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.

Song of the Week – Snatching it Back, Clarence Carter


Blind soul man Clarence Carter had a couple of big hits in the 60s, namely “Slip Away” and “Patches” (a family favorite sing-a-long). He also recorded a terrific version of the southern soul classic “Dark End of the Street” that even white bread Linda Ronstadt couldn’t ruin.

But when I want to party and shake a leg, I turn to Carter’s “Snatching It Back” from the 1969 album Testifyin’.

This track was recorded at the legendary FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals. (Duane Allman was part of their house band for a while.) It is slathered with a thick layer of southern funk bar-b-q sauce and a warm side of horns.

The 81 year old Carter still occasionally performs.

Enjoy… until next week.

Hiss Golden Messenger

I wish I could limit this to a song. Or a video. But the fact is that this is a fantastic band. Maybe the best I’ve ever heard. They’re that good. (Okay, this is overstatement, but I hope it got your attention.)

The problem is that they play classic rock, or classic country rock. This is a style of music that is so overplayed, so worn out, that you would think that creating new songs and sounds in the style would be impossible. But somehow Hiss Golden Messenger makes these old sounds sound fresh. The arrangements are fantastic. The songs are very good.

I find this confounding. Listening I hear Delaney and Bonnie meeting mellow Clapton, with some Allmans and Van Morrison, vocals by Steve Earle, a track here is a little like Dylan, that one is a little like the Band, but none of them ripoffs or lazily derivative. They use the phonemes of classic country rock and create a dream team. That is what this band does, on every cut, of the two albums I’ve listened to.

So, here are a few songs for your delectation. Rave on. These aren’t punk gods, like Hans Condor. They’re not innovators, but they’re not nostalgists either. They inhabit their music in a way that only the very best do. They are regular musicians trying to find a pay day. But I think you’re going to like what they do.

Song of the Week – Guarda Come Dondolo, Edoardo Vianello


The Emmy Awards were announced last Sunday and I was again reminded that we are in a golden age of television. The quality of the programing, on cable, HBO, Netflix, and now Hulu and Amazon Prime, is outstanding. It seems like every week someone is recommending a “must see” series for me to binge watch. I have a long list and too little time.

One show that I did watch this year was (both seasons of) Master of None. The romantic comedy/drama was created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, and stars Ansari. It is well written and performed and totally charming. It was nominated for Emmys in eight categories last weekend and was the winner for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series, and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe).

One category the show was nominated for but didn’t win was Outstanding Music Supervision. It was for the hour long episode called “Amarsi Un Po.” I have to admit, the show used music from many different genres to great effect – each song perfectly selected to enhance the emotion that was unfolding on the screen.

That leads me to today’s SotW – “Guarda Come Dondolo” by Edoardo Vianello.

The scene is set when Dev (Ansari) and Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi), who is engaged but is developing feelings for Dev, are stuck at his apartment during a blizzard. She reluctantly agrees to spend the night at his apartment, but she really has no choice due to the severity of the storm. They get ready to go to sleep – she in his bed, he on the sofa – but neither can sleep; the situation causing a degree of anxiety. They agree to get up and dance. Francesca chooses the Italian pop song “Guarda Come Dondolo” (1962). The scene flawlessly conveys how they break the romantic tension by dancing to this goofy song. It’s perfect!!!

Here’s a clip of the scene:

“Guarda Come Dondolo” doesn’t translate to anything that really makes sense in English. Suffice to say that it is an Italian version of “The Twist.” So rock on!

Enjoy… until next week.