Segarini – Petty Differences

It was sometime during the Spring of 1977. I was in New York (for God knows why) and my friend Ritchie swung by the Chelsea and Bobnapped me in his TransAm, or Camaro, or whatever the fuck it was, and drove us across the George Washington Bridge into Soprano Country and the Wilds of New Jersey. This wasn’t the first time by a long shot. Once was to a Mansion he and his buddies ‘liberated’ while the owners were in the Hamptons, where he introduced me to Yes and ‘Roundabout’ on a GhettoBlaster set up on one of the numerous fireplace mantles, and another time, when he spirited me away to a high school in West Orange to hear some guy named Bruce Springsteen play a school dance in the Gymnasium. THIS time, we were on our way to a house party on the Jersey Shore, long before The Situation briefly lived in a broken condom….

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I was surprised…shocked, actually, at my reaction to Tom Petty’s tragic and premature death.

I was already in a fog trying to keep up with the bullshit going on in Las Vegas, when a TMZ notification popped up on my monitor. I had to read it, blink, and read it again.

TOM PETTY FOUND UNCONCIOUS IN FULL CARDIAC ARREST

Huh?

TOM PETTY FOUND UNCONCIOUS IN FULL CARDIAC ARREST!

Hmmm…another bloody FB Death Hoax…but…TMZ rarely gets it wrong. I can remember laughing at them as “News Gatherers”, but when they scooped everyone on Michael Jackson, the worm turned, and TMZ became the go-to site for the facts, with eyes and ears on the ground, they seemed to be everywhere pop culture ruptured, and they kept us in the loop until the story was complete.

This couldn’t be true.

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Ever since the United (there’s a misnomer) States of America embraced the Dark Side and began to become a bottomless sinkhole of immorality, bad decisions, and nightmare-inducing claptrap from Senator Foghorn, Congressman Shit-fer-Brains, and their illustrious leader President Mung Bean, I thought I had become inured to Bad News, stupid decisions, and tragic, sad, losses of people, morality, scruples, and common sense.

I was wrong.

While sure that the Vegas Gun Carnival of Bloodshed and Broken Hearts more than filled the quota for bile-inducing actions on the part of one of the delusional ass-wipes of Emperor  Mung Bean’s Court, TMZs rather blunt and no nonsense headline made me kind of dizzy.

Some Troll picked a lousy time to start a death hoax, I thought.

If only….

=0=

I remember the long, straight stairs to the dark brown house, sitting up against the rising land, the front of the house on stilts, the front door reachable only by the steeply inclined staircase. It looked rickity enough to make me hold on to the railings on either side all the way up to the small porch and door. Looking over my shoulder, I recall seeing the Atlantic lapping against the shore across the 2 lane street from where I stood, loud music coming from the inside of the house, muffled like a cry for help from the trunk of a ’59 Cadillac, but still urgent, pleading, a matter of life and death through a gag and a trunk lid, without losing a bit of its urgency…a fraction of it’s insistence or its passion.

When the door opened, a pretty and pretty drunk Jersey Girl in Daisy Dukes, a pretty little tube top, and a cowboy hat, smiled up at us like a Cheshire Cat, hanging onto the inside doorknob like a balloon whose string was caught on a fence. Swaying in a non-existent breeze to the insistent beat of the first track of the LP playing loudly in the room behind her.

I had to shout over the music to be heard.

“Who is that”? I yelled.

“Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers” , Jersey Girl yelped, batted her eyelashes, spilled some of her beer onto her breasts, and smiled at us like a predator smiles at dinner…”Want a beer?”

“Oh.” I said “Tom, Betty, and Harv Baker.” “Sure”. “A beer sounds good”.

…and so did Tom, Betty, and Harv.

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I found I couldn’t ignore the TMZ notification. I opened another tab in my browser and googled ‘Tom Petty’ to verify what I had read from TMZ. As I read, new sources popped up in the News List. CBS LA, Rolling Stone, CNN, the alerts kept coming.

Oh Shit.

I started to get that rush.

My ears got hot.

My stomach filled with butterflies.

Elvis

Lennon

Jackson

Harrison

Maurice

Robin

Lemmy

Bowie

Frey

Campbell

So many others…

Aw, fuck. Not again.

But this was different.

Was I a fan of Petty’s?

Up until that exact moment, I hadn’t thought I was.

Well, I’ll be a Kardashian’s Uncle….

=0=

The house party was in full flower.

15 minutes after I got there, it reminded of those spontaneous 3 day binges that started when one of your friends was the first to get his or her own apartment, and sitting close to the floor on the backseats salvaged out of wrecked cars, a futon, and milk crates, passing a joint back and forth until someone got faced enough to take up a collection, grab his phoney I/D (Benjamin Philsmot 123 Any Street, Blowdry New Jersey Age 37) and hightail it a block to go to the liquor store where the barely intelligent slacker behind the counter had been selling him beer, wine, whiskey, and Colt 45 since he was 12, and stock up for the first of many trips that weekend.

yeah…Like that.

(And yes…I am still the King of the Run-On Sentence)

Ritchie and I had some catching up to do.

We did.

…and by the time Jersey Girl flipped the record over for the third time, we had caught up with the pack and became Persons of Interest to the locals.

We came bearing good drugs and more booze money.

My first taste of celebrity without having to do anything at all.

When it was my turn to roll a joint, I used the LPs cover.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers…I guess Betty and Harv had left the band sometime after I got to the party. I vaguely and tipsily, hoped they would be okay.

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It took me a few days to figure out that yes, I was a BIG fan of Tom Petty’s.

…but in a way that was unlike any other hero I have ever had who had become as successful.

I realized I had never put him up on a fan-boy pedestal…I didn’t think he would have been comfortable because…he was like us.

He was like me.

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I’m not sure how Ritchie managed to drive us back to Manhattan the next day when the party finally broke up. We were still passing a joint and a quart bottle of Coca Cola laced with several shots of Jack Daniels back and forth in the Trans Am Camaro Car when I saw a Sam Goody that was open and screamed at Ritchie to pull into the parking lot so I could run inside and buy the two LPs that we listened to all night at the House Party that Refused to Die.

The self titled ‘Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’, and Dwight Twilley’s ‘Sincerely’.

Petty, Twilley, and Phil Seymour. All in one night. Music I not only liked, but understood. Real. Passionate. Damn good. Reallly goood.

If I remember correctly, the two LPs cost a total of 14 dollars.

I can’t think of many records worth half that today. Not this good.

Twilley had sung backup on a track on the Petty album, Seymour had sung on two.

These guys knew each other. Label mates on Denny Cordell and Leon Russell’s Shelter Records. I wondered if Rita Coolidge knew them.

Only Petty made the ascension to Rock Star, and we are poorer by Twilley and Seymour’s failure to acheive Petty-like success…but their music stands as testament to their absolute worthiness to have found the same acceptance and spotlight as Petty.

The Luck of the Draw, I suppose.

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Petty managed to sail the rough waters of Rock Celebrity. He weathered his drunk phase, he survived his drug phase, he dodged the many bullets aimed at him by the music industry’s inability to reign him in, his outspokeness resulting in victories over the music biz  where many had failed. He successfully spoke out, spoke the truth, and changed a few things for the better, not only for himself, but for every rock band and artist whose finances and treatment were at the mercy of the labels until Petty proved they need not sit idly by, bearing the brunt of what amounts to abuse from those who control the art and commerce of us dumb-ass musicians and writers and singers.

He was a Blue Collar Everyman. A combination of Will Rogers, Elvis, and a SWAT Team negotiator. …and he wasn’t being greedy or a Gallagher Brother. He just wanted to be treated fairly.

Like we all do.

I have been listening to his body of work since he passed. While I worked around the house, while I made a big pot of Potato-Leek soup, while I write this column.

Petty didn’t write hits. He wrote songs so good we MADE them hits. He wrote about the Human Condition. He wrote about his feelings. He wrote about what he saw. What he heard. What he felt. And radio played MUSIC back then, and we got to HEAR it. Not like now. Not like that now at all….

…and I have discovered that those things are universal. We can relate. We DID relate. We DO relate.

…and that’s why I am gut-punched. Not because a Rock Star died too young or at all, but because of the tragedy turning out to be so personal. So present, so vital, sooo good, that I took it for granted.

We lost so much more than the Man.

The Unwritten songs.

The Unsung melodies.

The unspoken words.

The unplayed music.

It breaks my heart.

…because, unlike sooo many of our heroes, unlike so many of our favourite entertainers from our youth, Tom Petty wasn’t done.

He was the Kid.

He was welcomed into the Traveling Wilburys…the only member from his generation.

The only one who got it. The only one who got IN.

When you listen to him  now, the width and breadth of what he left us is majestic. It is solid and weather-proof and will stand the test of time.

Not just the music.

Everything he did.

The Gainsville, Florida Hot Shot with the lazy Southern Drawl, measuring every word, taking the time to say what he means, and the music much more personal than most, has left the building.

And the building is much smaller without him in it.

Rest in Peace, Tom Petty…you earned your rest, but dammit, you didn’t have to check out so damn early.

If only someone had been there.

Fuck.

=0=

Petty did a whole hell of a lot of things that engaged me over the years, and he always did it as honestly as his music.

In Kevin Costner’s “The Postman”, he even appears to play himself.

What follows are some clips from his other endeavors, and, of course, a great deal of his music so you don’t have to search it out.

The Postman

King of the Hill

Lucky

Costco Pee Pee

The Propane Lawsuit

Arlen Goes Into the Great Wide Open

Tom Petty and Gary Shandling

Tom Petty – Behind the Music – VH1 1999

Plenty of Petty

The 30th Anniversary Show in Petty’s Hometown

The Last Show  The Hollywood Bowl – September 25th 2017 (Audio Only)

You can pre-order Warren Zane’s Petty Biography HERE

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Segarini’s regular columns appear here have become irregular columns. Also, one leg is longer than the other…HIGHLY irregular…. 

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7giphyBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

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