When Tom Petty started work on his debut solo album, full moon fever, he turned to George Harrison for help. The two musicians were friends and had already worked together The Traveling Wilburys. Harrison was a fan of the album and helped campaign for it. He also helped Petty improve some of the songs. Petty explained that there was a line in “I Won’t Back Down” that confused Harrison. His feedback helped shape the song into its finished form.
Tom Petty considered George Harrison one of his closest friends
Petty said that he and Harrison clicked immediately.
“I think I really needed a boyfriend,” he said in the book Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes. “My friendship with the band was a different kind of friendship. And it was frayed. I had become very lonely. George came with us and we became so close; it was like we had known each other in another life or something. We were friends within minutes of meeting each other.”
Harrison made it clear he felt the same way.
“I remember a few days after we met he said to me — he gives me a hug, he holds me and he said, ‘Tommy, you’re in my life now whether you like it or not,'” Petty explained . “It was as if I had been sent exactly the person I needed. He healed many wounds.”
Former Beatle initially confused by ‘I Won’t Back Down’
Petty explained that he wrote “I Won’t Back Down” very quickly after an arsonist burned down his house. He didn’t particularly like the song’s mantra-like quality, but it suited his experience.
“It’s so naked, without ambiguity. There was nothing but the truth,” he told Rolling Stone in 2009, per The Petty Archives. “But there was another problem. Someone had tried to kill me by setting fire to my house. I took that personally. If you survive something like that, you feel alive.”
He explained that he wrote it quickly, only changing one line at Harrison’s suggestion.
“I changed one thing,” he said. “There was a line I sang: ‘I’m standing on the edge of the world.’ When we cut the record, George Harrison was there. He played and sang on this track. And he’s like, ‘Tom, what the hell is that about ‘standing on the edge of the world’?’ I was like, ‘Oh, broken.’”
He replaced the line with a Harrison-approved version.
“I said, ‘Yeah, you’re right. It doesn’t mean anything,'” Petty said. “I thought for a minute and said, ‘How about, ‘There’s no easy way out?'” George said, ‘Much better.'”
George Harrison also helped Tom Petty on ‘Free Fallin’
Harrison was also instrumental in the release of Free Fallin’. Petty’s record label had declined full moon fever, but Harrison still encouraged Petty to play “Free Fallin'” at a dinner party with Warner Bros. Records executives. They were so impressed with the song that they secretly signed Petty. While still owing his MCA label a few albums, he began recording with Warner Bros. in 1994.
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https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/tom-petty-said-george-harrison-baffled-lyrics-back.html/ Tom Petty said George Harrison was stunned by a line in “I Won’t Back Down”.