Consulting this website's Future Book of The Dead I notice I didn’t put Tom Petty on my list of possible celebrity obituaries. And rightly so. I didn’t really dig him that much. Sure, I had his greatest hits on my iTunes (or at least the ones I liked – about 10). Some of them are okay. I play them sometimes. But it’s not urgent, if you know what I mean.
Basically, one for our American cousins. Nothing wrong with Americana - love it - but not everything travels the Atlantic.
But since he’s dead - and I think my readership is not ready for another one of my 4th Century Roman Empire jerk offs - let’s talk Tom. But only tangentially.
(A note to readers, Mick Taylor will not feature in this article. Read it anyway, guys. Broaden your perspective a little.)
I first came across Tom Petty in 1988/89 when the Travelling Wilburys came out. The others – Dylan, Orbison, Harrison, Lynne were well known to a UK audience. Tom Petty though? Who the fuck was he? And to be honest, although I had both Travelling Wilbury albums at some point, I still didn’t know who Tom Petty was. I still slept good.
The second-time Tom Petty came into my consciousness was through Gene Clark - the magnificent but doomed Byrds singer / songwriter. As is well known, Clark was often an alcoholic, often a junkie. By the late 80’s though, he was semi-clean because his records weren’t selling and he was broke.
Enter Tom Petty.
Petty seemed to have wanted to have been in the Byrds (listen to Here Comes My Girl, for instance). So, on his Full Moon Fever Album, he chose to cover the Clark/Byrds classic – I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better. A pretty faithful if uninspired cover, frankly. However, as the album was a best seller and stayed in the US charts for ever, Clark, as the unwitting songwriter of one tenth of the album, suddenly got a ton of cash. Clark did what Clark did and got off his tits with every drug he could find.
Yes, Tom Petty killed Gene Clark.
Not knowingly, of course. But the money from Petty fuelled Clark’s habits. And then he died.
So, not really a Tom Petty eulogy. More a couple of random facts about music. About my life. Anyway, listen to this from Tom - its not bad and probably a good way to remember him.