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.
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!
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.
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?
The first thing that strikes me about the Classic Albums series’ making-of documentary of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers‘ Damn 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. Continue reading »
Years ago, when my wife and I were first dating, we ran into one of my old musician friends on a street corner. His long hair and slacker Shaggy Rogers facade hid the fact that he was a gentle, thoughtful guy whose only vice was sweets. After continuing on our way, she said something like, “Band members have this reputation for being tough and cool, but whenever I meet them they’re usually the nicest people in the club.” From 1978 through the 1980s, Penny Rush-Valladares interacted with rock stars galore while running Backstage Cafe, a concert catering company in Kansas City, Missouri. In the process, Penny became a member of the Kansas City rock scene herself. From both the tales on her website, Rock and Roll Stories, and our conversations about her her experiences, it quickly became clear that Penny was among the many nice ones in the rock scene, super nice.
But this hard-working, rock ‘n roll-loving hippie (in the best sense of the term) isn’t beyond dishing more than her patented turkey dinners. In the course of our talk we gain some shocking insights about the likes of Roger Waters, Neil Diamond, and Bob Dylan – not to mention a story about Van Halen that’s more disgusting than I would have thought possible. A key detail about a diminutive purple presence in the ’80s rock scene explains so much, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In the true spirit of the Halls of Rock, Penny brings a cheerful attitude, a bruised-but-not-beaten sense of idealism, and the willingness to let it all hang out. You won’t run into a Penny on any old street corner.
Penny’s website chronicles some of her earliest rock ‘n roll stories, including her night with The Beatles; we start with her entry into rock ‘n roll catering.
RTH: Can you summarize your work as a rock ‘n roll caterer? How did you get started as a caterer for touring musicians? You were initially based out of a certain venue, right?
Penny: Well, yes and no. I worked out of the Uptown Theatre in the beginning, helping another woman and learning the ropes. But it soon extended out into other venues. It was in its infant stages and we made it up as we went along. Basically we had to come up with a little dressing room food for the artists and some crew dinner for 20 or so guys. The reason I got involved was because I loved going to concerts and wanted to be backstage, so I soon realized there was a need for food and I knew that was something I could do.
It just kept evolving and demands from the artists kept getting more involved and official. A contract “rider” came along, which listed all the particular needs of each act and their food requirements were included. So it didn’t take long for me to start specializing in concert catering. I never wanted to do other kinds of catering, because I was only doing it to be backstage.