“California” always felt like a good but not great Tom Petty song. He’s doing that folk-philosophy thing, but “California’s been good to me / I hope it don’t fall into the sea,” feels a little sophomoric for such a craftsman. Still, there is a weight and an ache to the song, and it took the just released home recording to bring it home to me. And now? I love this song.
Listen specifically in the demo to how “sometimes you got to trust yourself,” comes around three times before he gets to “sometimes you got to save yourself.” This hit me so much harder than the album cut. Petty moved to California after finding some fame, becoming successful, and figuring out how he needed to restructure his own life.
“California” is about positive change, choice, and how it’s our own responsibility. Thanks Tom’s family for releasing this. I am so grateful this cut made it into the world.
Here’s the demo and the album version: