Song Musings

What you always wanted to know about that tune

Welcome to another Song Musings, my weekly recurring feature that takes a closer look at a tune I’ve only mentioned in passing or not covered at all to date. My pick this time is Walls (Circus) by Tom Petty, one of my favorite artists of all time. In fact, I was really surprised it took me six and a half years to write about this song.

Walls (Circus), written by Petty and featuring then-Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham on backing vocals, first appeared in late July 1996 as the lead single of Songs and Music from the Motion Picture “She’s the One”, the ninth studio album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. As the title implies, the album served as a soundtrack to She’s the One, an American romantic comedy picture written and directed by Edward Burns and starring Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz. Here’s the official video clip.

Incredibly, Walls (Circus) only reached no. 69 in the U.S. on the main pop chart Billboard Hot 100, though it did much better on other Billboard charts, including Mainstream Rock (no. 6) and Adult Alternative Airplay, which it topped. In Canada, it peaked at no. 2.

The album fared better overall, climbing to no. 14 on the Billboard 200. Elsewhere, it did best in Sweden (no. 5) and also charted in various other countries, including Germany (no. 20), Norway (no. 22), Austria and Switzerland (each no. 27) and the UK (no. 37).

The soundtrack album also featured a different faster version of the tune titled Walls (No. 3). It has the same lyrics and melody, but the intro is different and the song in general has less emphasis on the instruments. It was later covered by Glen Campbell on his 2008 album Meet Glen Campbell and by The Lumineers on the first anniversary of Petty’s death. Walls (No. 3) also appeared on Angel Dream (Songs and Music from the Motion Picture “She’s the One”), a reconfigured and remastered 25th-anniversary reissue of the soundtrack album, released in July 2021, which I reviewed here.

Following is some additional background on Walls from Songfacts.

Not to be confused with the 2011 track by The View, this 1990s ballad is a favorite of Tom Petty’s fans. It is also the song he “lost,” as he explained to a live audience in a 1999 episode of VH1 Storytellers: “One time this guy come to me and asked me to write some music for his film and that’s another way you can jog your mind into things. I wrote this song for him and I liked it so much I wanted to take it back, but he wouldn’t let me take it back.”

Tom Petty was going through a transitional phase when he wrote this song. In 1994, he released Wildflowers, his second album without The Heartbreakers (following Full Moon Fever in 1989). After touring for the album, his marriage fell apart, and in 1996 he got divorced from his first wife, Jane, whom he married in 1974. He was living on his own in a rented house when he wrote “Walls,” which explores the swingline of life in very poetic terms, starting with the first verse:

Some days are diamonds
Some days are rocks
Some doors are open
Some roads are blocked

In the end, it’s a hopeful song, aimed at a girl with a heart so big she could “crush this town.” She’s bound to reach him eventually, because even walls fall down.

When he played this live, Petty would typically do a downtempo, acoustic version, which is how he played it on Storytellers.

The “Circus” version of this song got a high-end music video directed by Phil Joanou, who also did Petty’s “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” It takes place at a psychedelic circus, where the elephants are purple and the horses are green. It doesn’t contain any footage from She’s The One, but does feature cameos from two of its stars: Jennifer Aniston shows up is leaning against the tiger cage, and Edward Burns is the taxi driver.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube

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Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

After a week with record temperatures in my neck of the woods and other parts of the U.S., it looks like central New Jersey is getting a bit of a break for the weekend, though by Tuesday and Wednesday, the temperatures are supposed to hit the ’90s again. I can’t believe July has arrived. To me it feels like we’re already in the middle of summer. What does any of this have to do with newly released music? Nothing, so let’s get to this week’s Best of What’s New installment!

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers/105 Degrees

Until I checked Apple Music for new releases this week, I had no idea about the “new” album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Released yesterday (July 2), Angel Dream: Songs From The Motion Picture “She’s The One“, is what Petty’s website called a “reimagined reissue” to honor the 25th anniversary of Songs and Music from the Motion Picture “She’s the One”, the band’s ninth studio album that originally appeared in August 1996. As reported by NME, the remixed and remastered reissue adds four previously unreleased tracks and includes an extended version of Supernatural Radio. It also removes several tunes from the Wildflowers sessions that were included in the Wildflowers & All the Rest collection from last year. Here’s the nice rocker 105 Degrees (I guess we just can’t escape the high temperatures! 🙂 ), one of the previously unreleased tracks written by Tom Petty and the album’s lead single.

Hurry/A Fake Idea

Hurry are an indie rock band from Philadelphia, originally started as a solo project by principal songwriter Matt Scottoline. According to his Apple Music profile, Scottoline, the bassist of Philly EMO band Everyone Everywhere, spent his free time writing and recording songs on his own, delving further into power pop and ’90s guitar rock than his main band ever did…In 2012, he released an eight-song self-titled record under the Hurry name, playing all the instruments himself. When Everyone Everywhere began to cut back on their schedule in the early 2010s, Scottoline decided to form an actual band, recruiting drummer Rob DeCarolis and a rotating cadre of friends on bass to play live shows. In addition to Scottoline and DeCarolis, the band’s current line-up includes DeCarolis’ brother Joe DeCarolis (bass) and Justin Fox (guitar). A Fake Idea is a melodic track from Hurry’s fourth and new studio album Fake Ideas that came out on June 25.

Joseph of Mercury/Pretenders

Joseph W. Salusbury, who performs as Joseph of Mercury, is a Canadian singer-songwriter and producer from Toronto. His profile on Apple Music notes he creates stylish, brooding pop that merges austere electronic habitats with emotive pop crooning. Initially making the rounds in 2013 under the name Joseph & the Mercurials, he scored a taste of success with the single “I Want What I Want.” Salusbury spent the next several years working behind the scenes, co-writing songs for artists like Majid Jordan and Illangelo, and racking up a number of production credits, all the while privately honing his own new material. Rebranded as Joseph of Mercury, he reemerged in February 2017 with “Without Words,” a song that unified his love of classic crooner pop and dreamy electronic-oriented production. Additional singles followed throughout the year, each building on this style. Pretenders is the opener of Mercury’s new EP Wave III released on June 25. Apparently, the groovy tune first appeared as a single on June 2019. Technically, this means it’s the EP that’s new, not the song, so I’m cheating a little bit here.

K.C. Jones/Beginnings and Ends

K.C. Jones is a singer-songwriter from Lafayette, La. According to her website, Jones’ influences include “everything from classic country to psychedelic rock to contemporary indie roots singer-songwriters.” Jones’ bio also acknowledges her love of late 60s/early 70s rock. Beginnings and Ends is the first track of Jones’ debut studio album Queen of the in Between, which came out on June 18. Her backing band is made up of musicians from the local Lafayette scene, featuring Chris Stafford (pedal steel, guitars, keys, vocals), Trey Boudreaux (bass) and Jim Kolacek (drums, percussion). The album was produced by Joel Savoy, a notable Cajun musician. Beginnings and Ends has a cool sound, which includes what the website calls a “signature psych-twang baritone guitar sound throughout, sprinklings of Hammond B3 organ, even fuzzed-out, garage rock-esque guitar lines” – I couldn’t have said it any better! 🙂

Sources: Wikipedia; Tom Petty website; NME; Apple Music; K.C. Jones website; YouTube