Friday, October 06, 2017

Tom Petty

Might as well brace yourself -- this'll be all over the place.

First of all, I wasn't a fan. I liked his music well enough, rarely changing the station when one or the other of his 50-or-so hits came on. When I finally took a knee to the Infernal Device and the bloatware that would own it I even shelled out for a few Tom Petty songs. And I've attended to a few of his albums, but never had one in my collection.

I see no reason to get into specifics as to why this is so -- it's not an interesting line of inquiry, and it distracts from the man's remarkable capacity to craft a song that climbs into the deepest caverns of a person's lonely heart. He knew his voice, he knew exactly what he wanted to hear from it -- that's what he brought to the stage and the platter, and that's why people loved him.

Three things, however:

1) Listen to the kids. My takeaway quote from Bill (not the Rolling Stone) Wyman's excellent memorial of Petty:
While Petty’s image was laid-back, almost hippielike, you don’t get to be a star and stay one without some grit. His kids, he told Zollo, know the truth: “They said, ‘The world pictures you as this laid-back laconic person, but you’re really the most intense, neurotic person we’ve ever met!’”
2) Further to 'Point #1 (above): watch Peter Bogdanovitch's Tom Petty doc Runnin' Down A Dream. Think four hours is too much time to devote to the subject matter? Think again. I've watched this doc twice and am queuing it up for a third viewing. And I'm not a fan.

3) This picture, circa Damn The Torpedoes:
Something about this picture -- the public-school slouch who pulled it all together and finally became a force everyone had to acknowledge -- typifies what Petty and his music embodied for me. Summers in my small town, listening to the sort of music he loved and made. Summer. Cigarette smoke and motor oil. Bruises. Childhood, really -- the good, the bad, the ugly of it -- and the fact that one can endure and eventually reflect upon it with some tenderness.

Quite the achievement. Godspeed and God rest, sir.

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