Runnin' Down A Dream

Album: Full Moon Fever (1989)
Charted: 55 23
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • In this song, Petty sings about driving into the great wide open, with nothing but glorious possibility in his path.

    Petty started running down his dream of being a rocker in 1961 when he met Elvis Presley. Petty, 11 years old, came to the Ocala, Florida set where Elvis was working on the film Follow That Dream - a title Tom took to heart. In a brief encounter, Petty saw how Elvis captivated onlookers and made the girls go crazy. Petty became fascinated with Elvis and set out to follow his path.
  • The animated video was inspired by a comic strip called Little Nemo In Slumberland by Winsor McKay. Each strip told the story of one of Nemo's dreams, and at the end, he always woke up.
  • Full Moon Fever was listed as a Tom Petty solo album even though members of The Heartbreakers played on it. Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne also played on it.
  • Heartbreakers' guitarist Mike Campbell wrote this with Petty and Jeff Lynne. The three of them worked on the album at Campbell's house. Petty and Campbell were very impressed with Lynne's production techniques, and learned a lot from the experience. Campbell gave us an example of Lynne's style: "We'd put the mics up on the drums, and he'd walk out and take the microphone over the drum and he'd turn it away from the drum facing the corner, and he'd go 'OK, record it like that.' Sure enough, 99% of the time he'd be right. We'd go, 'Yes sir, Mr. Lynne.' We learned so much from him about arrangements and countermelodies and all kinds of stuff." (Check out our interview with Mike Campbell.)
  • The line, "Me and Del were singin,' little 'Runaway'" is a reference to the 1961 Del Shannon hit "Runaway." Shannon is credited on the album for "barnyard noises," which can be heard just after this song ends on the album. Under the animal noises, Petty says, "Hello CD listeners. We have come to the point in this album where those listening on cassettes or records will have to stand - up or sit down - and turn over the record or tape. In fairness to those listeners, we will now take a few seconds before we begin Side 2. Thank you, and here is Side 2."

    Those noises were made by Shannon and Jeff Lynne; Petty used them as an interlude to mark the middle of the album, because you don't have to flip over a CD. This section was included only on CD versions of Full Moon Fever, but survived the transition when the album was released digitally.
  • In 2007, the documentary Runnin' Down A Dream was released. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, the film chronicles the career of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played this at the halftime show of the Super Bowl in 2008. Rather than the usual medley of hits, the band played four full songs, the others being "American Girl," "I Won't Back Down" and "Free Fallin'."
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 16

  • Peter from Davenport,flWhy is this song not included in the "Songs with Animated Videos" category? [got that added, thx. -editor]
  • Michelle from UkA great track. I believe it's about chasing your dreams. But when my dog's asleep and he's dreaming, his legs start running. I always say to people he's "Runnin' Down A Dream." This song never gets old.
  • Eric from Rhinelander, WiThis song appears to be about a man running down a dream that constantly eludes him.
  • Carli from Pheonix, AzI would LOVE listening to this driving fast on the freeway, in GTA of course. Great song!
  • Thomas from Somerville, AlI don't know about best song ever but, it is definately a Petty classic..as is just about everything the man ever wrote, sang, performed.
  • Ben from Gosford, AustraliaI loved this song when I first heard it back in 1989 as a 4 year-old, and I still think it's a great song. It's just waiting to be used for a montage in a road-trip movie. The guitar solo at the end is awesome too!
  • Kevin from Memphis , TnYou can't any better than this live.
  • Darrell from EugeneI have an amusing anecdote to tell about this song: I was driving from Portland to Eugene (both Oregon) in my Alfa Romeo 164 with my lovely lady Serena when "Runnin' Down a Dream" by Tom Petty came on, and Serena started to sing along, not to "Runnin' Down a Dream", but to Del Shannon's legendary hit "Little Runaway". I was shocked that she knew that song, especially considering that most ladies in their twenties are (sadly) into kiddie pop and rap.
  • Evil Joe from Suffragette City, CoGTA games usually pick good songs for their classic rock radio stations. I read somewhere that they won't be using popular songs for GTA 4.

    Great song, by the way. I remember seeing the music video when I was younger. I also went to a Tom Petty concert a few years back in the middle of a desert. It was awesome.
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaWow I must say Tom Petty's best song ever. Wow it's in GTA San Andreas!?! That suprises me!
  • Amay from Edison, NjOne of the best solos ever is in this song.
  • Steve from Oakland, CaLove it on GTA san andreas
  • Blair from Peterborough, CanadaDel Shannon worked on this Album.
  • Danny from Sydney, Australiadamn this is a good song
  • Caitlin from Sailsbury, Nci love tom petty
  • AndrÃ?s from Baton Rouge, LaThe lyrics mention "Del" and "Little Runaway". This is a reference to Del Shannon and his popular song, Runaway.

    Also, an instrumental version of this song was used on ESPN commercials for Sunday Night Baseball.
see more comments

Alan Merrill of The ArrowsSongwriter Interviews

In her days with The Runaways, Joan Jett saw The Arrows perform "I Love Rock And Roll," which Alan Merrill co-wrote - that story and much more from this glam rock pioneer.

Stephen Christian of AnberlinSongwriter Interviews

The lead singer/lyricist for Anberlin breaks down "Impossible" and covers some tracks from their 2012 album Vital.

Janis Ian: Married in London, but not in New YorkSong Writing

Can you be married in one country but not another? Only if you're part of a gay couple. One of the first famous singers to come out as a lesbian, Janis wrote a song about it.

The PoliceFact or Fiction

Do their first three albums have French titles? Is "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" really meaningless? See if you can tell in this Fact or Fiction.

Second Wind SongsSong Writing

Some songs get a second life when they find a new audience through a movie, commercial, TV show, or even the Internet.

Lip-Synch RebelsSong Writing

What happens when Kurt Cobain, Iron Maiden and Johnny Lydon are told to lip-synch? Some hilarious "performances."