This song about a guy who perseveres in fighting for his chance was released as the first single off Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' Hypnotic Eye album. Speaking with Rolling Stone, Petty admitted the song was a tough sell, as after playing it for the rest of the band their initial reaction was silence. "I said, 'Listen, I think we have something here, but we're going to have to get excited about it,'" he said.
Eventually, Petty added laughing, the Heartbreakers admitted they loved the song, but he had to drag the affirmation out of them.
The song is laden with fuzz and distortion. Guitarist Mike Campbell
magazine: "It was Tom's idea to have fuzz bass on that song. He wanted it real spare and just to have this really ugly fuzz bass going on, which we've never really done. That was the inspiration for the whole approach to that."
Petty sings here of the vanishing American dream:
Well, my mama so sad
Daddy's just mad
'Cause I ain't gonna have the chance he had
My success is anybody's guess
But like a fool, I'm bettin' on happiness
"It's strange," Petty told The Sun. "The economy crashed because, aside from some very crooked people, you had Americans believing they could live way beyond what they could afford through loans."
"That wouldn't have happened decades back, so it's part of my thinking," he added. "The guy in this song has decided to dream big, because there's nothing left for him to do. He has nothing."
Hypnotic Eye debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200. It was Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers' first chart-topper and it arrived atop the summit 37 years after they first appeared on the tally in September 1977 with their self-titled debut album.