Late Night OTB – Even the Losers

Several versions of a classic from the year I became a fan of rock and roll.

Because it’s what my parents listened to, I grew up listening to the country music of the late 1960s and 1970s. I started developing my own musical tastes somewhere around 6th or 7th grade but my complete independence in that regard came in the summer of 1979. My dad got orders from the Army, so we moved from Kaiserslautern, West Germany, where we had spent the last three years, to El Paso, Texas. Based on the influence of new friends, I started listening to 95 Rock (KLAQ or “The Q”), the local adult-oriented rock station. (Which had, I’ve just discovered through the wonders of the Internet, just launched the previous year.)

I quickly got immersed in period rock music as well as “classic” songs from earlier in the decade. Among the earliest artists I recall listening to were the recently-departed Thomas Earl Petty and his Heartbreakers. Their breakthrough album, “Damn the Torpedoes,” was released in October. While “Refugee” was likely my favorite song on the record, it had several hits, including, you’ve likely guessed, “Even the Losers.”

It was an early favorite and has stood the test of time—although even then the sound effects before the song itself commences were a distraction.

The live version was better. Here’s one from what appears to be a UK stop on the initial tour:

Here’s one from 1986’s Farm Aid:

And here’s an older Petty doing an acoustic version:

A few years back. though, I heard what I think an even better version of the song:

That’s Pat Green from a covers album that I referenced a couple LNOTB posts back, 2012’s ”Songs We Wish We’d Written II.” His slowing it down conveys the angst of the song better than the more upbeat tempo of the Heartbreakers original.

To add to the LNOTB crossover, here’s a version of the song by Jason Isbell that I stumbled upon composing this post:

Pretty damn good, especially for what’s presumably some dude capturing it on his phone at a concert.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Franklin says:

    I’d have to check later, but I totally don’t remember those sounds before the song. Maybe it was cut from the Greatest Hits CD I bought back in the early 90s.

    Anyway, can’t listen to all these right now, but Tom Petty wrote some great lyrics.

  2. Jay L Gischer says:

    I’m a big Petty fan. All the family is. We saw him live once at the Oakland Coliseum. I’m not a country fan, and I’m not not a country fan. It’s more about the particular artists and what they bring.

    For instance, have you heard the Johnny Cash cover of “I Won’t Back Down”? Petty plays bass.