“I won’t back down.” -Tom Petty
Music Incider Magazine
A bio/show review on Tom Petty after all this time, I’ll bet you are asking yourself why-and that quote is the answer. I won’t back down. I admire the hell out of him for that. It’s one of my fucking theme songs. He never sold out and he never gave in. You don’t hear Petty songs selling Coca-Cola, and you don’t see him finding love at a K-Mart store like Alan Jackson. –So let’s talk about the highly political and highly intelligent Tom Petty. Tom was born October 20th, 1950 in Gainesville, Florida. But how did he become a musician in the first place? Elvis baby. Elvis came to Florida and it was all over. Any sexy Libra like Tom could easily see that Elvis got chicks, lots of them. And he looked good doing it, and Elvis wasn’t a good looking blond like Petty-so a different King was born. The King Heartbreaker. –Petty started three bands. The Sundowners-pretty logical name for a Florida band…but it sounded too much like a Vegas lounge act, the second band was called The Epics-but that name just isn’t sexy is it? Version number three was called Mudcrutch (future Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench were in this band) . In the seventies, Mudcrutch would have sounded like a blues band. I’ll be the first to admit that great rock and roll has the blues firmly in it, but great rock and roll is sexual by definition. It is hot, and a long slow tease…so the Heartbreakers were born in 1976. America’s bicentennial, and the date of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers self-titled debut. –Let’s face facts, the most innovative music was formed in the seventies. Labels took the time to nurture and build talent and build bands that became dynasties. So the first album took time to catch up with the record buying public…’Breakdown’ hit it huge in the United States in 1977. I still love the fucking intensity in that song. Timeless, intense, and priceless like so much of Elvis’ work. –You’re Gonna Get It was the band’s second album. The album went gold with such songs as Listen To Her Heart and I Need To Know. It wasn’t ‘pop.’ It was hot, cool, sexy. Petty’s unique guitar style and sexy, unique voice were in full effect at that point. –But remember-Tom won’t back down. Somebody must have lost him in a card game or had to pay off a loan shark and attempted to transfer his band from ABC Records to MCA during a ‘buyout.’ Let me tell you something, most Libra’s will not allow shit to happen unless they want it to. I will sit on an article until I am 100% happy with it. –Tom went a little further. He filed bankruptcy just to stand his ground. Maybe he didn’t want to be on fucking MCA at that point. You have to have your pricipals. You can’t back down, because if you don’t stand up for something you will fall for everything.
So, the shit between Petty and the label got settled. We got Damn The Torpedoes in 1979. I really fucking love that as a follow up album name because of the World War II reference-Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead. As an artist, the album name alone proves that Petty is and was his own man. He has always been captain of his own destiny. That makes him a role model. That album has one of my favorite all time songs on it-Refugee. –In 1981, the amazing and totally underrated Hard Promises was released on MCA. That album tells a complete story of love and heartbreak, but 1981…think kids. Regan was in office. America believed greed was good. We ignored the onset of the AIDS epidemic. The rich got richer, and the poor got poorer-in other words…it was a great album before its time. The musical culture was more in the mood to embrace bands like Flock Of Seagulls, George Michael, and The Thompson Twins-fluffy meaningless shit. –Long After Dark was released in 1982. Ron Blair was replaced with Howie Epstein on bass. Once again, a solid greedy fucked up Republican culture put a massive drag on an excellent piece of work. Tom slowed it down at that point-Republican conspiracy trying to slow down a man who stuck up for the little guy. He wasn’t selling Coors beer or Delta airline tickets. He slowed it down-and did something even better. –In 1985, he released Southern Accents. Go on, sing it with me-Don’t Come Around Here No More. By the way, there is a certain GRINCH at a certain CALIFORNIA CONCENTRATION CAMP that I would like to dedicate that song to. Suck a little more blood. –Pack Up The Plantation Live was released in 1985-the same year Tom and The Heartbreakers went on tour with Bob Dylan on his True Confessions Tour. There are some True Confessions I would like to hear out of Bob Dylan. Hey Bob, do you actually know any of your lyrics? I have been trying to make them out for years. It isn’t like my non hardcopy little rag is EVER going to get an interview with you to find out. I actually respect you for recognizing that Tom Petty is one of the highest caliber singer/songwriters out there. Maybe Tom could help you with your diction, or give you a job in his adminstration when he runs for the Govenor of California. Tom would be a damn sight better than Arnold. At least he was born in this country.
More about the Tom though. –In 1987, Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) came out. So he wrote a song called Jammin’ Me with Bob Dylan. He probably had to do that as some sort of condition so he could go on that tour. Great song, but did he really need Dylan on it? Probably not. –During 1987-1990, he played himself on It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. He was a neighbor. I hated Garry Shandling. The show was a stupid concept. That Scorpio Johnny Carson should have sued his ass-but I loved Tom on it. Petty was the one redeeming value that show had. Why? Petty is a natural entertainer. Everything else about that little silly fucking show was forced. –In 1989, total greatness was released in the form of a Petty solo album called Full Moon Fever. Running Down A Dream, and Free Fallin’. –The Traveling Wilbury’s gets a nod…Dylan, Orbinson, Petty, Jeff Lynne (ELO), and George Harrison. I know it was originally supposed to be a joke for a Harrison B side-but did you notice something? No Bruce Springsteen. Bruce was never a Wilbury. I guess the Boss isn’t that fucking bossy huh? It seems like it is better to be King to me. The Traveling Wilbury’s released a full length album-the the mighty Roy Orbinson died suddenly. Del Shannon, who was supposed to fill Orbinson’s spot-committed suicide. Hmmm, still no Springsteen in this group of singing superstars. –In 1991, Petty released Into The Great Wide Open with The Heartbreakers. Yes, this is the album that has Learning To Fly on it. I love the fact he sings about his mother every now and again. –In 1994, Petty released Wildflowers-his second solo album. Three of my favorite all time Petty songs are on that album; You Wreck Me, It’s Good To Be King, and You Don’t Know How It Feels.
-Tom has Grammy nominations and awards that hit the ceiling. He has had ten nominations since 1981. It should have been a hundred awards. He should have won for that duo he did with Stevie Nicks-Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around. He probably should have got a purple heart or something for actually going into the studio with her too. I wonder-Stevie the gemini was making her way through every member of Fleetwood Mac at the time. Maybe Tom has a True Confession for us? -Tom actually won awards for The Traveling Wilbury’s and You Don’t Know How It Feels. He won some MTV awards too-I have to admit Mary Jane’s Last Dance was a brilliant fucking video. –In 1996, he won the golden note award from ASCAP. –In 1996, he won the George and Ira Gershwin award for lifetime musical achievement. –In 1999, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame an honor that acknowledges both their musical achievements and their humanitarian involvement with such organizations as Greenpeace, the National Veteran’s Foundation, USA Harvest, Rock And Wrap It Up, and AmFAR (the American Foundation for AIDS Research). –In 2002, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (before Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath, hmmmm). In 2002 he appeared in The Simpsons, in the episode “What I Did In My Strummer Vacation”. He has also voiced the character Lucky in King of the Hill.
In 2005, Tom Petty began hosting his own show “Buried Treasure” on XM Radio. On the show, Tom shares selections from his personal record collection.
I have all of this fucking love and respect for Tom Petty. My blond Elvis. The King Heartbreaker-a true artist of the highest caliber. Imagine me actually getting to take pictures of Tom and the Heartbreakers at Music Midtown. God, I was happy. –Music Midtown always seems to happen during a fucking monsoon though. They could put Music Midtown in the middle of December and we would get a tornado during the one band that I want to shoot with every bone in my body. He gets onstage with the one outfit I wanted him in-red shirt with black vest. –The skies open up and the rain comes down baby. Severe downpours and digital cameras do NOT go well together, so the camera freezes. There I am. In the photography pit, less than ten feet away from my dream concert shoot. Listening to all the songs I love live-It’s Good To Be King, Last Dance With Mary Jane, Free Fallin’-you name it. I could not have asked for more. He played everything I wanted to hear-including songs off of the entirely brilliant LAST DJ. He was entertaining, charming, charismatic, beautiful, and musically perfect. Absolutely flawless. –A Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers concert is truly a spiritual experience. He has this ability to take a crowd of fifty thousand people to another level in the middle of a fucking downpour. I cried like a little fucking baby during the whole concert-my camera and no shots of my blond Elvis AND this rush of emotion of the live Tom Petty experience made it unforgettable. Tom Petty is a singer/songwriter in the tradition of Bob Dylan, Roy Orbinson, and Neil Young. Great music does great things, great musicians do great things. Always see Tom Petty. The King Heartbreaker-he won’t back down.