Nov 192021

I just finished watching the enjoyable and nostalgic documentary “Somewhere You Feel Free” about the making of Tom Petty’s Wildflowers. Some mindless related web surfing led me to this photo, supposedly from 1976, which was followed by more trails leading to various subjects like Dwight Twilley and Phil Seymour (did you ever notice the striking similarity between the juicy guitar riffs of Twilley’s “I’m on Fire” and Petty’s “Strangered in the Night”?), Leon Russell and Denny Cordell (Shelter Records), Tom Leadon (Mudcrutch).

It’s obvious what set me off searching for more information: Who the heck is the extra dude in this photo, standing next to Petty and wearing the perhaps silk Japanese baseball jacket or kimono? It sure looks like an official band photoshoot, but it could be an interloper, guest, or studio collaborator. I found no answers (it’s surely none of the above-mentioned people) and no mention of there ever having briefly been a 5th Heartbreaker.

Townspeople, can we figure this out? There’s probably a simple answer rather than a big rock mystery.

One too many heartbreakers.

(L-R: Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, Tom Petty, ?????, Ron Blair, Stan Lynch)

(Update — see later comment regarding this newly found photo.)

Aug 072014

Well, well — Tom Petty has his first album ever to debut at #1 on the Billboard album chart. It’s a pretty low bar these days, and there are all kinds of tricks (like giving away album downloads when you buy a concert ticket) but, hell yes! #1 baby! Clapton comes in at #2 with his JJ Cale tribute. What is this? 1977?

Petty’s “Hypnotic Eye” sounds OK by me — I have not listened to it 50 times yet — but I’m liking it. Also this week, Spoon put out a new one that seems promising for the long haul. Jenny Lewis  has a nice new album that I probably will listen to 50 times at some point this year.

So — I’m pretty optimistic about R-O-C-K-ers (yeah, of a certain age) right now.

P.S. Stream Sinead’s new one at NPR’s First Listen, too!

May 112012

I’d forgotten about this little hit song of Dave Edmunds, “Slipping Away.” It’s got a lot in common with one of ELO’s last hit songs, “Don’t Bring Me Down.” That song and this Edmunds production by ELO’s Jeff Lynne set the stage for a decade of constipated production jobs by Lynne for already established tight-ass artists Edmunds, George Harrison, and Tom Petty. I don’t necessarily dislike the records Lynne produced for these artists, man, get these guys some bran muffins!

Apr 062012

Hey, I’m not a guitar player, and Mike Campbell certainly isn’t one of my guitar gods, but I found this little video pretty interesting. For you guitar players, the fact that there’s <i>fourteen</i> more of these to follow may be like getting a bonus season of Justified. But Mike seems to be a good guy, and he starts at the beginning and when he name drops, it’s not for showing off. I didn’t even know he had a blog.

Oct 072011

For someone who was sooo in love with everything Elvis Costello & The Attractions, it’s amazing I never picked up the solo effort (can it be “solo” with three guys?) by the greatest backup band in the world. A high school buddy of mine had it and we derided it—probably without really listening to it with an open mind.

So, besides The Band, is there a backup outfit that has had any success on their own. Would you buy The Rumour without Graham Parker? The News without Huey? The Heartbreakers without Tom Petty?

And should I give The Attractions’ “solo” album another chance?

Aug 242010

The first thing that strikes me about the Classic Albums series’ making-of documentary of Tom Petty & The HeartbreakersDamn the Torpedoes is the British Invasion-era guitar porn that was on display in the early days of the band. There are all varieties of Rickenbackers, including the relatively cheapo one that Tom holds on the album cover and that John Lennon played in early Beatles’ shots. I came real close to buying one of those in high school, but I didn’t like the way it played. There are the classic Ricks, both 6- and 12-string variety. There’s Tom playing a Flying V and a Firebird. Mike Campbell plays some cool guitars, too, mostly along the classic Fender and Gibson lines, but nothing beats a shot of Tom playing a 12-string Vox! Now, that’s cool!

Early on Petty and his mates speak of the band’s mix of British Invasion and southern rock and soul. As Petty, Campbell, and producer Jimmy Iovine, the latter looking like a modern-day James Caan character in the best-preserved Members’ Only jacket on the planet, sit at the mixing board and breakdown the smash hits from this album it all seems so simple – too simple. You might find yourself thinking, “Gee, Petty’s whole bag is so simple why don’t more people make records this solid? Shoot, why didn’t I make this album?” It’s part of the magic of Tom Petty and his band that such a straightforward, traditional sound backing such straightforward, down-to-earth lyrics can work so well, especially on Damn the Torpedoes, which for me has always been the one Petty album (Greatest Hits excluded) worth spinning more or less from start to finish.
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