Tom Petty, rock star, mu­sic lover and hum­ble guy.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - by James Belfield

Tom Petty, a new al­bum from Chris Hill­man

It’s fit­ting that, in his fi­nal in­ter­view, Tom Petty ad­mit­ted it was his ­re­lent­less ac­tiv­ity in the mu­sic in­dus­try that drove his cre­ativ­ity. “If I don’t have a pro­ject going, I don’t feel like I’m con­nected to any­thing. I don’t even think it’s that healthy for me,” he told the LA Times. “I like to get out of bed and have a pur­pose.”

Sure, most obituaries after his death last week will fo­cus on such clas­sic decadess­pan­ning songs as Refugee, Free Fallin’ and Mary Jane’s Last Dance, but it’s the way Petty be­came the link be­tween great ­mu­si­cians that will stick in my mem­ory.

I first saw him on stage in the UK in 1987 when he brought his Heart­break­ers out twice in the night to back both Bob Dy­lan and Roger McGuinn on Dy­lan’s Tem­ples in Flames tour.

It was a stan­dard joke in our fam­ily of Dy­lan-trag­ics that the au­di­ence had started to turn up to see and hear Petty and his band bang out such tracks as Sim­ple Twist of Fate, Maggie’s Farm and Shall be Re­leased rather than the ragged and ram­bling mid-80s rocker that Dy­lan had be­come.

A year later and the first Trav­el­ing Wil­burys al­bum had him plugged in along­side Dy­lan again, but with the ­ad­di­tional star power of Ge­orge Har­ri­son, Jeff Lynne and Roy Or­bi­son.

IThe su­per­group’s Vol 1 al­bum was first laid down and pro­duced at the Los ­Angeles home of the Eury­th­mics’ Dave Stewart, who a cou­ple of years be­fore had shared co-writ­ing cred­its on Don’t Come Around Here No More and a drug-fu­elled night of pas­sion with Petty’s cre­ative and com­bustible stage- and bed-buddy Ste­vie Nicks.

It says a lot about Petty’s role in that 80s coke-washed LA scene when, in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Stewart still chooses to re­mem­ber him as a “true artist”. “It just comes out of his mouth sound­ing as if he’s not re­ally try­ing. He kind of throws it away, but then it’s right un­der your skin and you can’t get it out of your head.”

I“If I don’t have a pro­ject going, I don’t feel like I’m con­nected to any­thing. I don’t even think it’s that healthy for me.”

n re­cent years, Petty had res­ur­rected his first early 70s band, Mud­crutch, to cre­ate two new al­bums and he just fin­ished a 40th-an­niver­sary tour with the Heart­break­ers.

And just a week be­fore Petty’s death, ex-Byrds Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Chris Hill­man re­leased his Petty-pro­duced al­bum Bidin’ My Time. It seems a per­fect epi­taph: tak­ing con­trol of a leg­endary lineup that in­cludes the Byrds’ David Crosby and McGuinn, Heart­break­ers Mike Camp­bell, Steve Fer­rone and Ben­mont Tench, and John Jor­gen­son and Herb Ped­er­sen from the Desert Rose Band for a set list of such time­less songs as Pete Seeger’s The Bells of Rhym­ney and the Ev­erly ­Brothers’ Walk Right Back as well as Petty’s own Wild­flow­ers and old Byrds’ rar­i­ties Here She Comes Again and She Don’t Care About Time.

Petty’s easy-going nasal drawl isn’t ob­vi­ous on this record, but the same lan­guid touch on which he based a four-and-ahalf-decade ca­reer runs through its dozen songs and cre­ates the image of a group of old friends jam­ming to­gether in his garage. In a Bill­board in­ter­view, Hill­man summed up Petty’s ­un­der­stated star­dom: “It’s hard for me to look at Tom as a true rock star that he is, and he is such a hum­ble guy and he loves mu­sic and un­der­stands and loves all kinds of mu­sic.”

Petty rarely played the su­per­star – but his work rate and cre­ativ­ity cer­tainly al­lowed many of those stars to shine.

Tom Petty: the link be­tween great mu­si­cians.

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