the album 4 and a half stars, admiring the craft of the album and rivaling it with the Heartbreakers' Damn the Torpedoes.[2] This review notes there are no weak tracks on the album, calling it a "minor masterpiece."[2] The original Rolling Stone review compared the album favorably to the Traveling Wilburys' first album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, saying it has the "same restless charm," but commenting that the album, at times, seems "sprawling."[1] The review claims the album is "another rewarding, low-key side project for Petty," giving it three and a half stars out of five.[1] A later Rolling Stone biographer claims Full Moon Fever was a "masterful solo album."[12] It was ranked #92 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 best albums of the 1980s.[7]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, except as indicated.[2]

  1. "Free Fallin'" – 4:14
  2. "I Won't Back Down" – 2:56
  3. "Love Is a Long Road" (Mike Campbell, Petty) – 4:06
  4. "A Face in the Crowd" – 3:58
  5. "Runnin' Down a Dream" (Campbell, Lynne, Petty) – 4:23
  6. "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better" (Gene Clark) – 2:47
  7. "Yer So Bad" – 3:05
  8. "Depending on You" (Petty) – 2:47
  9. "The Apartment Song" (Petty) – 2:31
  10. "Alright for Now" (Petty) – 2:00
  11. "A Mind with a Heart of Its Own" – 3:29
  12. "Zombie Zoo" – 2:56
  • The CD release of the album contains a hidden track at the end of track 5 ("Runnin' Down a Dream"). The interlude, which is referred to in the album credits as "Attention CD Listeners", features a brief tongue-in-cheek monologue by Petty, over a background of barnyard noises made by Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Del Shannon. The hidden track is not provided on vinyl pressings or cassette copies.


Additional personnel[edit]

  • George Harrison: acoustic guitar and backing vocals on "I Won't Back Down"
  • Jim Keltner: drums, maracas and tambourine on "Love Is a Long Road"
  • Howie Epstein: backing vocals on "I Won't Back Down" and "Love Is a Long Road"
  • Benmont Tench: piano on "The Apartment Song"
  • Roy Orbison: backing vocals on "Zombie Zoo"
  • Kelsey Campbell: backing vocals on "Zombie Zoo"
  • Alan Weidel, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty: hand claps on "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better"
  • Del Shannon: barnyard noises in the "Hello, CD listeners…" interlude


  • Produced by Jeff Lynne with Tom Petty and Mike Campbell
  • Engineers: Mike Campbell, Don Smith, Bill Bottrell, and Dennis Kirk on "Love Is a Long Road"
  • Assistant engineer: Alan "Bugs" Weidel
  • Mastered by Steve Hall



Year Chart Position[4]
1989 Billboard 200 3


Year Single Billboard[11]
Hot 100 Mainstream
Rock Tracks
Rock Tracks
1989 "I Won't Back Down" 12 1 29
"Runnin' Down a Dream" 23 1
"Free Fallin'" 7 1 17
"Feel a Whole Lot Better" 18
"Love Is a Long Road" 7
1990 "A Face in the Crowd" 46 5
"Yer So Bad" 5


Organization Level[5] Date
RIAA – U.S. Gold June 23, 1989
RIAA – U.S. Platinum July 21, 1989
RIAA – U.S. 2x Platinum November 9, 1989
RIAA – U.S. 3x Platinum March 13, 1990
RIAA – U.S. 4x Platinum August 14, 1997
RIAA – U.S. 5x Platinum October 5, 2000


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Guterman, Jimmy (1989-05-04). "Full Moon Fever". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Full Moon Fever - Tom Petty". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  3. ^ a b c Jones, Chris (2009-01-09). "Review of Tom Petty - Full Moon Fever". BBC. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  4. ^ a b c "Allmusic Chart History Albums". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  5. ^ a b c "RIAA Searchable Database". RIAA. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  6. ^ a b "CRIA Searchable Database". CRIA. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  7. ^ a b The Editors (1989-11-16). "The 100 Best Albums of the 1980's". Rolling Stone (565). 
  8. ^ Blender Review[dead link]
  9. ^ Robert Christgau Review
  10. ^ "Allmusic Tom Petty Bio". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-04-29. 
  11. ^ a b "Allmusic Chart History Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  12. ^ "Rolling Stone Bio". Rolling Stone magazine. Retrieved 2009-04-29.