Tom Petty: The Music Still Exists
In 1979, I was in my first “real” band (a conglomeration that actually held together for several years and composed some especially fun tunes). Back then, the other guitarist (shout out to the amazing, Richard-cum-Faces axeman, George Corish) and I would commute to the next town for rehearsal. During those rides, we often sang at the top of our lungs with the current albums he had on 8-track tape (ask your folks, kiddies). Among the tapes that were quickly worn out were Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ first album and Damn the Torpedoes.
Our band shared a mix of influences. Early metal, Brit-pop, southern rock, Midwestern arena rock, even some country blues. To the mix I added my love of punk. The artist who straddled all of those subgenres, easy as a worn pair of boots, was Tom Petty.
I was a teenage virgin, in love with all the girls who didn’t love me, and Petty’s songs seemed to know my heart, share my frustrations, understand the invisible romantic that I was. Soothing yet energizing, those songs got me through the angst and helped me believe that one day, I would get the girl. It would be wonderful; sometimes it would suck. And I might lose her. But I would live to love again.
And he was right.
Petty once made a comment in Rolling Stone about the disposability of Pop music. That it SHOULD be disposable. Perhaps he was downplaying his own ability. Perhaps he truly believed it. It’s true that a Pop song is a confection to be savored for a few weeks, months or even a couple of years before we start to get sick of it and put it away, only to find it years later, revisiting the familiar delight with seasoned ears. But many tunes avoid wearing out their welcome. Many of those are Petty songs.
People around the world are grieving the loss of Tom Petty. I’m not. I had no association with the man, I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing him in concert. I connect with the music, which still exists to give listening pleasure and hope to the invisible romantics of current and, hopefully, future generations.