“No Second Thoughts,” from the 1978 Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers album You’re Gonna Get It!
Subtlety and sadness, and a different sound from Tom.
*Note – I’m not even going to try to rank songs. I just plan to periodically write a little bit about some songs that I like.
Number 11 on my 100 Favorite Albums List is Damn the Torpedoes, by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. When I wrote about that album, I realized that I probably should’ve had more than one Tom Petty album on my list. He’s an artist that put out so much good music over such a long period of time that I tended to forget about how much I really like his songs.
But it’s not just the songs. I also like the sound. When I think of Petty, I think of Heartbreakers’ guitarist Mike Campbell, and his uniquely creative guitar playing. You hear it on upbeat rockers, like “American Girl,” and “Refugee,” and “Change of Heart.” Or his perfect phrasing in slower numbers like “You Got Lucky” or “A Woman in Love,” or “Breakdown.” Then there’s the subtle organ of Benmont Tench. It’s on songs like “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” and “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Letting You Go.” And how about original drummer/ backing vocalist Stan Lynch? Just check out “Shadow of a Doubt!”
Also, there are the lyrics. Petty is a great lyricist. He’s one of those “turn-of-a-phrase” guys, like Elvis Costello, but not so flashy. He can put together a line or two that will break your heart, or make it soar. “… I showed you stars you never could see,” from “Even the Losers.” “… I can tell the whole wide world to shove it!” from “Here Comes My Girl.” (However, I am still a bit salty that he ripped off The Replacements‘ Paul Westerberg’s “Rebel Without a Clue” line, from “I’ll Be You.”) He’s also adept at story songs, with a knack for letting the listener fill in the details.
So, take all those great sounds and put them together with Petty lyrics delivered in that distinctive voice, and you’ve got yourself a thrilling, boisterous, helluva good time. But what if you strip away all those sounds? What if it’s only some acoustic guitar and Tom’s voice on cleverly sparse lyrics? Throw in some bongoes and weird bass guitar sounds and you’ll have “No Second Thoughts.” I think it’s as good as anything the band’s ever done.
It starts with the tape machine turning on, giving the song the feeling of an afterthought, as if the recording engineer decided to capture an off-the-cuff performance. The arrangement is sparse, with Petty and Campbell strumming acoustic guitars, Lynch banging on bongoes, and bassist Ron Blair playing an odd, but really cool, bass line that sometimes sounds like two instruments. (I think he may be finger-picking, and allowing low notes to ring while he plucks higher strings?) Not much else happens musically. Around 1:27 Campbell plays some extra acoustic lines, and organist Tench plays a final chord, but otherwise it’s just vocals.
The lyrics describe a woman on a beach leaving her husband to run off with another man. Her “silent partner” is presumably the narrator of the song. In the second verse, she seems to be getting cold feet, asking him to help “cast this evil down.” In the chorus, the narrator explains they’re almost free, and should arrive with no second thoughts. In the last verse, she says it sure seems like they’ve driven really far…
It doesn’t sound like much of a story, but Petty’s voice conveys a sadness that carries the song’s weight. And the harmony vocals on “ooh yeah,” and on the final verse (I’m guessing sung by Lynch?), add depth to the feeling. Petty makes clear that both people in the song are actually having serious second thoughts. The lyrics read as if the narrator is affirming and supporting his partner, inspiring her to cast away her apprehension. But the song in total doesn’t sound like that. To me, the song is really about the futility of promising to have “no second thoughts.” Second thoughts abound in this song, in both characters. The woman immediately feels like they’re doing evil and then admits they’ve gone too far. The man never really sells the idea that everything will be fine.
“No Second Thoughts” is a short song full of subtle emotion, backed by cool sounds. It’s not the type of track that reaches out and grabs you. It’s more the type that quietly burrows deep inside you.
The song wasn’t a single, but was the B-side to “I Need to Know.” I first heard it when I bought You’re Gonna Get It! 10 or 15 years ago. It’s been a favorite of mine ever since. It’s different from a lot of other Tom Petty songs, but it captures something about him that made him special.