I had to take a couple of days off before I could write this one. It’s just a little too hard emotionally. I mean, the song is a killer. A guy reflects on a long-lost love and hopes her life is good and happy. And while it’s a tad overproduced, the sadness of the lyrics and the melancholy with which Tom delivers them just makes my heart ache.
Of course, this song is a little bit of a double whammy for me. The overproduction on “The Best of Everything” comes courtesy of Robbie Robertson. During the lengthy recording of Southern Accents (they had to leave the studio for roughly a year after Tom broke his hand and basically had to relearn playing guitar; many songs from the original sessions ended up being scrapped or totally revamped), Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers were at the studio the same time as Robertson. Tom asked him to produce one of the songs, which became the basic track for “The Best of Everything.” Robertson took it away for post-production overdubs, and was very secretive about precisely what he was doing to the song. Tom would regularly ask him how it was going, and Robbie would tell him everything was fine and that it would be done soon. When the track was finally finished, there was a beautiful horn section and a backing vocal from Richard Manuel. (BTW, if you don’t know who Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel are 1) Google them, and 2) go away; I don’t think we can be friends anymore.) That backing vocal ended up being one of the last things Richard Manuel ever recorded before his suicide in 1986.
So it’s safe to say I get a little weepy over this song on good days.
Last Monday, October 2nd, was not a good day. Tom was gone. Yes, his physical body was still lingering in this plane, but his energy, his spirit, had already moved on. I could feel that little bit of emptiness left behind in the Universe. And I sat on my couch with my iPod on. As I scrolled and saw this title, I hesitated before I hit play. I knew it would shatter the last pieces of my heart that were still being held together with spit and baling wire. I knew it would physically hurt to listen to that song. But I had to, because this was my good-bye to that voice.
Tom Petty gave me, all of us, so much joy, and there really is no way to adequately thank him for it. Funny how he wrote the only thank you I could think to give over thirty years ago.
“So listen honey, wherever you are tonight, I wish you the best of everything in the world. And honey, I hope you found whatever you were looking for.”