Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Tom Petty, and Other Culture Notes

Like everyone else, I'm surprised and saddened by the death of Tom Petty. I went to see one of his concerts with some fellow newspaper coworkers in 1990, in Petty's hometown of Gainesville, Fla., and it was one of the best concert experiences I ever had. We all drank beer and danced like crazy. Of course Petty had a huge following in Florida, and in Gainesville in particular, and because it's a college town his concert drew a young, wild crowd -- the arena was really energized.

(Fun fact: My ticket, as recorded in my journal at the time, cost $18!)

Then, in 1995, I saw him again in Orlando, and it was the most frustrating, sedate concert experience I ever had -- because the omnipresent security staff wouldn't let us congregate in the aisles or dance or walk around or even stand up in our seats. I was basically forced to recline in a Barcalounger for the duration of the show.

For me, the magic in Tom Petty's music was best expressed live -- or on a jukebox in a bar. I never bought any of his albums. (I did buy the single "Don't Come Around Here No More," which is still my favorite of his songs, partly because of the hallucinogenic "Alice in Wonderland"-themed video.)

In fact, I'd forgotten how many of his songs I know until I looked at his discography on Wikipedia yesterday and began playing them on YouTube. Even if I didn't recognize the title, the minute I heard the opening bars they were familiar -- all part of the soundtrack of my high school and college years. And such a bizarre-looking guy! His gangly, toothy appearance added to his fame.


Two other pop culture items:

-- Are you watching the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary about Vietnam? I think it just finished in the states, but here in England we're only through episode three on BBC Four. It's excellent. I was too young to absorb much about the Vietnam war firsthand, besides an awareness of exotic place names like Saigon and Hanoi on the news every night, but I do remember being home sick from school and watching TV coverage of returning soldiers. (Maybe POWs?) That must have been after the Paris Peace Accords in 1973. Otherwise, I experienced the war mostly through popular culture -- the antiwar music and movies that persisted for years afterwards, and undoubtedly influenced my politics.

-- Have you seen or heard about a book called "The Dry," by Jane Harper? It's an "In Cold Blood"-like murder mystery set in the Australian outback, and a real page-turner. I read it in a couple of days, and although I figured out the culprit about 2/3 of the way through, that didn't detract from the book at all. If you see a copy, pick it up!

(Photo: Petts Wood, south London.)


  1. I do know about The Dry. I have a copy which has been loaned to me by a friend. I started it,put it aside but will get back to it. Right now I'm reading two other books, one through the day and the other in the evening.
    When I think Tom Petty, I think the Traveling Wilburys.


  2. Thanks for the tips - about "The Dry" and the Vietnam programme. A friend of mine also applauded the Vietnam programme when I attended the pub quiz last night.

  3. I watched a little of the Burns doc on Viet Nam and couldn't do it. That war was in my eyes and ears and living room for forever and it was horrifying and humans are horrifying and war is horrifying and it changed and shaped everything for some of us growing up during those years, even some of us who never had to hold a rifle.

  4. Sometimes I just listen to the music and don' pay attention to the performers and later am surprised who the performer was.

  5. I went to one Tom Petty concert and that was back in the 1980s when he was touring with Bob Dylan. A memorably great show. I watched one episode of the Vietnam documentary, and simply couldn't watch anymore. Like Ms Moon wrote, that war was a part of my everyday life for years. I marched; I protested; I learned about draft resistance and counseling. It was just too sad to revisit those days.

  6. I have only watched bits and pieces of the Viet Nam documentary. Having lived through it and losing several classmates to it, I can only stand a little at a time.
    It was so interesting that you mentioned the chandeliers at the NY Met. Opera in your comment on my site. The artist actually mentioned them in the description also. It said he actually based the idea on those chandeliers. You made the connection right away.
    Speaking of PBS and of opera, did you happen to see a show about the Jun Kaneko designed version of The Magic Flute? I saw the review on PBS over the weekend and was blown away by how visually stunning it is. I'd love to see it in person. Here's a link to a brief review.

  7. I have reserved the book at my Library. It must be good as there is a reserve list of people waiting for it, can't wait, thanks for the recommendation.

  8. I'm so sad that Petty died -- I saw him once in concert and like you, he is definitely on the soundtrack of my teen and college years. I, too, remember the soldiers in Vietnam coming home -- and wearing my POW bracelet. I've watched one episode of the new series and then felt overwhelmed, but I will give it another try. Wouldn't you know that a lot of conservatives are decrying it as inaccurate? Honestly, nothing is generic/neutral, etc. anymore. It's like objective thought is arguable.