Mark Ronson on Tom Petty: “The Greatest Book of American Songs”
Mark Ronson shared a thoughtful and moving tribute to Tom Petty on Instagram, spread more Three posts. Ronson recounted the importance of the late musician in his own life and spoke of seeing Petty in concert for the first time last month, during what was to turn out to be one of the musician’s last concerts. Petty died Monday at the age of 66 from cardiac arrest.
Ronson said he fell in love with Petty’s music growing up on “MTV America” ââin the ’80s, when the rocker was so important he “might as well have been The Beatles.” Ronson called Petty’s 1989 LP Full moon fever the quintessential ’80s album, praising everything from drum sounds to the lyrics to “Running Down a Dream” which he credits for helping him “understand what adult melancholy is.”
Growing up in the 1980s on MTV America, Tom Petty could just as easily have been The Beatles. music permeated everything. It was on TV, on the radio. it was culturally significant, it was awesome, it was critically acclaimed. It was the music you wanted to hear in your car. It was the music you heard at a baseball game. It was the music you heard in a post office. The tricolor scheme of the Full Moon Fever album was as iconic as the three colors of the Rastafarian flag. it was everywhere. Jeff Lynne’s immaculate production of Full Moon Fever summed up an era in the best way. The kick and trap were crispy like razor wire. The 12 string guitars sounded like a magnificent wonder. Of course, Free Falling was the super smash, but Running Down A Dreamâ¦ that riff, the lyrics of the second verse – âthe last three days the rain was unstoppableâ is the first lyric I heard as a pre-. teenager who maybe did I understand what adult melancholy was. As you get older, you want your tastes to be a bit more hip. music becomes your identity, a badge of distinction. that’s when I discovered âcoolâ Petty. I understood why Tom Petty was by far the most adopted American during the English punk era. as England rejected all inflated notions of arena rock, whether it was native bands like Led Zeppelin or their American approximations, Tom Petty, despite being from Gainesville, Florida could no longer be American in his own way, was seen as a close mind to Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, the Sex Pistols,. This new generation of kids was shaking off trends from the uninspired leftovers of what Rock & Roll had become. I discovered the songsâ¦ breakdown. You Got Lucky, American Girl, songs that when I was in my twenties resonated with a rawness that spoke to me on another level. Personally, as I turned more and more to Hip Hop, R&B, Soulâ¦ I lost touch with the genre of music, the guitar music that Tom Petty represented. but six years ago, I came across the documentary Peter Bogdanovich one evening. This amazing four hour documentary started to make me re-realize how much I really, really, really, really, really digged into Tom Petty and how great his music was.
London-born Ronson also spoke about the importance of the musician in England, saying he was “the most adopted American in the English punk era”. As the punk movement marked the death of bloated arena rock from Britain and the United States, Ronson called Petty a spirit like Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and the Sex Pistols.
Ronson admitted that his interest in Petty and rock guitar waned as his tastes turned to hip-hop, R&B and soul. But he was ultimately inspired to return to Petty’s catalog after watching Peter Bogdanovich’s sprawling 2007 documentary, Running down from a dream.
“I fully realized that this songbook, this catalog, was perhaps my favorite catalog – perhaps next to Stevie Wonder – of the entire modern era,” Ronson wrote. “To have so many hit songs, to be transported in so many different sonic eras, from the American Rock & Roll of the first stuff, straight to the proto punk, to the pure hymns of To hell with the torpedoes, to advance technology by connecting with Dave Stewart with the LinnDrum-centric sounds of ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’ in Jeff Lynne’s rebirth, in ‘Mary Jane’, this is all ridiculous.
how much his music was in me. I listened to those greatest hits again and fully realized that this songbook, this catalog, was perhaps my favorite catalog – perhaps next to Stevie Wonder – of the entire modern era. To have so many hit songs, to be routed in so many different sound eras, from the American Rock & Roll of the first stuff, directly to the proto punk, through the pure anthems of Damn the Torpedoes, to advance the technology in connecting with Dave Stewart with the Linn Drum-centric sounds of Don’t Come Around Here No More in Jeff lYnne’s rebirth, in Mary Jane, this is all ridiculous. I was such a fan that two or three years ago I started to panic that I had never seen him perform live and I started to stress “what if I didn’t have the chance? “. I tried to plan a ridiculously inconvenient trip to Outside Lands because I saw him perform there. I ended up having a double booking thinking that night that was not going to happen. When I saw he was playing three concerts in my new hometown of LA, I decided I was definitely going. Not only was I going, but I was going to buy tickets for at least two of the three nights because it’s the only time I see Tom. There was no way I was going to risk going to maybe a free night, so I bought a bunch of tickets for two separate nights. I swear to god this event hung like a totem pole in my iCal for months. September 21 and 25 (with Rosh Hashanah right in the middle. It was going to be special nights in my life. The 21st blew my mind, but there was something strange. Theyâ¦ I wouldn’t say a disappointment, but there was something in it that wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be. I think my expectations were so high. I think I was just expecting a presentation, a very selfish presentation of everything what I wanted to hear, which … I mean, he’s a man with so much catalog that if he wanted to play all of his biggest hits, he would need a six hour set. by a few of … a few songs from the Wildflower era. I was a little upset that there was no waiting. But I still saw a man on stage.
In the throes of his rekindled fandom, Ronson said he had become determined to see Petty live. After several failed attempts, Ronson finally locked tickets to see Petty perform two shows during a Hollywood Bowl race in September. The first show, the 21st, “blew him away,” although he admitted his expectations were so high that there were times when he felt somewhat disappointed. However, Ronson called the second night âclear,â even though Petty more or less played the same set. âI stayed until the end and worked it all in,â Ronson said. “It was so special.”
Ronson said he was having dinner in Paris when he heard of Petty’s death and his mind immediately turned to the concerts he had just seen. âI really don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t seen these shows,â Ronson said. âI guess that really makes him the greatest American songbook. I love him so much. I don’t know how you can love someone so much that you’ve never met butâ¦ this guy who just brought fucking musical joy and everything to so many people on such a level.
play 14 of my favorite songs of all time. The second night I went was the last night of the race. It was impeccable. It was pretty much the same set, but it was so finely tuned, refined. He played Breakdown, which he admitted he never played and only played it because he said the team asked for it to make it really feel like a privilege, especially hearing Mike Campbell playing thisâ¦ One of the sexiest guitar lines ever to be heard on rock and roll radio. He kept saying, âThanks guys. You are so awesome .. “I didn’t know if it was legit or not because for being someone who is so famous for being a little grumpy and even contemplative of an audience, you didn’t know if he was. to a point where he was pretending, but he wasn’t. It’s like that. I stayed until the end and I ran it all in. It was so special. Coming out of there, I saw a friend of mine who was also a musician. He said, “That was awesome, man.” He also said it was weird, because he saw Prince’s last shows here at the Bowl and mentioned he kinda had that air of seeing someone’s latest shows.but I didn’t think for a second that Tom Petty was dying or anything, I just felt like that, okay, this might be his last shows. He might not play for a while. I was sitting at a dinner party tonight in Paris and someone said, “Have you heard of Tom?” Petty? At first he was t on life support and no one knew what had happened, then they said he was dead. It’s so selfish when you immediately think to yourself, “Well, at least I saw him twice last week.” I really don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t seen these shows. I guess that really makes him the greatest American songbook. I love him so much. I don’t know how you can love someone so much that you’ve never met butâ¦ this guy who just brought fucking musical joy and everything to so many people on such a level.