Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Tom Petty - Early Album Cuts"
THE WILD ONE, FOREVER
Probably my favorite Petty cut.
"Well the moon sank as the wind blew
And the street lights slowly died"
This is the essence of music, setting the scene with just a few words, between the lyrics and the music, you get it.
"Yeah they call you the wild one
Stay away from her
Said she couldn't love no one if she tried"
We know this type. With a certain charisma, an inner flame, that we want to get closer to, even if we're gonna get burned.
And he goes on to say that he's gonna have to make her his and he gets her but it's the sound and the attitude and the coda that close you.
From the first album too.
I've heard "The Wild One, Forever" on XM, but never this. This wasn't made for the radio, this was made for the writer and players, for the listener, for late at night when there are no answers but plenty of questions. Back from when Tom was channeling his vision more than worrying about creating something the deejay would play.
Can you come back after your peak? Interesting question. But Tom was torn in new directions by the Wilburys and Jeff Lynne, he's surprised us before, maybe if he went and hung with the Nashville cats it would inspire him, bring back the greatness, haunt not only me but every one of us.
It's the staccato guitar.
He really sounds restless.
"You're Gonna Get It" was the album that was supposed to break Tom Petty through.
Here's the story, the band was on Shelter Records distributed by ABC back when what label you were on mattered, when if you were on Polydor you might as well not put your record out, never mind RCA.
And there's been all this talk about the label imploring him to change the word "cocaine" in "Listen To Her Heart" but the truth is Petty was always an outsider.
That's right. He may have been wearing a leather jacket on the cover of his debut, but he and his band were not punks when that sound was all the rage.
Ironically, he was embraced in the U.K. And nearly a year after the first album came out he triumphed in America. No, that's overstating it. Not with "American Girl," that was not the track, it was "Breakdown," a live iteration, with all the soul you can only get from something truly live.
And you could get up close and personal. I went to see the band at the Whisky. This was before you could play arenas on one hit.
And there was no show. Just music. Played well, with attitude. Memorably. To the point where everybody who was exposed believed Tom was ready.
But it turns out he was not.
He did not fit into the system. Which now wanted new wave. Back when it had to sound au courant when Petty was basic.
BABY'S A ROCK 'N' ROLLER
I was unsure whether to include this or "Hurt."
The funny thing about the second album is it isn't as good as the first, but it's even more solid. The peaks might not be as high, but the lows are not as low.
This is reminiscent of the British Invasion, that sound, you could tell that Petty listened to the Beatles, as well as the buried treasure from overseas that he plays on his satellite show.
It's innocent in a sixties way, but the band playing it was not. Twentysomething girls wanted to be that baby.
What the hell.
It is not made for radio, there's not a full-fledged beginning, it's more like a play with building entrances before everybody settles into the riff.
"Thank God for California
Thank God I'm going home"
This is the way it used to be, before plane tickets were cheap and long distance phone calls were free. California was a different state of mind, it was where you could be free.
It's reminiscent of the Byrds, of the sixties L.A. scene, without being derivative, if someone cut something this good today it would be exalted as genius, trumpeted in every publication known to man, but this track from '78 was almost completely unknown then, and still is today.
HERE COMES MY GIRL
From "Damn The Torpedoes."
I know, I know, it's hard to say anything on the third, breakthrough LP is an album cut. It's kind of like "Led Zeppelin II," a constant everybody knows from beginning to end.
But even though "Here Comes My Girl" was the record's third single, it only went to number 59, which is nowhere.
And there are so many magic moments, but what seals the deal is when the track drops at 2:12 and Petty utters "watch her walk"...whew!
A WOMAN IN LOVE (IT'S NOT ME)
The beginning of the initial decline, before the spontaneous renaissance with "Don't Come Around Here No More" off "Southern Accents" in '85.
That's right, it's hard to follow up gargantuan success. And Petty did it with an album of some genius and some tracks with less than that and no hits.
Well, "The Waiting" got FM airplay, but it wasn't ubiquitous in the way "Refugee" was, and from there...
But this is pure genius. The track I played after calling my old girlfriend to reconnect and found her in bed with someone else.
Sounds like a short story.
With a groove that has you nodding your head almost instantly.
And changes absent from so many of today's hits.
And we all know losers working on something big, we see them on "Shark Tank," I've often wondered if I'm one of them.
STOP DRAGGIN' MY HEART AROUND
Wherein Tom Petty gives away his best track to the biggest female star of the day, the same way his east coast compatriot Bruce Springsteen gave Patti Smith "Because The Night." They both went on to have further gargantuan successes, but at this point both could have utilized the triumph.
And at this point Tom's version with the Heartbreakers has seen the light of day, it would have been a hit by itself.
But at least Tom's duetting with Stevie Nicks on her track.
And Stevie pushes it over the top, she's the consummate rock chick, she sheds the sensitive witch persona and wails with nuance, it's so endearing.
But who is this guy who's sneering his words? Who is this guy who's so genuine.
That's Tom Petty!
Maybe this was a good thing, this exposed a whole new audience to the man and his band, which played on the track.
Then again, most people knew who they were anyway.
We all get our heart dragged around, it happens to everybody, if you play.
And then you sit at home and spin this track, the antithesis of cry in your beer sentimentality, and you know you feel bad now but you're gonna RECOVER!
STRAIGHT INTO DARKNESS
"There was a little girl I used to know her
I still think about her time to time"
Ain't that the truth, we never forget 'em, they haunt us forever, we wonder if we reconnected...would we reconnect?
The truth is no. They've changed. We're different. It was a moment in time.
And at this point it looked like Tom Petty's success was a moment in time. That if not a footnote, he and his band of merrymakers were far from legends, Tom was not a rock and roll icon.
And then came "Southern Accents," the Wilburys and "Free Fallin." Wow!
But "Long After Dark" was a step in the wrong direction. It sounded like Petty, but it didn't have the peaks, the tracks just needed an extra 2%, the amount that makes the difference, that puts the cuts over the top.
And stunningly, Tom had further success when he switched up the formula. "Don't Come Around Here No More" sounded nothing like what came before, nor did all those great cuts that followed "Free Fallin," on Tom's solo debut.
And the funny thing is Tom cemented his success when he was a full-blooded Californian, singing about someone else, kids in the Valley.
That's right, the landscape changes you.
And change is good.
Here's hoping Tom Petty mesmerizes ALL of us once again.