Craig Allen remembers Tom Petty
Early Monday evening, as I was waiting to engineer the "Ask The Governor" program at 7:00, I was sitting in Eric Johnson's office. We were talking about radio...and life...and Tom Petty.
Was he still with us...or had he gone to take his place in Heaven's band?
At least one of the news networks had gone with erroneous information.
Of course, later in the evening, the sad news of his passing became all too real.
It's been heartening over the last few days to read all the personal Tom Petty stories on my social media news page. I never knew that I had so many friends who had met the head Heartbreaker!
My favorite story, told of seeing Tom Petty at "Live Aid" in Philly in 1985. My friend, and former co-worker, is broadcasting live from backstage. He sees Tom Petty go into a hospitality building...and my friend decides to knock on the door. What does he have to lose, right?
"I knock on the door, and Tom Petty himself opens it...I invite him to join me on the radio." Cool, right?
"He peers at me over his very excellent granny glasses, laughs, and says 'No, man-I can't...but, thanks!'"
I can't top that. I never got to a Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers concert.
And, I never met the man.
Upon reflection, that's kind of amazing...with all the stations that I have been a part of over the years. Even in my early years, when a music artist would stop by, my FM friends would bring him/her/the band across the hall to meet me on the AM side. More on that in a bit...
My personal Tom Petty timeline starts with "Damn The Torpedoes" in 1979/1980.
I'm a kid in high school, and I hear...
"Don't Do Me Like That" (#10/1980) on the radio. I LOVE it.
Then, I hear the next single...
"Refugee" (#15/1980), and I'm hooked!
At this point, I know that I have to have the album!
Remember, I'm in high school. My "job" is to be a good student, and get into college (DONE!). So, I don't have a regular, after-school job income. I set aside a couple of bucks from cutting the neighbor's grass.
Next, I don't have my driver's license yet...so I wait til an older friend can give me a ride to Quakerbridge Mall. I say I'll meet up with the rest of the gang at McDonald's on the upper level in half an hour....and I set off to scour the record stores.
Who will have the best deal? Sears? Wall To Wall, Sight & Sound, Woolworth's?
I don't remember what I paid for this awesome hunk of vinyl...but I have a big grin on my face the rest of the afternoon...and that night, my stereo speakers are filled with Petty!
I play side ONE...
...flip my virgin vinyl over...
...and play side TWO.
And this goes on and on!
"Here Comes My Girl" would be the third single (#59/1980). LOVE IT! Of course, I know every word by heart, the first time I hear the song played on the radio!
"Even The Losers" is one of the songs on the album that wasn't released to "Top-40" radio...that I really like. Then and NOW. A song doesn't have to be a radio hit to be a...winner, in my book!
Looking back...I'm truly amazed that my vintage 1980 "Damn The Torpedoes" album looks so good!
Seriously, it should be worn out!
As my Tom Petty timeline moves forward...
"Stop Dragging My Heart Around" (#3/1981) with Stevie Nicks.
"You Got Lucky" (#20/1983)
"Don't Come Around Here No More" (#13/1985).
In the summer of 1985, I buy my first CD player...and while "Damn The Torpedoes" isn't in my first few compact disc acquisitions...the moment it is released in digital form...
I have it! (approximately) $15 well spent!
"I Won't Back Down" (#12/1989)
By now, I'm on the radio...but Tom Petty just doesn't fit in with the Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers and Barry Manilow records that I am playing on my "Adult Contemporary" (READ: "soccer mom") station...but my time...
"Runnin' Down A Dream" (#23/1989).
When I get to Philadelphia in 1992...I'm playing Tom Petty for the first time in my career...including:
"Free Fallin'" (#7/1990)...
"Learning To Fly" (#28/1991).
By 1994, I'm a "jock" on the Philadelphia "Top-40" station...
...and I remember playing the new hit from Tom Petty! JOY!!
It was awesome to me...after all these years of being a fan...to be the guy who is playing a Tom Petty song for the first time for fellow fans!
I also remember the word around the station that "Mary Jane's Last Dance" was "the most improbable top-40 hit of 1994."
All these years later, I'm (still) pleased to be able to say that I payed a part in that...improbability. A small part, but a part.
Of course, in the years since, I've played a LOT of Tom Petty's music on the radio...in different contexts!
Be it as part of a Rock station, or "Classic Rock" format. While hosting an "All-80's" specialty show (on 2 different stations)..."Oldies" radio...and of course, Tom Petty has released several of "Jersey's Favorite Hits!"
What a wonderful, musical, ride it has been!
Thanks for the music, Tom Petty!