From the Archives

Tom Petty Looks Back

With the release of his career-spanning "Live Anthology," Petty talks about the Heartbreakers' early days, plus Jagger, Harrison and Dylan

DAVID FRICKEPosted Nov 25, 2009 9:52 AM

To mark the release of The Live Anthology, a multi-CD boxed set covering 30 years of road work with his band the Heartbreakers, Tom Petty spoke to Rolling Stone for nearly six hours over two days — including his 59th birthday, October 20th — about his rock & roll life. Those conversations, at the Heartbreakers' rehearsal space in a warehouse in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley and at Petty's home in Malibu overlooking the Pacific Ocean, ran the length of rock itself, including the day in 1961 that the young Gainesville, Florida native met Elvis Presley (Petty forgot to bring a record for the King to sign); Petty's trials and adventures as a long-haired garage-band kid in redneck territory; his rough late-Seventies tours with the Heartbreakers; the musically rich encounters, on stage and in the studio, with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Carl Perkins and Elvis Costello, among many others; and a sneak preview of Petty's next record with the Heartbreakers.

Looking like a Confederate general with his pointed sandy-blond beard, Petty reflected on his 40 years in music with a laconic wit, deep Southern drawl and constant amazement. "It has been a great journey," he said at the very end of the second interview. Here, in these outtakes from the published story from the December 10, 2009 issue, are a few more reasons why.

How has the time you spent working on Live Anthology affected the new record you're making with the Heartbreakers?
It may have had some influence. We're trying to catch it all live, just use the five or six instruments at most. And I've gotten the guitars up front. I've gotten the best out of Mike [Campbell] that I've ever gotten out of him.

It's blues-based. Some of the tunes are longer, more jam-y kind of music. A couple of tracks really sound like the Allman Brothers — not the songs but the atmosphere of the band.

The muscularity?
Yeah. I don't know where it came from. I recently played with the Allman Brothers at the Greek Theater [in Los Angeles]. They had come on our 30th anniversary tour. They did five or six shows with us. They had no idea how bowled over I was to be out there with them [laughs]. So they invited me back — me and Mike and Benmont [Tench]. We went down to their gig and played a few songs with them. Maybe that's got something to do with that influence creeping in. But I'm trying to make a record that is more like a band-playing kind of record, rather than a produced record, where you play the studio. This is catching a performance.



More Photos

Photograph by Sam Jones