I woke up again today in St. Paul, certain of very little as it turns out. But I did have a song banging around in my head. It was I Can Dig It from "Free Again: the 1970 Sessions" by Alex Chilton and this was very reassuring to me. I still love listening to hooky, stripped down no bullshit rock music, as much as I ever did. I'm relieved that I still wake up with shit like that in my head. Of that I'm certain.
Right around a year ago today, Tom Petty died in Los Angeles, just a matter of days after coming off tour with the Heartbreakers. I was fortunate enough to see their Austin show, and to have seen them play a few times before that as well, in 1984, 1987 and 1991. In two weeks I'm going to drive to Austin. When I get there I'm going to play a bunch of shows. Some of them solo, and some with my backing band The Stares (Steve McCarthy, Hunter Darby and Michael Crow, continually stoked to be able to play with these guys) One of these October gigs is with Petty Thieves, a band started by Steve a few years ago to play exclusively songs by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
I have been a Petty fan since around 7th grade. One of my very first purchases of any recorded music was Damn the Torpedoes on cassette. As Jimmy Smith always used to say, Petty was the king of the bridge. It's true - he wrote a lot of great bridges. The one in Change of Heart is killer. So is the one in Refugee. Those are two among many. I thought his songwriting was efficient but never sterile, and had a sort of easy-going elegance about it. His voice always spoke to me. Powerfully and succinctly, almost kind of privately. It's clear that his voice spoke to millions of other people in more or less the same way. It was a voice that spoke to me more clearly and personally somehow than someone like Springsteen's did, more than Dylan's did. Still does. It seemed honest. it seemed to come from someone who would look you in the eye and give a damn.
Not everything he did was great, but he never made a really bad record, either. I love those early ones. I love some of his somewhat less-celebrated later albums a lot too. Echo, and Highway Companion, and the last one Hypnotic Eye, these are all records I continue to find a lot to love in. Inspiring shit, continually. Thanks again Tom.
To my friends in Austin - thanks for coming out to the shows last month. In October I'll be at Volstead and Knomad solo, Sam's Town Point with the Stares, and ABGB with the Stares and Petty Thieves. For the dates, times and other info click on over to the Shows page. see y'all in a couple weeks.