You Don't Know How It Feels

Album: Wildflowers (1994)
Charted: 13

Songfacts®:

  • "You don't know how it feels to be me" is something many of us have said to seek empathy for our burdens. Typical of Petty's songwriting, the lyric is couched in ambiguity, which could be the point: We don't know how it feels to be him, so how can we possibly know what the song is about? It's certainly not entirely autobiographical, at least literally, as Petty's father was not born to rock - he was leery of his son's career in music.
  • We'll get to the point: marijuana had a little something to do with this song. Here's what Petty said about it on his VH1 Storytellers special:

    "Every blue moon or so, I might have a toke on somebody's... cigarette. It's an OK way to live your life, but it's not to be advised. I'm not going to say it's good or bad.

    But I wrote this song a while back and I was trying to do this character in the song who was kind of down and looking for some company. And instead of having him say, 'Let's have another beer' - they always have to have that in the song - I thought this guy should roll another joint."
  • The lyrics say, "Let's roll another joint," but a version was distributed to radio stations with that line changed to "Let's hit another joint," which is odd because hitting a joint seems worse than rolling one. This version was also cut down to 4:12 from 4:49.
  • The video was directed by Phil Joanou. It's one continuous shot, with the camera revolving around a microphone as all kinds of crazy stuff happens in the background, including a circus act and a bank robbery.
  • Tom Petty was one of MTV's biggest stars, but they wouldn't play the video as delivered because of the drug reference (sex and violence were generally OK on the network, but they were very sensitive about drugs). When the video aired, the word "joint" was reversed so it came out sounding like "noojh." Apparently, MTV made this edit themselves. Petty said on Storytellers:

    "The strangest thing happened. I wrote this song not thinking that it was controversial in any way and I nearly left this song off the album 'til the very end, and we put it on. Imagine my surprise when this song comes on television and they say, 'Let's roll another noojh,' which sounded worse to me than joint. Because, I don't know if you've ever had a noojh, but it sounds really wicked."

    Perhaps to atone, MTV awarded it Best Male Video at the VMAs.
  • This won a Grammy in 1995 for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Scott - Bismarck, ND
  • The band performed this on Saturday Night Live when they were the musical guests November 19, 1994. Their drummer, Stan Lynch, had left the band, so Dave Grohl, who had not yet formed Foo Fighters, sat in for the performance. Steve Ferrone got the gig as Heartbreakers drummer a short time later.

Comments: 15

  • Susan from IllinoisJanet and Fawn (and everyone who is reading) the drug reference could not be aired so joint is heard as to toinj. The t and j are switched so the weird word still rhymes with point. Well.. not anymore! Weed is being legalized all over the USA. I hear this song on the radio with the original lyrics of “let’s roll another joint”.
  • Mike from CaliforniaJade: Do you mean the Mary Badham who played Scout in the original "To Kill A Mockingbird" film with Gregory Peck? I think you might be mistaken. No where else on the Internet does it say she had anything to do with Tom Petty. And she certainly doesn't look like the typical 60s/70s starf--ker/groupie chick.
  • Eb from Fl KeysIs the woman in the video Caroline "Tula" Cossey? Great song and video. TP & the Heartbreakers really have the best, most creative videos.
  • Brian from Wilton, CaThe mystery woman's name is Raven Snow. She also appeared in several episodes of Zalman King's Red Shoe Diaries but her best appearance is in Delta of Venus as the sexy lounge singer Leila.
  • Matt from Las Vegas, NvThis song speaks to me after what happened today. I get rejected and turned down by a lot of chicks.
  • Clubber Lange from Ocean Gate, NjIll go out w/ you Madalyn....
  • Tony from Chicago, IlThis is my favorite Song! I feel that this is the one song I can most relate to, especially the line" there's someone I used to see but she don't give a damn for me," this song deserved the grammy it won, and i admire the fact that Tom Petty did not actually attend the grammy's when he won. Bottom Line My favorite song from my favorite album, made by my favorite rock band!!!!!
  • Jeff from Colorado Springs, CoDude, it is definitely a woman.
  • Mike from Litchfield, Mndude, in the video, the woman that takes the mic for a few moments, was that a man or a woman?
  • Fawn from Pjs, NyJanet is correct. For the music video the word "tnioj" (joint played backwards) was used instead. This information was came up when the song was on VH1's pop-up videos.
  • Madalyn from Greensburg, Patom petty is awesome i realte to this song alot because i'm turned down by a lot of guys...
  • Janet from Silver Spring, MdSorry, Matthew and Liane! I suggest you listen to the video a bit more carefully. Tom is NOT saying "Let's hit another joint". He actually is saying "Let's roll another tnioj" (the "t" is barely audible, though). Indeed, MTV told him that "joint" would cause backlash, so Tom merely says "joint" backwards.
  • Liane from Reading, PaI believe the "HIT another joint" lyric change was made because it could mean go to another place.
  • Stephanie from Denver, Co That's true. Mary and Tom had an on again off again relationship for 20 years until 1993. It was very violent I heard.
    Of course she had relationships with Sting, Iggy Pop, a one night stand with Jim Morrison, a long relationship with Jimmy Page and Mick Jagger.
  • Jade from Chippewa Falls, Wi In the song he writes, 'There's someone I used to see, but she don't give a damn for me' he is referring to Mary Badham. After a week, she refused to see him. She reportedly said, 'I don't give a damn for you, Tom' and slammed the door in his face.
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