Mike Campbell Gets Candid About Why Tom Petty Passed on ‘The Boys of Summer’

When speaking on Brian Koppleman’s The Moment podcast, the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers guitarist admits he has always felt terrible his bandmate didn’t record his 1984 hit song.

AceShowbizTom Petty‘s longtime sideman Mike Campbell will always regret not going back to the Free Fallin’ singer after completing his “The Boys of Summer” demo, because he wanted his bandmate to have the biggest hit of 1984.

The guitarist created the tune and played a rough early demo to Petty and record label boss Jimmy Iovine, who passed on the track because it sounded too jazzy.

Convinced he had something special, Campbell made some alterations and, at Iovine’s suggestion, offered the tune to Eagles star Don Henley, who was working on the music that would make up his hit solo album “Building the Perfect Beast”.

Speaking on Brian Koppelman’s “The Moment” podcast, Campbell said he was crestfallen when Petty seemed underwhelmed by the track: “In Tom’s defence, when I got to the chorus, I went to a different chord…,” Campbell said. “He heard a slightly inferior version, and I remember when it went by, we were kind of grooving to it, and it got to that chord and Jimmy Iovine goes, ‘Eh, it sounds like jazz’… I was completely deflated.”

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Campbell felt sure Petty was “probably fed up” with the song and was busy working on his own music, and so when the idea to offer the song to Henley came up, he didn’t hesitate and they set up a meeting.

“It was just me and him,” Campbell added. “We sat at a big table. He sat at the other end like the judge, totally quiet and didn’t bat an eye – just listened with his eyes closed. And then he said, ‘OK, maybe I can do something with that.’ “

Weeks later, Campbell received a call from the Eagles star: “He’s like, ‘Oh, I just wrote the best song of my life to your music,’ ” Campbell recalls.

Campbell and Henley then hit the studio together and recorded what was to become a monster hit around the world, but the guitarist has always felt terrible Petty didn’t record “The Boys of Summer”.

He also recalled the song coming on the radio while he and Petty were working on new music for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers album “Southern Accents”, prompting his bandmate to note, “Boy, you know, you were really lucky with that. I wish I would have had the presence of mind to not let that get away.’ “

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