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Runnin' Down a Dream

"Runnin' Down a Dream"
Single by Tom Petty
from the album Full Moon Fever
B-side "Alright For Now"
"Down the Line" (12" & CD only)
Released July 29, 1989
Format 7", cassette,
12" & CD (UK only)
Recorded 1988
Genre Heartland rock, hard rock
Length 4:25
Label MCA
Writer(s) Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Mike Campbell
Producer(s) Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Mike Campbell
Tom Petty singles chronology
"I Won't Back Down"
"Runnin' Down a Dream"
"Free Fallin'"
Full Moon Fever track listing

"Runnin' Down a Dream" is a song co-written and recorded by Tom Petty. It was released in July 1989 as the second single from his first solo album Full Moon Fever. "Runnin' Down a Dream" achieved reasonable chart success, reaching number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the top of the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart.[1] It has since garnered significant airplay on classic rock stations, and lent its name to the 2007 documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.


  • Lyrics and music 1
  • Music video 2
  • In popular culture 3
  • Cover versions 4
  • Charts 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Lyrics and music

The song was co-written by Mike Campbell, along with Petty and Jeff Lynne. It was a nod to Petty's musical roots, with the lyric "me and Del were singin' 'Little Runaway'" making reference to Del Shannon and "Runaway".

The song uses E major as a tonic, but makes ample use of chords outside that key, such as D, G, and C major chords. Some passages (including the extended outro) use a pedal point of E in the bass, while changing chords from E major to C and D major chords above it. The repeating fuzz guitar riff, using the notes B, B♭, A, G, and E, lacks only a D to complete the hexatonic E blues scale.[2]

Music video

The music video for "Runnin' Down a Dream", directed by Jim Lenahan, featured animation, based on several episodes of the classic comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay, featuring a drawing style reminiscent of McCay's and showing Petty and a character who resembles Flip travelling through Slumberland. The 1933 film King Kong is also briefly referenced when Petty, atop the Chrysler Building, attempts to swat at attacking oversized mosquitoes, much like Kong swatting at the biplanes in the film.

In popular culture

It was used on the soundtrack for the videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and was the official theme song of the 2006 NBA Finals as well as the 2008 NBA Finals. The song was also used by ABC in the 2010 NBA Finals when the presentation of the game reached the end of the third quarter and was phased out into a commercial break. The song is playable in Guitar Hero 5 and was released as downloadable content for Rock Band 2; in Guitar Hero 5 the master track is used.[3] It closed Petty and the Heartbreakers' performance at the February 2008 Super Bowl XLII Halftime Show,[4] encoda'ed with a long Mike Campbell guitar solo.[4] The next morning, following the Patriots loss to the Giants, which ended their chance at perfection, the song was used during Super Bowl highlights on ESPN. It was also used in promotional segments of the 2008 MLB World Series. In 2011, the song was included in Tom Hanks's film Larry Crowne and on its soundtrack.[5]

Cover versions

Horror punk/metal artist Wednesday 13 covered the song on his Bloodwork EP.

In their 2013 summer tour, Dave Matthews Band covered the song.[6]


Chart (1989) Peak
U.S. Billboard Album Rock Tracks 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 23
Canadian RPM Top Singles 23
UK Singles Chart 55
Australia (ARIA Singles Chart)[7] 68


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 490.
  2. ^ Tom Petty, Full Moon Fever (songbook) C.P.P. Belwin, Inc.; First Edition (1989) AISN: B0013GBQB2
  3. ^ Vince Darcangelo (2006-06-22). "B-ball blues".  
  4. ^ a b Ann Donahue (2008-02-03). "Super Bowl XLII Halftime Recap".  
  5. ^ "iTunes Store". Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  6. ^ Video on YouTube
  7. ^ "25 Years Ago This Week: September 10, 1989". Retrieved September 24, 2015. 

External links

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