Refugee (Tom Petty/Mike Campbell)
In no particular order:
1) Extremely economical songwriting –
The Verse is 2 (long) lines; 8 bars long.
Pre-Chorus – 2 lines; 4 bars long.
Chorus – 1 line (repeated except for first time).
Bridge – 4 lines; 8 bars long.
An 8 bar solo follows all this and barely 2 minutes has gone by!
Add a 3rd Verse, Per-Chorus, Chorus; begin the outvamp and still you’re just hitting 3 minutes!
2) Performed at a faster-than-you-think, -remember, or -expect tempo
3) 5 chords altogether
4) Verse and Chorus have the same chords (F#minor/A E); Pre-Chorus breaks it up (D/B)
5) In the Pre-Chorus, the ‘B’ chord feels like a V chord, like it’s setting up a ‘E’ chord, but it goes back to the F#minor instead. But then you do get the “E’ chord – that I think your ear has been set up to expect – when the song hits the Bridge.
6) The lyric is very idiosyncratic in the way it tells the story of the ‘refugee’ and the singer. This is a place where Petty really shows his mastery and confidence. The singer expresses both indifference and caring, bouncing between the contradictions.
(Listen) It don’t really matter to me
Everybody’s had to fight to be free
You see you don’t have to live like a Refugee
7) The rhymes are sometimes precise (see Pre-Chorus above) and other times often very loose:
We got somethin’ we both know it
We don’t talk too much about it
Ain’t no real big secret all the same
Somehow we get around it
But all the lyrics sing in a way that feels natural and right for the style and tone of this song, singer, and story.
8) Repetition of the first 2 lines in the 2nd & 3rd Verses –
Somewhere somehow somebody must have
Kicked you around some
Followed by either –
Tell me why you wanna lay there; revel in your abandon
Who knows maybe you were kidnapped tied up taken away and held for ransom
Great, evocative lines with rhymes that would traditionally be considered weak (or identical), but in this context work like gangbusters.
9) Tremendous one line single-image Chorus
10) Melody jumps up a full octave from the end of the first Verse to the beginning of the Pre-Chorus, upping the ante. The melody stays high throughout the Chorus.
Bonus) Definitively great rock and roll Hammond Organ playing!
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