“It is grueling to do a very, very long one,” the great Tom Petty admitted to an interviewer last week, at the conclusion of a 53-show concert tour. “This was quite a long one. It’s sometimes physically hard. But then the lights go down, you hear the crowd and you’re all better. You feel like, ‘OK, let’s do it.’”
A few days later, of course, Petty was dead at age 66. He went into cardiac arrest at his mansion in Malibu and never recovered consciousness, which isn’t a bad way to go if you think about it.
But for a lot of us left behind, that one hurt. Petty was a great talent who never seemed to lose a sense of himself, of where he came from and where he stood. That’s not something that you can say about a lot of people in rock and roll, especially not those who had careers even approaching that of Petty. If you’re interested, go read the interview linked above, because it really gives you a good sense of him as a person, musician and bandmate.
That last word, “bandmate,” was particularly important to him.
“The thing about the Heartbreakers is, it’s still holy to me,” he told Randy Lewis of the Los Angeles Tims. “There’s a holiness there. If that were to go away, I don’t think I would be interested in it, and I don’t think they would. We’re a real rock ’n’ roll band — always have been. And to us, in the era we came up in, it was a religion in a way. It was more than commerce, it wasn’t about that. It was about something much greater.
“It was about moving people, and changing the world, and I really believed in rock ’n’ roll — I still do,” he said. “I believed in it in its purest sense, its purest form. … It’s unique to have a band that knows each other that long and that well.”
Thanks for bringing the rest of us along, Mr. Petty. It was hard choosing just one song from the Heartbreakers’ incredibly rich songbook, but after listening to most of their tunes, I settled on this one. The video, however, is pretty weird.