Runnin’ Down a Dream

from the album Full Moon Fever
B-side “Alright For Now”
“Down the Line” (12″ & CD only)
Released July 1989
Format 7″, cassette,
12″ & CD (UK only)

Recorded 1989
Genre Heartland rock, hard rock
Length 4:25
Label MCA
Songwriter(s) Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Mike Campbell
Producer(s) Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Mike Campbell

“Runnin’ Down a Dream” is a song co-written and recorded by Tom Petty. It was released in July 1989 as the second single from his first solo album Full Moon Fever. “Runnin’ Down a Dream” achieved reasonable chart success, reaching number 23 both in Canada and on the US Billboard Hot 100 and the top of the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart. It has since garnered significant airplay on classic rock stations, and lent its name to the 2007 documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

The song was co-written by Mike Campbell, along with Petty and Jeff Lynne. It was a nod to Petty’s musical roots, with the lyric “me and Del were singin’ ‘Little Runaway'” making reference to Del Shannon and “Runaway”.

The song uses E major as a tonic, but makes ample use of chords outside that key, such as D, G, and C major chords. Some passages (including the extended outro) use a pedal point of E in the bass, while changing chords from E major to C and D major chords above it. The repeating fuzz guitar riff, using the notes B, B♭, A, G, and E, lacks only a D to complete the hexatonic E blues scale.

The music video for “Runnin’ Down a Dream”, directed by Jim Lenahan, featured animation, based on several episodes of the classic comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay, featuring a drawing style reminiscent of McCay’s and showing Petty and a character who resembles Flip travelling through Slumberland. The 1933 film King Kong is also briefly referenced when Petty, atop the Chrysler Building, attempts to swat at attacking oversized mosquitoes, much like Kong swatting at the biplanes in the film.