The first Tom Petty song I ever heard was You Got Lucky in about 1985. I was probably about 12 at the time; it would have been on the radio and early MTV. He had so many hits in the 80s, so I’ll always remember him from being a kid and as a teenager in the Valley in California. And then as I got a little older, I discovered just how good a song writer he really is. The greatest hits is the one I always go back to. You’ll always discover something.
The thing about Tom Petty is that he represents all the things you love about Americana and rock’n’roll, but there’s an understated ness to the sound that makes it feel very real – like you’re there in the room with him. And he’s stayed the course. He’s had a decades-long career, and the songs are always changing. There’s always hooks and grooves in them, but they’re not overly poppy. He’s one of these… substantial artists, who’s made a lot of radio hits but it’s still real.
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I have so many favourites, but I really like Don’t Do Me Like That. I love that one. He has these lyrics that say it like it is; they hit you in the heart, but they’re so simple. Like: ‘The waiting is the hardest part’. How many times have you thought that? He paints a picture of a world I understand, with all its heartbreak and the environments he describes. He’ll tell these stories about people he’s come across who sometimes turn out to be no-gooders. I can relate to that.
Oh man, the other thing is the groove. Even his slow songs have a groove. They’re never down. So you can be doing things around the house and you’ll get a lift from them. Like with American Girl. That song is so great! You’ll get a nice kick in the pants. His songs are familiar without being dated. What’s amazing is that you can discover just how good he is 20 years later.
If someone couldn’t see the greatness of Tom Petty as a songwriter, I’d just think they were not playing with a full deck.