We sure as hell didn’t see that one coming. One week after completing his 40th Anniversary tour with The Heartbreakers, Tom Petty is dead. He suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu and never regained consciousness, passing yesterday at 8:40pm local time
Since his death, I’ve been thinking about him a lot – about the songs I love and the interviews I read and saw. Were I to sum up, in one word, the life and career of Tom Petty as I’ve come to know it, that word would be integrity. Tom was always on the side of good – and he was Cool As Fuck. On this sad day, let’s remember a few of those times when Petty was a badass
- He Never Let Record Companies Dick Him Around
Tom and The Heartbreakers were initially signed to Shelter Records, and were two albums into their deal when the label was bought by MCA. Petty objected to now being under contract to a label to which he’d never signed. He held back his new album from release, and filed for bankruptcy as a way to get out of the contract. In order to settle the dispute, MCA released him from his contract and immediately agreed a new, more favourable deal with him. The album he’d held back was Damn The Torpedoes, which went on to be a smash hit
Two years later, MCA wanted to hike the price of new albums by big artists from $8.98 to $9.98. One of the new albums affected was Petty’s forthcoming Hard Promises. Tom stood firm against the price hike, even going so far as considering renaming the album Eight Ninety-Eight. Eventually, MCA relented, and the record was shipped at the regular price
2. That Time He Shielded Roger McGuinn From Two Asshole Record Executives
There’s a great scene Peter Bogdanovich’s Runnin Down A Dream documentary where Tom Petty is in the studio with Roger McGuinn, working on the latter’s album Back From Rio. Enter two dorky record executives, who attempted to railroad McGuinn into recording a song they’d written for his album. McGuinn, not wanting to appear awkward, was willing to consider the song. Cue Tom Petty chewing the execs out of it, informing them that their song was cack, that they were clueless as to what a great artist McGuinn was, and not to insult him by presenting him with crap. His disgust is plain to see, and needless to say, the song wasn’t recorded.
3. He Never Sued When Other Artists “Borrowed” His Riffs
Upon reading that The Strokes ripped off his song ‘American Girl’ on their song ‘Last Nite’, Tom laughed. On the subject of Red Hot Chili Peppers appropriating his ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ for their ‘Dani California’, Petty’s take was “We All Do It”. More recently, much was made of the similarity between Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’ and Tom Petty’s ‘I Won’t Back Down’. No writs were issued; instead, both sides sorted it out between them. Writing on his website at the time, T.P. said: “About the Sam Smith thing. Let me say I have never had any hard feelings toward Sam. All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen. Most times you catch it before it gets out the studio door but in this case it got by. Sam’s people were very understanding of our predicament and we easily came to an agreement.” Dude In Excelsis.
4. He Co-Wrote ‘Tweeter And The Monkey Man’. By Accident.
George Harrison, talking in The True History Of The Traveling Wilburys documentary: “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” was really Tom Petty and Bob (Dylan). Well, Jeff and I were there too, but we were just sitting there around in the kitchen, and he was for some reason talking about all this stuff that didn’t make much sense to me, you know, it was that Americana kinda stuff and we got a tape cassette and put it on and then transcribed everything they were saying.“
5. He Wouldn’t Back Down
You could stand him up at the gates of hell, but he wouldn’t back down.
As I write this, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Greatest Hits is number one in the iTunes Album Chart. Rightly so. In tribute to Tom, we decided to put together a Spotify playlist of what we at RockYouLike consider to be his finest tracks. He’s left this world for a while, and it’s a poorer place for that. Rest In Peace Tom Petty, you magnificent dude.