Out in the Cold

Album: Into the Great Wide Open (1991)

Songfacts®:

  • This rocker finds Petty without direction, both in body and spirit, as he's tormented by a girl. There are some very literal images, so it seems he really is out in the cold weather. But there is also some metaphor that leads us to believe that the tables have turned on his relationship, and he doesn't know how to handle it:

    Did I just fall from your arms
    Down into your hands?
  • "Out in the Cold" was originally released in 1991 on the album Into the Great Wide Open. Though the single hit #1 on the US Modern Rock charts and "Learning To Fly," from the same album, also topped that chart, the album didn't have nearly as much success as Petty's previous effort, Full Moon Fever. Tom Petty commented on on this song with respect to the album's success, "'Out in the Cold' was never something that I was particularly knocked out with. It was fun, but I was always annoyed that there were two songs that got played all the time on the radio in LA, 'Out in the Cold' and 'Making Some Noise,' which I thought were the lesser songs of the album, really."

    With respectable rankings on the album charts, #3 in the UK and #13 in the US, the album still garnered enough support to go platinum in the US by 1992 and double platinum in October 2000.
  • Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty had been collaborating for years before they penned "Out in the Cold." Lynne, best known for his work with his band ELO, and Petty were founding members of the short-lived supergroup, The Traveling Wilburys, with friends Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Bob Dylan. In 1989, after their short stint as Wilburys, Lynne and Petty began work on Petty's album Full Moon Fever. Petty's first solo effort was co-produced by Lynne and spawned three hit singles, "Runnin' Down A Dream," "Free Fallin'," and "I Won't Back Down," all of which were co-written by Lynne. Following the success of the album, Petty and Lynne joined up a third time to produce the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album Into the Great Wide Open, on which Lynne produced, wrote, played guitars, bass, piano, percussion, and synthesizer, and provided backing vocals and sound effects.
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers recorded Into the Great Wide Open mainly at Rumbo Recorders Studios in Canoga, California. The 10,000 square foot, 3-studio complex was designed and built in 1979 by Daryl Dragon, who was better known as the "Captain" of Captain & Tennille. The studio played host to a diverse group of recording artists throughout the '80s and '90s: Barry Manilow, Megadeth, Guns 'N Roses, Heart, Bruce Hornsby, and Stone Temple Pilots. The studio's golden days could not last forever, though. In 2003, Dragon sold the studio and it is now a social club that specializes in wedding receptions and bar mitzvahs.
  • Into the Great Wide Open was Tom Petty's last album to be recorded with MCA Records. Years of struggles between Petty and the label came to a head with the limited success of the album in 1991. The feud with MCA began in 1979 when Petty's then-label ABC Records was sold to MCA, and Petty, himself, refused to be sold without his consent. He stood his ground, but the decision forced him to file for bankruptcy later that same year. In 1981, troubles emerged again when Petty prepared to release his album Hard Promises. MCA had made the decision to release the record for the "superstar" price of $9.98 an album, $1 more than Petty's standard issue. The idea was unpopular with both the artist and fans, so MCA decided against the rate hike. By 1991, escalating tensions wore on the relationship with Petty and the label as well as his relationship with friend, producer and fellow musician, Jeff Lynne. Petty left them both behind after the release of Into the Great Wide Open and moved on to a contract with Warner Brothers Records.

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