Always rooting for the underdog- A Tom Petty tribute

Posted by Alan Kovan on October 03, 2017 (0 Comments)



I know saying someone who has sold millions of records is an underdog is a bit contradictory however that is how I thought of myself when becoming a massive Tom Petty fan in the late 1970's. As far as American bands went anyway. It was all about Bruce Springsteen pretty much.

Being the underdog is more a sports thing. I am a huge sports fan but my passion lies in music. Sports is entertaining but fleeting. Music always gives back. Always.

Much of my musical taste was shaped this way. The Beatles vs The Stones? I chose the Stones. Elvis Costello vs Graham Parker I hitched my wagon to Graham Parker. Ditto when it came to Bruce Springsteen vs Tom Petty. I liked Bruce but I loved Tom Petty.

My first introduction to him was in the movie FM and track Breakdown. He was wrongly hyped as some new wave up and comer. Wrong. With that stoned look and those sneering vocals and ringing Rickenbacker guitars he was more like a punky Byrdsy breath of fresh air.

Those first two LP's, both released in 1978, are just about as perfect as you could ask for. Rooted in Americana yet something very forward thinking and fresh sounding.

The debut. Breakdown, The Wild One Forever, Fooled Again and American Girl. The rest of the album is frighteningly great too.

Next up You're Gonna Get It which is a stone cold classic! The title track, I Need To Know, Listen To Her Heart and Baby's A Rock N' Roller. All great as is the rest of the album.

Damn The Torpedoes is the record the rest of the world caught up with Tom Petty. Refugee, Here Comes My Girl, Even The Losers, Don't Do Me Like That? C'mon. I think this record sold a zillion copies. Good for him and the band.

Hard Promises followed up Damn The Torpedoes. He seems to stretch out a little on this LP and it worked a charm. The Waiting, A Woman In Love,  A Thing About You and You Can Still Change Your Mind. Another great record.

This completed a run of four amazing records that started Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers career. Find me many bands who's first four records are this strong. Not a very easy task.

After this point I lost a bit of interest. My focus was on punk and new wave. I also lost interest when Jeff Lynne got involved. Everything he touches sounds the same. Horrifically synthetic which was the opposite of how I look at Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Their ease of sounding so natural, authentic,energetic and well American was why I loved them so much.

So many of my friends who are music obsessives swear some of the best records Tom Petty released were after this I need to go and rediscover records like Wildflowers etc. I did love Echo when I heard it especially once I heard Swingin'. I need to go back and play some of those later records.

His passing has had a huge effect on me. He was gracious after a show in June of 1980 when I turned up at his hotel after a show at Pine Knob in Detroit on the Damn The Torpedoes tour. A friend of mine and I hung out in the hotel bar and waited. One by one the members of Jefferson Starship, who were playing Pine Knob the next night, came in. They were puzzled why we just kept to ourselves and they approached us. After sarcastically going back and forth with them we just admitted we really weren't fans. We were waiting for someone else. Then Tom Petty turned up in a kind of grizzly mood. However he did pose for this photo. Stalking before stalking was cool.

Perhaps I am missing out on some more great records. This is something I plan on rectifying. Even if I didn't those first four records have given me so much pleasure over the past 40 years I owe Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers an eternal debt of gratitude.

Thank you.

Rest In Peace.

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