Back in 1994, my band Truck Stop Love was featured on a Tom Petty tribute record called “You Got Lucky.” (This was back in the time when people bought a lot of compilation CDs — you know — before the advent of the iPod “shuffle.”)
We appeared on an episode of ABC In Concert where some of the other bands performed Petty tunes at the House of Blues in L.A., and I got interviewed. “Why a Petty tribute?” I was surprised by how eloquent my answer was at that young age. It was something like: “When you grow up, you go through all different phases of the kind of music you like. But after you’ve explored everything, you always come back to somebody like Tom Petty — just good, old-fashioned great songwriting.”
That really sums it up for me for this journeyman songwriter. Now Petty has his ups and down, like any songwriter, but the amount of great material from the 1970s forward is pretty astounding. Again, none of it mind-blowing — just simple pop tunes with big hooks, pure guitar sounds, and healthy dose of sincerity and lackadaisical twang.
“Even the Losers” is my favorite Petty song (from his best record, 1979′s “Damn the Torpedoes”). After a bizarre opening that sounds like another song ending, it kicks in with that that sweet hollow-body guitar sound (he and lead guitarist Mike Campbell never sounded better together than on this record) and heads right into the verse. Easily reminiscent of The Byrds, it’s bright and alive with youthful exuberance.
Petty’s lyrics tell the tale of a kid who had a brief wondrous moment with a girl that was way out of his league. They “smoked cigarettes” and “stared at the moon” on her roof. She kissed like fire. What a night. But alas, it was too good to last.
His take? “Even the losers get lucky sometimes.” It’s a perfect mix of wistful nostalgia and real heartbreak.
Anyway, apparently, ABC didn’t think I was so eloquent. They didn’t use my interview snippet on the air. Everclear was getting really popular at the moment, so they used Art instead. No hard feelings, though. We had our moment in the sun. The losers do get lucky sometimes.
The Great Songs series so far: