More to Tom Petty than his great­est hits

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - ENTERTAINMENT - DAVID REED MU­SIC JUNKIE

It’s been a rough week. I was truly shaken by the death of Tom Petty. His mu­sic meant more to me, per­son­ally, than most of the other mu­si­cians lost in 2017. I’m strug­gling with the no­tion of a world with­out any new Tom Petty al­bums.

I’ve re-read my worn copy of “Con­ver­sa­tions with Tom Petty,” re-watched all of the videos, de­voured the four-hour doc­u­men­tary on Net­flix, and lis­tened to all of the al­bums again.

I’ve played many of Petty’s songs with var­i­ous rock bands since I was thir­teen years old. When you de­vote hours to learn­ing songs on gui­tar and then ex­pe­ri­ence mem­o­rable mo­ments per­form­ing them, it deep­ens the con­nec­tion to the songs. That night at the Tweedsmuir, the rau­cous evenings in the base­ment with the band, around the camp­fire at Charleston Lake... all mem­o­ries con­nected to his songs.

The over­sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of loss and di­lut­ing a ca­reer into a great­est hits playlist does a dis­ser­vice to mu­si­cians who have spent a life­time mak­ing mean­ing­ful mu­sic. The deeper tracks are the ones that de­serve more at­ten­tion. With that in mind, Petty has al­ways ended his al­bums with won­der­ful songs. Let’s take a lis­ten to some of those “last songs.”

LOUISIANA RAIN (DAMN THE TORPEDOES, 1979)

Af­ter about a minute of ran­dom key­board tex­tures, we hear Tom count the song in, chuck­ling about some­thing. It is a mourn­ful bal­lad with the line “Louisiana rain is fall­ing just like tears. Run­ning down my face, wash­ing out the years.” The al­bum also in­cludes Refugee, Don’t Do Me Like That and Even the Losers.

LET ME UP, I’VE HAD ENOUGH (1987)

The ti­tle track from this record is a rock­ing rumble, recorded live off the floor. The band is in top form here and Petty sounds des­per­ate, de­fi­ant and sar­cas­tic. It’s ut­terly com­pelling. The al­bum also in­cludes the hit, Jam­min’ Me (cowrit­ten with Bob Dy­lan).

BUILT TO LAST (INTO THE GREAT WIDE OPEN, 1991)

This track is like a cu­ri­ous time cap­sule with a 1950s aes­thetic. There’s a slap de­lay on the snare and an over­all pro­duc­tion that gives a nod to Phil Spec­tor. The chords and feel of the song are reminscent of Ben E King’s classic, Stand By Me. The al­bum also in­cludes Learn­ing to Fly, King’s High­way and the catchy, satir­i­cal ti­tle track.

CAN’T STOP THE SUN (THE LAST DJ, 2002)

Swirling or­gans and thick har­monies with an­other de­fi­ant lyric about the mu­sic busi­ness.

SOME­THING IN THE AIR (GREAT­EST HITS, 1993)

This was one of two new tracks recorded for the Great­est Hits col­lec­tion (along with Mary Jane’s Last Dance). It is a cover of a song by Thun­der­clap New­man. Check out that band, and lis­ten to the orig­i­nal. Pete Town­shend plays bass, with a 15-year old Jimmy McCul­loch on gui­tar (later in Wings). Petty’s record­ing is in­spired and chim­ing.

WAKE UP TIME (WILD­FLOW­ERS, 1994)

The clos­ing track on Wild­flow­ers in poignant for its sense of hope, with the mov­ing lines “if you fol­low your feel­ings and you fol­low your dreams, you might find the for­est there in the trees... It’s time to open your eyes, and rise and shine.” The quar­ter-note piano chords pro­pel the song along with dreamy strings colour­ing the back­drop.

The al­bum also in­cludes You Don’t Know How It Feels, You Wreck Me, the shim­mer­ing ti­tle track, Cabin Down Be­low, with guest con­tri­bu­tions from Carl Wil­son and Ringo Starr.

HUNG UP AND OVER­DUE (SHE’S THE ONE, 1996)

This track fea­tures Ringo Starr and Ge­orge Har­ri­son sit­ting in with the Heart­break­ers, and was orig­i­nally recorded in the Wild­flow­ers ses­sions. Howie Ep­stein’s me­an­der­ing basslines are fan­tas­tic on this track.The al­bum serves as a sound­track to the film, She’s the One, and also in­cludes Change the Locks, Walls, and a cover of Beck’s “A**hole.”

YOU CAN STILL CHANGE YOUR MIND (HARD PROM­ISES, 1981)

Ste­vie Nicks sings back­ing vo­cals on this beau­ti­ful song.

ONE MORE DAY, ONE MORE NIGHT (ECHO, 1999)

My favourite Tom Petty al­bum is his most painful, writ­ten af­ter a di­vorce and ad­dic­tion problems. The band sounds in­tense and fo­cused, with some of Mike Camp­bell’s finest gui­tar play­ing of his ca­reer. Petty re­fused to play most of the songs live, es­pe­cially on One More Day, One More Night. The song is a des­per­ate plea for help, with the lines “Some­one bet­ter hurry. I’m all alone and I keep break­ing down.” Echo also in­cludes Free Girl Now, Swingin’, Count­ing on You, and one of my all-time favourite songs, Room at the Top. This al­bum is es­sen­tial.

SHADOW PEO­PLE (HYP­NOTIC EYE, 2014)

Mike Camp­bell’s beloved 1959 Les Paul growls and snarls for al­most seven min­utes here while Petty pro­vides some dis­il­lu­sioned peo­ple-watch­ing com­men­tary.

GOOD ENOUGH (MOJO, 2010)

This 6/8 blues shuffle drifts along on float­ing B3 or­gan with sting­ing gui­tar breaks. You can’t help but smile with the line “God bless this land. God bless this whiskey. I can’t trust love. It’s far too risky.”

AMER­I­CAN GIRL (SELF-TI­TLED, 1976)

The only time a hit sin­gle was the fi­nal track of a Petty al­bum. There is a mys­tery sur­round­ing the lyrics and the ref­er­ence to the girl on the bal­cony, look­ing out on high­way 441. There have been sui­cides from the Beaty Tower build­ing at Univer­sity of Flor­ida that border on US High­way 441, lo­cated in Petty’s home­town of Gainesville, Flor­ida. The ur­ban leg­end has been de­nied by Petty in var­i­ous in­ter­views.

THE GOLDEN ROSE (HIGH­WAY COM­PAN­ION, 2006)

Trippy and dreamy, thanks to the in­flu­ence of pro­ducer Jeff Lynne. Hints of the Bea­tles here.

ONE MORE DAY, ONE MORE NIGHT (ECHO, 1999)

My favourite Tom Petty al­bum is his most painful, writ­ten af­ter a di­vorce and ad­dic­tion problems. The band sounds in­tense and fo­cused, with some of Mike Camp­bell’s finest gui­tar play­ing of his ca­reer. Petty re­fused to play most of the songs live, es­pe­cially on One More Day, One More Night. The song is a des­per­ate plea for help, with the lines “Some­one bet­ter hurry. I’m all alone and I keep break­ing down.” Echo also in­cludes Free Girl Now, Swingin’, Count­ing on You, and one of my all-time favourite songs, Room at the Top. This al­bum is es­sen­tial.

What’s the les­son here? Lis­ten to Tom Petty’s al­bums from start to fin­ish, and don’t just get the Great­est Hits. The last songs are of­ten the best songs.

WENN FILE PHOTO

Tom Petty’s mu­si­cal cat­a­logue is a trea­sure trove of great songs.

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