Tom Petty Was At Both Ends Of The Dial, by Steve Stav

“Damn The Torpedos” was one thing… but the album after that, and the one after that… we got into the 80s and there was nobody – metalheads, punks, New Wavers, “old folks” – who didn’t like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. You and your buddies got into your car one night, you put in “Long After Dark” and that set the tone. Turn it up. Right up there, head of the class of crossovers that included Pat Benatar, the Pretenders, the Cars and Blondie. The Heartbreakers were of an even higher caliber, dare I say, than the Joe Jackson Band or the Attractions. Tight. Hungry. This wasn’t no Southern rock, it was rock made by southerners in rica. This was edgy stuff. Common-bond stuff. Songs that you sang along to on lonely highways and on bar stools. Tom Petty wasn’t a fashion icon or other sort of trendsetter, he was just cool. And Mike Campbell… jesus, that guy was a god years before anyone heard of the Edge or Johnny Marr. Benmont Tench brought back the organ – and was, for a time, dating Maria McKee. Wow. I watched this video on MTV and thought, “Holy crap, these guys are cool.” And what a damn cool song, criminy those chords are awesome. Helluva band you had, Tom. Helluva career. I’m sorry you couldn’t stay longer. You’ll fit right in with Andrea’s band, though; you’ll be cool with playing rhythm while Bowie hogs the mic and Prince hogs the solos.

The four-hour documentary “Running Down A Dream” is on Netflix. If for some reason you haven’t seen it, I vigorously recommend it. Vigorously. If you must, break it up into quarters or two halves. But I’ll bet you binge.

Before there were The Replacements, R.E.M., the db’s, Let’s Active, the Long Ryders, the Rave-Ups, et al… there was Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. I daresay they out-jangled everybody, including Big Star and the Byrds.

Steve Stav

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