Tom Petty (10/20/50-10/02/17)

It is hard for me to compartmentalize the passing of the great Tom Petty.

I was a little later to the party than Gene, for I noticed Petty in the similarly great Rather Ripped Records in Berkeley Valentines Day in 1977 when I was buying Frampton Comes Alive (laugh if you will, but I was a big Humble Pie fan and had Frampton’s three previous albums which featured George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Klaus Voorman, to name a few).

But, I remember the stack of records and the debut album which held a sign that said, “his name might be Petty, but his music ain’t small.”

So, I bought both.

In April 1977, Petty and band played Winterland (with Greg Kihn) and a few months later–in September–he again played and I attended both, this time with the band opening for Be Bop Deluxe.

By then the group had become my favorite band, and this was all amplified when I went to London that fall and fell under the spell of the punks and Petty et al totally meshed with American New Wave to me despite the classic rock set-up.

In June of ’78 the band again played Winterland and again, I was there, and then again in December as part of the closing of the venue I had loved and seen so many great bands (in fact the final three acts were Petty, Bruce Springsteen, and then the Dead for New Years, and that was that for Winterland).

The following summer Petty was embroiled in a lawsuit and petitioned the court to tour and make some money since their next recording was tied up in litigation, so I saw the “lawsuit tour,” as it was known in Sacramento in the summer of 1979.

There were more. The Mountain Aire Festival (1983), Petty with Dylan at the Greek in ’86, Southern Accents in 1987, and unfortunately missed the Into the Great Wide Open tour due to strep throat. But, my ex-wife, Ava, who became a Petty fan used the tickets I got. In fact Ava said during Mountain Aire that she got the feeling Petty was looking at her for a moment, singing to her, connecting with her.

By then, Petty et al were an arena band so I saw them only once more, again at the Greek, in 2006 for the Highway Companion 30th Anniversary Tour.

I think that makes nine times, and aside from buying the bulk of the band’s albums (I am not a greatest hits guy) but, in 1979 I began working on a novel that became my Masters Thesis, a pretty chunky play on the Picaresque called Dirty Laundry and Petty and his band and that debut album–which I believe was among my essentials–were pivotal parts of the plot.

Petty was surely a rock star, and a wonderful song writer and lyricist in my view, but he was also a regular guy–or tried to be–and carried that attitude within several lawsuits he had with his record companies.

In the end, I am just at a loss how a guy, so vital on the stage, had a heart attack and poof, gone, but there you go.

If there is a West Coast/East Coast difference in sensibilities about the Heartbreakers and their name and band, I always thought of The Heartbreakers as Johnny Thunder’s band, as opposed to the West Coast band which was all lumped in with the name Tom Petty. As in “Tom Petty” included the Heartbreakers, and “The Heartbreakers” included Johnny Thunders, and I mean no disrespect to the great Thunders or his band in separating the two like this.

Here is an early live recording of a song of the band’s I always dug from the first record. There is a great story around this gig, and that the band got searched at customs getting into Germany. Apparently they had a big chunk of hash and were concerned, but the goods were never discovered.

Petty asked bass player Ron Blair, who was holding, what happened to the stuff and Blair smiled, showing off some very black teeth. And, he played this gig while blitzed.

 

Again, I just don’t know what to say, though. The Biletones have at least a half dozen Petty tunes in their setlist. I guess the only place I can go is thank you so much Tom, for your songs, your humanity, and for being yourself.

I hope things are as fun on the other side! RIP mate.

Tom Petty Has Died.

This was the first song most of us heard by Tom Petty, I’m pretty confident to say. At least those who were alive when that record, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came out. Some of us were confused, there was another band called the Heartbreakers out there already, playing around the neighborhood. But LAMF, that band’s first album, didn’t come out until late in 1977. Tom Petty’s band’s first eponymous elpee dropped in February, and with it this amazing song that seemed to meld southern rock, LA country and NY punk into a perfect song.

Petty turned out be a giant star who had at least a bit of the heart of a remnant. He kept playing with his high school band, all through his life, and he genuinely seemed to enjoy the whole process, the writing and performing and being a star while also being himself. He wrote and sang and performed everywhere since those early days, and has had scores of hits and a ton of fame, but this is the song that comes to me first and foremost when I hear something awful, like I did today.

Obit – Grant Hart – Husker Du – 9/14/17

Husker Du drummer Grant Hart died of cancer today at age 56. Zen Arcade was in my top 50 album list and the Huskers were true pioneers of the melodic dissonance sound copied a billion times over since their heydey in the 80’s. I was fortunate enough to see them live at some dump in Philly in their prime.

Of course, Husker Du is not in the Rock Hall. We need the space for rapper Tupac and seventh-rate copy punkers Green Day.

I know this is a song written by Grant and sung by him too. Adios, amigo.

Obituary: Walter Becker (February 20, 1950-September 3, 2017)

Walter Becker, co-founder, guitar, bass player, and songwriter for Steely Dan has passed away from and undisclosed illness.

I pretty much dismissed the band following the release of their first single, Reelin’ in the Years, thinking it was a solid enough pop tune, but not thinking that much of the band, kind of the same as I liked Radiohead’s Creep when it was released never thinking what an incredible and rich catalog of tunes the band would produce.

In fact the analogy works for me since I bought both bands’ first albums, Can’t Buy a Thrill (Steely Dan) and Pablo Honey (Radiohead) liking the works in general, but never really suspecting how sophisticated the development of the band’s respective music would become.

But, starting with Countdown to Ecstasy, Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied, and then The Royal Scam, the Dan produced four albums that are as good, interesting, musically listenable and challenging as anything any performer could make

In fact, I think when I noted bands with three brilliant consecutive albums, Tom rightfully put Steely Dan’s–named for a chromed dildo in William Burrough’s Naked Lunch–list from above starting and stopping wherever you want, even adding Can’t Buy a Thrill on the front and Aja the back end.

I have to admit that with the band’s final big commercial success with Aja I became disinterested, slightly because it felt like I had been there before with the band, and partly because I was seriously into Punk and British Power Pop by then.

And, I had no interest in the band reforming and was no more interested in seeing their reunion than I would have been The Doobie Brothers or The Moody Blues.

Still, the band killed it for ten years with fantastic melodies and obscure interesting lyrics and a cluster of albums I still love.

Later Walter. Thanks for an incredible body of work and hours of pleasure. Here is a fave of mine.

Glen Campbell is Gone.

We knew this was coming. The Big A claimed him some years back and he had a dignified last stand.

But today, my first thought was Gentle on My Mind, which is I think the first time I ever knew his name.

My second thought was watching them shoot Rhinestone Cowboy, the movie, on Bank Street. By them I mean Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone.

My third thought was plumbing the depths of Campbell’s time in the Wrecking Crew and the Beach Boys.

But finally, really, this bit of corny soundtrack to a good movie he starred in and contributed the soundtrack is a testament to his giant talent and versatility and big hearted spirit. A little more country than rock ‘n’ roll, a little more mainstream than any of us would like, he cut a big swath across the culture. Good for him.

A Bob Lefsetz Anecdote about Gregg Allman

I’ve quoted Bob Lefsetz’s newsletter before. He’s a former music industry guy who, in his later years writes about a range of topics in an energetic and provocative way. Provocative mostly because he states his opinions directly. You can read and subscribe to his stuff here. In a post this week he wrote a history of the Allman Brothers and Gregg, and his first personal encounter with Gregg. I quote:

ANYTHING GOES

My favorite cut on the “I’m No Angel” album, there’s a moment, after the break, when Gregg Allman reaches down deep and at the top of his lungs screams…ANYTHING GOES! It’s at 3:20in the song if you wanna check it out, and it’s moments like these that are personal, that keep you going, putting one foot in front of the other, so when we were hanging out before the show…

Yes, I ain’t got no money, but I’m rich on personality, and that has allowed me to meet all my heroes, get e-mail from them, it thrills me, and about an hour before they took the stage at the Greek I was introduced to Gregg and I had to ask him, about that emotive explosion.

Now you’ve got to understand, they’re not like you and me.

First and foremost, he was wearing his boots, the original American rockers never got over the Beatles. And he’s towering above me, and he leans down to my ear, his long hair almost falling on my shoulder, and he starts whispering, telling a story, sotto voce, like we’re the only two people in the universe, like he’s gonna reveal a deep dark secret.

“I can’t hit that note every night. But there are certain evenings, when I’m sitting on the piano bench, and I reach over to hit a note and my left nut gets caught under my leg and I yell ANYTHING GOES!”

I swear to god, just like that, that’s about an exact quote.

And he backs off, stands straight, but gives me a poker face, and I’m not sure if he’s making fun of me, pulling my leg, putting me down, or initiating me into the ways of the road, making me an honorary insider, but one thing’s for sure, he was still COOL!

I don’t know. You be the judge. I remember this album, and it seemed Gregg modernized and wrapped in frou frou. Not terrible, his was a great voice, but this was not music from our roots.

But if Gregg explained this moment to Bob this way, it’s very swell, no matter if it is actually true. A fine ad lib. Check it out:

 

Obituary: Chris Cornell (1964-2017)

Chris Cornell, singer, songwriter, guitarist, and driving force behind theband Soundgarden, and one of the leaders of the grunge movement in music has died.

Cornell had a fantastic voice, and his band was certainly a rock band, but they played with form and time much in the way the Allman Brothers did, using some jazz progressions and signatures to establish and develop the band’s sound.

I was a big fan of the album Superunknown, from which I drew the clip below, but Cornell, who was just 52, also played a bit part in Cameron Crowe’s lovely film, Singles, which also boasts a great soundtrack. Soundgarden were also featured in the film.

A sad loss. If you don’t know the band, check em out. They were good.

Jonathan Demme has died.

Jonathan Demme’s life is rightly noted for his versatile and diverse talents and interests, though his love of music seems to be the unifying connection between his genre films, documentaries, blockbusters, and humanitarian work. I liked much of his oeuvre, maybe not as passionately as some, but I admired his restless and generous life. And when I heard the news I thought of this, as I’m sure did many: