“That bastard ran down my dream.”
Thomas Earl "Tom" Petty (October 20, 1950 – October 2, 2017) was an American musician of enormous talent who carried an enormous chip on his shoulder, and carried grudges for the most amazingly simple affronts imaginable. Other well-adjusted people, even some other musicians, would consider these affronts to be harmless social "gaffes" or mistakes. But not Tom Petty; he was the type of person who made mountains out of molehills, because doing so gave him inspiration for recording soaring Heartland anthems throughout his career.
By age fifteen Tom was diagnosed with a rare mouth disorder which caused his jaws to be permanently clenched while speaking. Although rather difficult to interpret what Tom was saying 98% of the time, this disorder didn't hurt his singing career. Sure, he could attempt to "break down", but most would never understand how it truly felt to be him.
From the beginning
A native Floridian, Petty was born in 1950 as Thomas Earl petty, and experienced a childhood full of extreme poverty, by American standards. According to later interviews, petty always felt that he had received the short end of the stick. Even his father, who worked hard and tried to provide for his family as best he could, was so poor that the family couldn't afford a capital "P" for their last name.
That was one major sore point for petty growing up. It wasn't enough that he had to go through life with that weird white trash spelling of his name, but he also didn't get to live in the good part of Florida while he was growing up. And whatever you do, don't bring up his mother's cooking. When other people got to go to McDonald's for dinner, Tom and his family had to "live the Campbell's life." Sure, there were people starving in the Soviet Union, but all the petty family had to eat was condensed soup, every night of the friggin' week. It might have gotten freeze-your-ass-off cold in places like Fond-Du-Lac Wisconsin, but there were days when petty's Florida would get above 80 degrees in the middle of February — and in Boca, it's like 81 degrees outside, and that just wasn't fair, man.
Then there are his looks
While there were other kids who were just-plain ugly growing up around him, petty always felt that he wasn't attractive, and that he was maybe even uglier than the other kids, and dude, that just blows — because while he wasn't freaky enough to get a job with the circus, he wasn't good-looking enough to get any girls, either. Except Stevie.
So music became his mistress, and that blows too, because while music was always there when he needed it, music just wouldn't go all the way for him, and that meant no blowjobs. Other guys got blowjobs in high school, but not Tom. He decided right there and then that he would make music his life and communicate his misery through that music and that the music would make him filthy stinking rich and that would show the people a thing or two.
A life of crime
The first thing that Tom did was to go out and steal an upper case "P" from a highway sign. In this cathartic moment, he went from being Tom petty to Tom Petty.
The Talented Mr. Petty
So Petty hit the road, gathered up these musicians to form a band, and they expected to get paid something more than minimum wage. That really got into his craw because he was doing them a favor, and all they could think about was making enough money for blowjobs and cocaine. No one asked Tom if he wanted to share a couple of hookers or roll up a hundred-dollar bill and inhale various controlled substances over a mirror.
To get back at the bandmembers who wanted to call themselves a cool name like "Thrust" or "The Tom Petty Band", he tried naming them "The Bastards". But triangle player Jimbo Wales complained to the Admin Cabal Union, and Petty had to compromise by coming up with a new name, much to his chagrin. So Petty renamed them "The Heartbreakers", because when they didn't ask him to join in on their musicianly whoring, drugging, and enjoyment of classic Russian literature, he was heartbroken, and they should know his pain.
Petty and his band of ingrates cut a few albums, got invited to open a few concerts — the usual — and then these other singers who weren't good enough to ask Petty to come over and jam with them started asking him to write songs for them. This got Petty really pissed off — like he was going to write hit tunes for them? But because he was a bigger guy than they were, he finally gave in, because then they would owe him, and OWE HIM BIG.
Almost killed by Stevie Nicks
Eventually, Petty got to hook up with Stevie Nicks, and, like, he was cool with that because she was one helluva party broad and she could get him a meeting with Mick Fleetwood. Well, you know the story — "Tom," she whined, "can you write me a song?" Petty replied, "Fuck no!" — for now, he was really pissed off. And she's like, "Tom, we could sing together if you wrote us a song," and Petty was finally, "Fuckin' A," on the fast track.
First, Petty gave the Heartbreakers the heave-ho, because they were just lampreys on his shoulder, and then he writes Nicks this bitchin' ballad about the sweet pain of love lost. Well, they get up to perform it in London in front of a crowd of 50,000 (she promised 51,000, the bitch), and the music starts and the groove is starting to go down and — out of nowhere, this Stevie Nicks broad starts swishing and flapping her skirt with her right arm like her panties are on fire, and when Petty leans in for his "share the microphone moment" with her, the bitch beans him. Well, of course, she smacks him so hard that it, like, nearly knocked him to the floor. She could have taken his eye out with all that leather and lace whipping him in the face, too. But nooooo, she just keeps singing — and even then, she's so trashed and smells so much like Jim Beam that she's just slurring the beautiful words that he wrote for her. Christ on a cracker!
Well, good for her that he survived, because otherwise he would've taken her for everything she owned.
When everything was said and done, they finally had an orgy the world was waiting for. With Lindsey Buckingham & Sheryl Crow. Mick Fleetwood and Joe Walsh were invited to join too, but couldn't make it because they had family responsibilities. Stevie & Tom should have had family responsibilities too but they were too busy snorting coke.
Works with Linda Ronstandt
Petty teamed up with Linda Ronstadt, too — before she got enormously fat. And then, after she ate Mexico, she calls him up and she's all whining like, "Tom, can you write me a song?" And Petty tells her, "Fuck no!" because she played all hard-to-get when she was thin, but now that she's a total porker, she's like, all over him like white on rice — and that really pissed him off. And she's like, "Tom, we could sing together if you wrote us a song," and Tom was finally, "Fuckin' A," on the fast track (again).
So they go to record this song of love done wrong by man who needed to ramble the world in search of truth and wisdom and how his whining harpie of a woman couldn't live without him and wouldn't you fucking know it — Linda Ronstadt was so fucking huge, she took up the whole recording studio. Fuck that! Petty just knew that she put all that weight on because she wanted the spotlight all for herself — the bitch.
Back with the Heartbreakers
In 2006, Petty reunited with those miserable sons of bitches the Heartbreakers, who still wanted more than minimum wage to back him up, for fuck's sake. So for the next decade, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers could be seen Tuesday through Sunday, three times daily at King Arthur's Court and Casino, Reno, Nevada. And if you blew him off, you'd be sorry.
In April 2017, Petty and the Heartbreakers embarked on a 40th Anniversary Tour across America which finished in September. By then he was looking terrible and looked twice his age. He was found dead in his Los Angeles home when people ringing his cellphone kept on hearing "End of the Line"; Tom's line ended on October 2, 2017.