It’s almost as if the zeitgeist now is to kick the bucket when the world hasn’t prepared itself for an end to your musical production – 2016 was a relentless sweep for the Grim Reaper, and maybe as a collective, music fans should have headed the words of the Blue Oyster Cult more than any musicians ought to: ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’.
Last month, a relatively spritely young character at the tender age of 66 was taken from the annals of Rock and Roll music:
(Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Tom Petty, and the men that made up the Heartbreakers, was responsible for some real American Rock anthems, and have maintained the original lineup up until today. Watching his performance at British Summertime in Hyde Park, he proudly reminds us that his band is “almost closer than family”.
Despite his understated celebrity persona, his life hasn’t been free of the trials and juice of rock and roll clichés – he couldn’t manage to escape the incestuous circles of those hazy years in the 70s and 80s. His relationship with the ethereal Bella Donna herself Stevie Nicks (of the Brit-American Fleetwood Mac) had been an unspecified but intimate one, with the two debuting the song ‘Stop Dragging My Heart Around’ in 1981. Perhaps from this friendship, a unique quality for rock music at the time, Petty’s music managed to have both a rural country sound but an innate and tender respect for the women and love interests in the lyrics to ‘Free Girl’ he speaks of an original sexual freedom: “When you walk from the table / No longer, will you bow down”. The pairs history culminated in a stand out performance at British Summer Time this August, satisfying the hearts of the once follicaly endowed men, whose fantasies of wild summers were alit for the last time.
Stop Draggin My Heart Around. London, 9th July 2017.
Petty’s style morphed and expressed so many types of music, not to mention the Florida landscape he grew up in. He spoke of a formative moment in his musical career being the day that his father took him to meet the new Rock and Roll king Elvis Presley when he visited town. Petty’s melodies and his handiwork on a 12-string unified all the best tones of deep country, blues Rock’n Roll and Psychedelia – the best being the unparalleled ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’, from the album Southern Accents from 1985.
His songs carried a wistful and genuine memory of the American Dream, with other influences from the British Invasion of The Beatles-style rock, both inspired and collaborated with him over his decade-long career. These changes and motions allowed him to fit perfectly into the Platinum-selling supergroup The Travelling Wilburys alongside the Spiritual Beatle George Harrison, Blues crooner Roy Orbison, Psychedelic Ambient Jeff Lynne and the iconic country musician Bob Dylan.
Despite the fact that this band have crossed continents and collectively cashed in on their individual successes, Tom Petty was the youngest Wilbury and it only begs the question, how is Bob Dylan still alive?
© 2007 T. Wilburys Limited Handle With Care
Words, Emma Hosking