Tag Archives: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Rocks In The Attic #794: Fleetwood Mac – ‘Tusk’ (1979)

RITA#794Fleetwood Mac recently played five nights in New Zealand – four of which in Auckland. They usually play one or two nights when they reach our shores, but this time they had a Kiwi among their ranks and all the proud New Zealanders wanted to see him.

The current touring line-up of the Mac was established when the band fired Lindsey Buckingham, apparently for not getting into the spirit of the band’s 50th anniversary and refusing to play material prior to his tenure with the band. Out went Buckingham, and brought in to replace him were Split Enz / Crowded House frontman Neil Finn, and Tom Petty sideman Mike Campbell. It’s a measure of how strong Buckingham was on both vocals and guitar, that the band split his responsibilities across two people (lead guitar work could easily have been handled by their touring guitarist, Neale Heywood).

RITA#794aSo, with a bit of new blood in the ranks, Fleetwood House and The Heartbreaker hit Auckland’s Spark Arena. Strangely, they opted to play exactly the same setlist for each of those nights – an odd choice for a band with such a wealth of material. The Peter Green-era material promised for their half-century anniversary was well received, and great to see. I already knew they were playing Man Of The World, and Black Magic Woman seemed an obvious choice, but it was the inclusion of Oh Well – my favourite single from that era of the band – that really put a smile on my face. This proved to be Mike Campbell’s showcase, and he played it perfectly. Given how the Buckingham / Nicks era of Fleetwood Mac are so very different to that original blues explosion version, I never thought I’d see any incarnation of the band play Oh Well.

After a shaky start – particularly in respect to Christine McVie’s voice – the band settled down and they eventually sounded almost as good as ever. I’m a huge fan of Lindsey Buckingham, and I think there’s an urgent, blind-corner aspect to his presence and his playing that was still missing. The subs still did a great job though.

RITA#794bIt almost seemed like a given that Neil Finn would be given the opportunity to perform Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over – which he did on an acoustic, with organ accompaniment from Ricky Peterson, to a rousing Kiwi chorus – but I was surprised to see the whole band back Finn on a cover of Split Enz’s I Got You. Finn’s introduction to song also explained that when the song would play on MTV in the 1980’s, Stevie Nicks would add her own background harmony, which she added during the night’s performance.

The encore started with the band’s tribute to Tom Petty – a cover of Free Fallin’ – complete with a photo montage of Campbell playing with Petty through the years, and Petty’s many appearances with Nicks. A lady behind me in the seats, probably unaware of Campbell’s credentials, saw one of the photos of Petty laughing with Nicks, and asked ‘Did she date him?’ I laughed at this typically Kiwi question – given reality TV’s stranglehold on Kiwi culture – but they did have a long and enduring friendship at least.

Obviously, with a Tom Petty song, a Crowded House song, a Split Enz song and three Peter Green-era songs, something had to move aside and unfortunately despite playing four songs from 1975’s Fleetwood Mac, and seven songs from Rumours, the band neglected to play any material from 1979’s Tusk, my second-favourite of the Buckingham/Nicks albums (after its diamond-selling predecessor).

The thing I love the most about Tusk, aside from its rousing title track, is the band’s decision to hold back and do something a little more experimental and home-made after the success (and marital strife) of Rumours. Influenced by the post-punk movement out of New York’s C.B.G.B. scene (particularly Talking Heads), Buckingham’s back-to-basics approach to songwriting, and home-studio recording, gives the album a measure of charm that goes against the usual sheen of their albums.

It’s a record I always enjoy pulling off the shelf, even if I always think I have it on the wrong speed, when Christine’s Over & Over lumbers out of the speakers. Fingers crossed the band will give the album the love it deserves when they next visit New Zealand, hopefully with Buckingham in tow, licking his wounds.

Hit: Tusk

Hidden Gem: The Ledge

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Rocks In The Attic #779: Various Artists – ‘FM (O.S.T.)’ (1978)

RITA#779Is there a worse film with such a great jukebox soundtrack? I don’t know what went on with the production of this film, but they managed to amass a who’s who of AOR tracks – courtesy of many different record labels – on the soundtrack.

It’s amazing to see the ident of the film studio, and the opening credits roll over a Steely Dan track. Their title track is one of the band’s only tracks not to appear on any of their studio albums, and serves as a great reason to own this soundtrack. Within the bands discography, it falls between the recording of 1977’s Aja and 1980’s Gaucho. The instrumental reprise of the title track, unavailable anywhere else, makes it essential for any diehard Steely Dan fan.

The plot of the film – a hit radio station staffed by a plucky bunch of rebels, faced with interference from their corporate owners – is about as interesting as the trade dispute storyline from The Phantom Menace.

The cast – of mostly unknowns – aren’t particularly bad, or unlikable, it’s just that the story is so damn uninteresting. It plays more like a soap opera than a feature film, and the claustrophobia of the radio station offices is really only punctured by two concert performances, by Jimmy ‘Great Spread’ Buffett and Linda Ronstadt.

RITA#779aWhat a corker of a soundtrack though. Alongside the Dan’s FM, we also get their groovy Do It Again, the Eagles’ Life In The Fast Lane, Foreigner’s Cold As Ice, the Doobie’s It Keeps You Runnin’, the Steve Miller Band’s Fly Like An Eagle, Tom Petty & The Heartbreaker’s Breakdown, Queen’s We Will Rock You and the full 8-minute cut of Joe Walsh’s Life’s Been Good To Me. It really is the American Graffiti of late ‘70s rock music. My only criticism is that it’s comprised entirely by white singers and bands, and I can’t imagine any radio station in the late 1970s being so blind to African-American artists.

In fact, the hits come so thick and fast, the film feels more like a 2-hour trailer for a much better film, given how used we are to hearing big songs flip between one to another so rapidly. It’s just a shame the film doesn’t live up to the quality of the music.

No static at all, but a whole load of white noise.

Hit: More Than A Feeling – Boston

Hidden Gem: FM Reprise – Steely Dan

Rocks In The Attic #682: Fleetwood Mac – ‘Alternate Mirage’ (1982)

RITA#682It’s Record Store Day tomorrow. Independent record stores around the world get to increase their coffers as thousands of casual music fans race in for an extremely limited picture-disc of Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing in the shape of Mark Knopfler’s sweaty headband.

Among the many reasons to visit participating stores on RSD – giveaways, food and drink, in-house performances by local bands – are the exclusive releases themselves. These range from the unbelievably awesome (such as the rare Foo Fighters’ Laundry Room EP from a few years ago, featuring demos from their great first record) to the unbelievably gimmicky (such as last year’s reissue of Nilsson Schmilsson, pressed on split yellow / white vinyl – yours for only $80).

I’ve learnt over the last 10 years or so to steer away from the gimmicky cash-in releases (I had my eyes on that Nilsson Schmilsson record last year, as I didn’t have the album in my collection at the time, but found a nice second-hand copy in the wild just a few weeks later for $2). These days, I look at the list, spot one or two releases and look for them online. Yes, it defeats the purpose of the day – getting people in-store – but it’s not really a day for diehard record collectors, who prop up these shops the other 51 weekends of the year.

Some of my favourite releases over the last couple of years have been the alternate Fleetwood Mac records. Lifted from the material previously available on the Super Deluxe box sets, these exclusive RSD releases present demos and alternate takes for each album, with the songs presented in the same running order.

Record Store Day in 2016 gave us The Alternate Tusk, 2017 gave us this, Alternate Mirage (strangely without the definite article), and this year the release is The Alternate Tango In The Night. I’m really looking forward to hearing alternate takes of what is probably their polished, over-produced album.

With Lindsey Buckingham (reportedly) fired from the band, and replaced by Crowded House’s Neil Finn, and the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell, the alternate Fleetwood Mac will be touring the world later this year.

Hit: Gypsy

Hidden Gem: Can’t Go Back

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Rocks In The Attic #530: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – ‘Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ (1976)

rita530It’s a shame that the songwriting of Tom Petty hasn’t earned him a personalised adjective like other famous rockers. You could throw a couple of chords together and somebody might say it sounds Dylanesque, or if your song has a melodic walking bassline it could be accused of sounding McCartneyesque. But unfortunately if you write a song that has all the hallmarks of a Heartbreakers song, nobody says that it sounds a bit Petty. Maybe this does happen and all the recording studio bust-ups are over a simple misunderstanding.

I recently had a week off work. I caught a horrible virus from my four-year old, and felt like death for a few days. During that week – and you need that amount of time to set aside – I watched Peter Bogdanovich’s four-hour Tom Petty documentary Runnin’ Down A Dream. I would probably have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been ill, but it was a really great watch regardless.

It’s become de rigueur for an all-encapsulating documentary to be directed by a big-name director. As well as Bogdanovich’s Petty-thon, there’s Scorsese’s doco on George Harrison, and Cameron Crowe’s Pearl Jam film. Concert films attract big names too – Jonathan Demme’s work with Talking Heads and Neil Young, Scorsese’s Last Waltz with the Band, Wim Wenders foray into Cuban music, Taylor Hackford’s profile of Chuck Berry, Scorsese’s and Hal Ashby’s work with the Stones. The list is endless, and probably driven by the fact that most film directors are big fans of music to begin with.

I can’t make my mind up about Tom Petty. I love his earlier material, like this album and the unequalled  Damn The Torpedoes, but his later work in the ‘80s, ‘90s and beyond stray a little too close to the middle of the road for my liking. Maybe I’m just being a little Petty in saying that.

Hit: American Girl

Hidden Gem: Breakdown

Rocks In The Attic #475: Stevie Nicks – ‘Bella Donna’ (1981)

RITA#475If American mattress-actress Belladonna started a musical career and called her debut solo album Stevie Nicks, well that’s just going to cause a headache for everybody. Let’s just all hope that that doesn’t happen.

This is Nick’s debut solo album, placed between Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk and Mirage. It doesn’t sound a million miles away from the Mac, and hit single Edge Of Seventeen is as strong as anything that you might expect from that band. The production just sounds a little more ‘80s; a tad more Tango In The Night than Rumours.

Away from the confines of a musical partnership, Nicks gets the opportunity to indulge herself here. You wouldn’t hear a song as countryfied as After The Glitter Fades on a Fleetwood Mac album, and she gets to entertain Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around – the only song on the record not to be written by Nicks. Even chief Eagle and professional nasty Don Henly makes an appearance on the subdued Leather And Lace.

While most songs could be lifted of any Mac album post 1975, there’s one moment on the record that would definitely have peaked Mac guitarist Lindsay Buckingham’s interest. Waddy Wachtel’s guitar riff on Edge Of Seventeen is the greatest moment on the album. Soon to be appropriated by Survivor on Eye Of The Tiger (released a year later in 1982), and sampled by Destiny’s Child on Bootylicious in 2001, it’s a thunderbolt of a hook.

Hit: Edge Of Seventeen

Hidden Gem: Bella Donna

Rocks In The Attic #318: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – ‘Damn The Torpedoes’ (1979)

RITA#318I never really understood Tom Petty. He seems to carry an air of grandeur around with him, and whenever he appears as a talking head on music documentaries, he’s a bit unnerving to watch – the guy can look like a freakin’ zombie. I’m guessing him and sunlight are not best friends .He also seems to be the weak link in the Travelling Wilburys. Well, him and Jeff Lynne. Damn, Jeff Lynne is even the weak link in E.L.O.

I had never really heard anything of note by Petty except for cheesy radio-friendly hits like Free Fallin’, so there was obviously something I was missing. I knew this album – that red album by Tom Petty – was supposed to be a classic, so I picked it up at a record fair in Auckland last year.

What a great record, a truly solid album. There are three big hits – Refugee, Here Comes My Girl and Don’t Do Me Like That – but the rest of the album stands up very well. All killer, no filler, as they say.

Production-wise, the album sounds ahead of its time. Produced by Jimmy Iovine, it has a remarkable feel, released in the last year of the 1970s but achieving the kind of clarity of sound that would be synonymous with 1980s production.

I’m not sure if I agree with Rolling Stone when they said that this is “the album we’ve all been waiting for – that is, if we were all Tom Petty fans, which we would be if there were any justice in the world,” but I’m glad I have this album in my collection.

Hit: Refugee

Hidden Gem: You Tell Me