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Like most music followers, we at The A.V. Membership are all saddened by the information of Tom Petty’s loss of life yesterday. It’s all the time a great time to go to his in depth catalog, however at present it appears exceptionally applicable, as a way to honor the person who dominated rock radio earlier than a few of us had been even alive, and who wrote the tracks that scored our lives for a number of many years. So, we ask our workers (and also you):
What’s your favourite Tom Petty track?
Even after he had already introduced the current 40th anniversary tour, Tom Petty was nonetheless speaking a few field set and intimate-venue tour behind 1994’s unbelievable Wildflowers. That might’ve been a dream-come-true tour for me, as that’s hands-down my favourite Petty album. I did get an opportunity to see him play simply three months in the past, and, as this-job-has-perks luck would have it, from the fourth row. He performed 5 songs from Wildflowers, even introducing a run of three with one thing like “Do you just like the Wildflowers album?” That’s the great distance round to choosing my favourite Tom Petty track of at present—that reply might change nearly each day. However at present it’s the title observe, “Wildflowers,” which reads like one thing you would possibly truly hear at a funeral: “You belong among the many wildflowers / You belong someplace near me / Distant out of your hassle and worries / You belong someplace you be at liberty.”
Once I was 14 and a puny highschool freshman, my greatest pals and I had been dedicated to Tom Petty over nearly every other songwriter. The boys we appreciated at school appeared to have little curiosity in our ideas and emotions, at the same time as they teased us or tried to ask us to dances, however the vinyl albums we performed again and again revealed that Petty knew a lot concerning the younger ladies we had been aiming to be. He crafted songs for American ladies, refugees, free-fallers—children who had been about to interrupt out into the grownup world, giving us a touch of what was about to come back. I might write about 20 completely different songs right here, however “Even The Losers” is my explicit highschool snapshot: “Properly it was almost summer season, we sat in your roof / Yeah we smoked cigarettes and we stared on the moon.” Petty all the time supplied tenacity within the state of despair; on this track, at the same time as he’s getting dumped, he maintains, “I confirmed you stars you by no means might see / Babe, it couldn’t have been that straightforward to neglect about me.” He knew that even the losers get fortunate typically, and that optimism was sufficient to get me via highschool. I can’t consider a songwriter I’m extra indebted to.
The city the place I grew up, Brighton, Michigan, is kind of equidistant from the Nice Lakes state’s two main radio markets, which meant my automobile stereo might choose up a pair of basic rock stations located proper subsequent to 1 one other on the dial: 94.7 WCSX in Detroit and 94.9 WMMQ in Lansing. Each stations stored Tom Petty in heavy rotation all through my highschool years, frequently exposing me to new depths of his discography—even once I didn’t comprehend it was him. I have to’ve heard “Don’t Do Me Like That” a dozen instances with out a DJ figuring out the observe or the artist behind it; the piano-and-organ accents lead me to imagine I’d found a J. Geils Band observe with all of the strut and not one of the leering of “Centerfold.” (The truth that I’m solely simply now studying that Petty thought of giving the track to Geils proves that his again catalog hasn’t misplaced any sense of shock through the years.) I’m most a fan of The Heartbreakers’ tracks that talk for the heartbroken, of which “Don’t Do Me Like That” is among the most effervescent, with that killer “’Cuz someplace deep down inside” breakdown and the quintessential Tom Petty mumble-drawl chorus. (It’d be completely inside motive to mark the track down as “Dondoomeelythat” on a mixtape tracklist.) I sit up for listening to that stuttering instrumental intro on each basic rock station within the nation for the remainder of eternity.
14 classic Tom Petty opening lines
It’d be hard for any lyric to live up to the instant excitement of the instrumental opening of…
I was traveling yesterday when I heard the news about Petty’s cardiac arrest. The local-to-me classic rock station went all-Petty in tribute, and I nearly started crying in the car when the feathery opening chords of 1991’s “Learning To Fly” began. Co-written by Jeff Lynne, the song is about charting a path forward after a seismic life event—dusting yourself off and recalibrating your equilibrium for this new reality. But more than anything, “Learning To Fly” is a marvel of lyrical simplicity that illustrates the laconic, relatable way Petty always conveyed longing, vulnerability, and optimism. “I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings,” he sings earnestly, while adding his usual caveat. “Coming down is the hardest thing.” The musical vibe of “Learning To Fly” matches its otherworldly, in-the-clouds thematic bent. Call the song phase-shifted jangle pop, with its cascading melancholic riffs and gentle sonic contrasts. Insistent acoustic guitar strums and shuffling drums provide a steady foundation underneath flourishes such as turbulent slide guitar. “Learning To Fly” wasn’t the biggest Petty hit—it peaked at a modest No. 28 in the top 40—but its embrace of metamorphosis makes it one of his most enduring, resonant moments.
For sentimental reasons, I love “California” from the 1996 soundtrack of Edward Burns’ She’s The One, a film where Petty and The Heartbreakers provided all the music. There’s nothing groundbreaking about this pithy track, registering under 2 minutes and 40 seconds, but its AM Gold melody is evocative of driving down the Pacific Coast Highway with the top down and a warm breeze blowing. This is the song I found myself playing hundreds of times when I lived in Southern California in my early 20s. It has everything you want in a work of Petty’s: brevity, an easy-going sense, the briefest suggestion of twang, and a harmonica solo.
Is it weird that my favorite Tom Petty song has little guitar but boasts a lot of sitar and ’80s-sounding electronic drums and keyboards? I can’t help it. I love “Don’t Come Around Here No More” from 1985’s Southern Accents. The song’s atmosphere, the heartbroken but defiant lyrics, they all work for me. And it’s not that weird—“Don’t Come Around Here No More” closes with a propulsive coda that’s 100 percent Petty guitar rock. I can’t think of it without picturing the Alice In Wonderland-inspired video, which MTV played a ton back in the mid-’80s, scarring a few minds in the process. One of a kind, that Tom Petty.
I grew up with Tom Petty as a staple of top 40 and album-rock radio, and it wasn’t until much later in my life that I fully grasped how much his early albums baffled critics, who were unsure whether to file him alongside New Wavers like Elvis Costello or roots-rockers like Bruce Springsteen. That’s why one of my favorite Petty songs is one that I didn’t hear until relatively recently: “Surrender,” a staple of the Heartbreakers’ ’70s and ’80s live sets that didn’t get any kind of official release until the 21st century. Petty’s friend Phil Seymour—a key collaborator on early albums by Petty’s label-mate Dwight Twilley—covered “Surrender” on a solo album in 1982, and his version really suggests an alternate history version of The Heartbreakers. There’s a universe where the band never made the jump to classic rock status, and instead ended up being another regional power-pop favorite that couldn’t break national, like Shoes or 20/20. In that reality, “Surrender” is a lost late-’70s classic, still chiming through the middle American night from the car stereos of those in the know.
Tom Petty was an empathetic songwriter, stringing together verses that revealed as much about himself as they did the listener. But one of my longtime favorites features probably his most detached point of view. In “Yer So Bad,” Petty sings about a fictional sister and her yuppie ex-husband, and the (mis)fortunes that befall them after their divorce. He reserves only the chorus for his own feelings, which are mostly grateful for a more supportive lover. But what a chorus it is—a beautifully arranged S.O.S. that stands out as one of his and Jeff Lynne’s most vibrant. And although the lyrics for this Full Moon Fever track didn’t end up scrawled in any of my notebooks growing up, I did watch the video (which featured the late Charlie Rocket) more times than I can remember.
Leonardo Adrian Garcia
I don’t believe I’ve ever had a No. 1-with-a-bullet favorite Tom Petty song (though if there was one, Josh scooped it up). His entire oeuvre seems woven into my adolescence in a way that makes it impossible to choose. “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” “The Waiting,” “Walls (No. 3),” “Refugee,” “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”—the songs I gravitate toward shift like the weather, either based on my mood or the state of the world. It’s no surprise then, that in the wake of his death, the song that’s been echoing in my mind is “I Forgive It All,” an introspective acoustic number on what would prove to be Petty’s final record, Mudcrutch’s 2. The track finds Petty settling up his accounts and setting out on his final adventure, before offering one last bit of advice: “People are what people make ’em / That ain’t gonna change.” The repeated choruses feel earned, with Petty’s voice worn from years of touring and watching friends and loved ones go. Though not intended, it’s a swan song if ever there was one, showing that 40 years into his career, Tom Petty was still capable of weaving story into song.