There’s only one thing to write about the morning after seeing a Tom Petty show.
I’ve grown to love the guy over the years, but I’ve always felt he’s never quite gotten the respect he deserves (Rolling Stone even included him on a list of 25 underappreciated artists last year.) I was planning to write something in defense of “the poor man’s Dylan,” but I have to face some truths, too.
I was going to tout his perfect track record albumwise, and write about how he and the Heartbreakers never strained to fit in with whatever was popular at the time. But Southern Accents does kinda suck (working with a Eurythmic might have been a bad idea), some of those early-days-of-MTV videos are silly, and The Last DJ is the kind of self-important rock opera I thought was beneath him. And then there’s the Jeff Lynne thing — hey, I liked ELO back in the day, but Lynne’s sometimes sterile production could drain the life out of a song.
But it doesn’t matter. I’m in love with Old Man Petty. Watch “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” the four-hour(!), 2007 career-spanning documentary directed by Peter Bogdanovich and tell me you don’t love him too. Or watch him when his friend Garry Shandling(!) stops by the house for a funny, intimate chat in a bonus feature included on the “Larry Sanders Show” DVD set. (A highlight: The two talk about getting older and how important it is to tell people that you love them.)
In his late 50s now, Old Man Petty is a guy who seems to love his life, his bandmates, his family, his friends, his job, his place in music history. That he’s funny, charming and reflective only helps.
And last year Old Man Petty did something few if any aging rock stars do. He reunited his first group, Mudcrutch, to give the boys in the band a taste of the success that eluded them over 30 years ago, to share the dream that he’s been living ever since.
Petty isn’t just classic rock. He’s class rock.