Anyone whose read this blog for a while would hardly be surprised that I'm going to write about Tom Petty. His death this week has hit me hard but maybe not for reasons that are immediately obvious.
There is no doubting Tom's place as a legendary rock 'n' roll artist. Album sales and public profile point clearly to these facts. From hit records with his band The Heartbreakers, a stint with them as Bob Dylan's live backing band, solo success, some amazing collaborations and an extensive discography you could pretty much say that he did it all.
I got interested in Tom Petty initially as a result of the Travelling Wilburys so I guess I was a bit late to the party. In 1988 I was in my final year at High School and the Wilburys were huge everywhere but especially in Australia. Their first album went to 11 in the UK and 14 in the USA but was number 1 on the charts here. It was an album that had something for everyone. Tom for the rock fans, Dylan for the folkies, Roy Orbison for those stuck in the 60s, Jeff Lynne for lovers of amazing melody and sunglasses and of course George Harrison.
The Travelling Wilburys - Last Night - https://youtu.be/lX4JXUNbXZs
Tom followed this up with the sublime Full Moon Fever LP which my Dad bought for me on the strength of the Wilburys. There's a bit of solo rhythm guitar in Free Fallin' that may just be the best guitar tone ever This has always been a record that makes me feel good.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (live 1991) - Love Is A Long Road - https://youtu.be/qOpuB5aSVF4
I guess I was pretty happy with these two albums for a few years and then, in 1997, I met my mate Garry Douglas. Garry was a huge Tom Petty fan and over the period of a few years got me right into his earlier stuff as well as more recent solo releases. We talked about Tom's music via email for years. If you've been reading my blog for a few years you'll know that Garry sadly died a while ago. One of the last things he did was to see Tom Petty live in London, email me a few pictures and send me a tour t-shirt. Not long later he was dead. I had a gig with George and Chris very soon after this and we played this song as my tribute to Garry. It's cliched but I love it and it became a staple in our live set. Who's that on drums in the video even though he didn't actually play on the record? And surely you can spot a couple of Wilburys as well.
Tom Petty - I Won't Back Down - https://youtu.be/nvlTJrNJ5lA
Garry didn't get me into that song though, Johnny Cash did. It's on his album from 2000 called "American III : Solitary Man". Tom's on the track singing backing vox. Petty and The Heartbreakers were the backing band for Cash's previous release, "Unchained" in 1996. It's my opinion that this next song is quite possibly the best cover version of all time. It also started an obsession for me with the music of Johnny Cash.
Johnny Cash - I Won't Back Down - https://youtu.be/N8i5NLyXZdc
In 2005 I had a rough time and music helped me through in many ways. I spent a lot of time watching live concert DVDs and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers live at the Fillmore was right at the top of my list (along with Steve Earle, The Dixie Chicks and Iron Maiden). The first song on the DVD is so punchy, so energetic and played with such vigour that it draws you in for the whole show. If you could wear out a DVD then this one would be long gone. I'm just sorry that I can't find the video footage online to share with you. Come and visit sometime and we can watch it over and over!
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers (live 1997) - Jammin' Me - https://youtu.be/juY2DAL-UGE
Whether it's old or new stuff, solo or with the Heartbreakers or the Wilburys there's no doubt to me that Tom was amazing. He had a knack of wearing his influences on his sleeve without simply copying them (unless he wanted to). Watch some live footage and you'll see a guy who genuinely loved playing his music right up until the end.
There is a veritable goldmine in the Tom Petty discography so get out there and discover it for yourself.
Tom Petty - Saving Grace (2006) - https://youtu.be/YtJ8PFMEQjo
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - Red River (2014) - https://youtu.be/Qv3oaDX9ikY
I'm going to finish with the last two songs that Tom played live. It was on September 25th this year and he finished his show at the Hollywood Bowl with a to song encore. You can find footage of the actual show online if you like but I'm really not sure I'm ready for it.
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - You Wreck Me (live) - https://youtu.be/e25p0Y3Vd38
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - American Girl (live 1978) - https://youtu.be/YS3xOmI1Plk
Thanks Tom, your music meant a lot to me and it always will.