This was the first song most of us heard by Tom Petty, I’m pretty confident to say. At least those who were alive when that record, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came out. Some of us were confused, there was another band called the Heartbreakers out there already, playing around the neighborhood. But LAMF, that band’s first album, didn’t come out until late in 1977. Tom Petty’s band’s first eponymous elpee dropped in February, and with it this amazing song that seemed to meld southern rock, LA country and NY punk into a perfect song.
Petty turned out be a giant star who had at least a bit of the heart of a remnant. He kept playing with his high school band, all through his life, and he genuinely seemed to enjoy the whole process, the writing and performing and being a star while also being himself. He wrote and sang and performed everywhere since those early days, and has had scores of hits and a ton of fame, but this is the song that comes to me first and foremost when I hear something awful, like I did today.
Yup, this is the first song of his that I heard, and still I think his best. I had a grudge against him for “stealing” The Heartbreakers’ name until I found out it was the other way around – the Dolls had played with them in Florida when on their last legs in 1975 and they loved the name. They figured it was OK to steal it since “these guys will never make it.” Life is so full of ironies. Petty did other good stuff but I was never tempted to buy any of his albums. A Greatest Hits guy to me. He hosted a Sirius/XM program called “Buried Treasure” that was really good; the man had great taste. RIP
I think “Breakdown” was first for me, because someone wanted to play it in my first band that actually played a paying gig. (And it’s real easy to play.)
All I can ever think of when I hear “American Girl” is “Silence Of The Lambs” – the “Stuck In The Middle” phenomonon.
To me, for the last 25 years Petty seemed to be the go-to rock guy you couldn’t go wrong with and – right or wrong – that rubbed me the wrong way a bit. As in, “Hey who DOESN’T like Tom Petty?” Certainly not his fault.
Regardless, RIP Tom Petty. You were good for rock ‘n’ roll.
Petty and Dave Grohl. Who doesn’t like them? Add Josh Homme.
Rock is dead.
OK, Smartypants. Let’s have an Absorb Challenge. I’ll absorb your choice of Hiss Messenger albums. You’ll absorb the new Queens. My definition of “absorb” is five complete listens. We can argue about the Absorb rules, as if it were TOUT Wars if you want.
Up for it?
Rock’s not dead. Sometimes I wonder about punk.