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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 199
Sun. July 29, 2012

“Walls”
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

1996


“♫ And some
times you’re
happy/ Some
times you
cry/ half of
me is ocean/ half
of me is sky
♫”

If there was one Tom Petty song that was mysteriously exceptional to me, “Walls (Circus)” is that track . What was it about “Walls (Circus)” seemed so familiar yet distant? Now I realize: Walls is a perfect Las Vegas song. Think about it. “Walls (Circus)” is a song about winning and losing. Petty sings not as a defeatist, but as someone who has made peace with letting “Walls” fall where they may.

Did you know“ Walls” was inspired by The Man in Black? Tom Petty explained how “Walls (Circus)” came to life, when he said,“I think what kicked it off was that Johnny Cash said to me one day, “Some days are diamonds and some days are rocks.” And I took that line, and wrote the song.”

One of my favorite parts of the song is Lindsey Buckingham’s soaring, heaven like harmonies. Tom discussed Buckingham’s backing vocals when he said, “I’m a big fan of Lindsey’s. I called him and was knocked out that he came down and helped me. He did it all in one session. I kind of sat back and watched him go. Just going, ‘Yep—that’s what I would’ve done!” [Laughs]”

Since The Man in Black helped inspire Tom to write “Walls (Circus)” I wanted to share Petty’s favorite Johnny and June Carter Cash story, as Tom recalled, when he said, “I remember one thing that I thought was kind of spiritual. The tape-machine broke in the middle of a particularly hot moment in the studio. And instead of freaking out, June came out in the room, where everyone was looking pretty low. And she said, “I think if we all sing a hymn, maybe God’ll fix the tape-machine. [laughs] Not a procedure I had seen before! And John said, “Yeah, let’s sing a hymn.” And June said, “Yeah, but we’ve gotta all hold hands”, so we did. And I swear within minutes the machine worked. I always thought that was pretty interesting. That that would be their instinct if something was broken, “We’ll sing a hymn.””

I love that story, just like the theme of Petty’s song. What I learned from “Walls(Circus)” is that some days may be diamonds and some days might end up rocky but, win or lose, you have to take each with a grain of humble salt. It’s quite liberating to allow life to happen without attempting to control everything. When you let go, no matter the result, you actually win because you’re still left standing.

So if you plan a trip to Vegas, you’re going to lose money but, if you think about it, you’re actually winning by relaxing on vacation and having fun with your loved ones. If you can’t appreciate that, listen to “Walls(Circus)” a few times more and maybe you’ll feel the message. Tom’s so right when he sings “♫Even Walls Fall Down♫ ,” it’s not the end of the word, mañana will be another, even better and hopefully brighter, day.

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