03 October, 2017

On Tom Petty

This one hurts. Tom Petty is one of my favorite musicians of all time. He's right up there with Nick Cave and David Bowie and Johnny Cash and a whole bunch of other people I don't even want to think about right now. Hearing that he’s gone, that there won’t be any new songs or concerts hurts. That’s it. Done. More than any other artist, it hurts, because Tom Petty was a part of my life in a way that nobody else ever was. More than anyone ever will be.

But, I’ll start with a lighter note: The first time I ever consciously heard Tom Petty was on The Simpsons. You know the episode. Homer’s waiting for his background check to clear so he can pick up his gun. Whatever it was about that song, it stuck with me. Eighth grade, I didn’t
There was something about this Tom Petty guy.

The first concert I ever went to was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I went with my friend and my older sister and it was amazing. And not amazing because, oh boy, a concert! Because I hate people and I hate concerts, but it was amazing, because holy shit, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers could play.

The real reason I love Tom Petty is that he probably saved my life.

It could be that I’m overstating that, but Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is anchored to one of the worst times in my life. Looking back on it, I don’t think I was ever in any serious danger of going off of the deep end. I don’t think I would have killed myself or gotten into drugs or made any rash decisions and I don’t think I would have lost control of my life in any serious or irreversible way. But back then I didn’t know that. It was a bad time.

Tom Petty made that time manageable. It made sense of things and it managed to make them into four-minute stories about love and loss and Los Angeles and a lot of other things that I didn't quite get at the time. But Tom did. The Heartbreakers did. It made them real in a way that nobody else had taught me up to that point. I could deal with that. I could see it. Tom Petty knew what I was going through in a way that I don't know that anyone else did. And I don't mean that I related to his music. I mean that he understood what I was going through. I mean that literally. I don't know how or why or by what means, but I know it's true.

I got over it. I figured things out. I forgave some people. I forgave myself. I realized what I had done wrong and what I could do better. And day by day, I got over it. And I realized that it wasn’t so bad and I got back on my two feet and I moved forward.

Looking back on that time, I can’t imagine it without Tom Petty. Not “How could I have done it without him?” No. It could never have happened without him. It’s like looking back on a memory and wondering what it would be like without oxygen. Maybe Tom Petty didn’t save my life, I don't know. What I do know is that the person that I am now, the guy that got through all of that bullshit and came out the other side does not exist, cannot exist without Tom Petty.

There's a lot of stuff I can exist without. Tom Petty is not one of them.

An even lighter aside: I’ve only ever done two drugs. Weed and salvia. Weed is fine. Salvia is not. Salvia sucks. It’s like weed, but with a stronger kick up front and a longer headache out back. It’s bad. There’s a longer story here, but I’ll cut to the relevant point: Riding out a bad salvia high, I decided to go to bed early, walking from a friend’s apartment through rain that may or may not have been imagined and crashed on my bed. Instead of letting the bad vibes get me, I did the only thing I could think of doing: Listened to Tom Petty.

It’s what I’m going to do right now.

It’s what I was planning on doing anyways.

It’s what I’m still going to be doing in the future.

There’s a quote from RZA that I think of every once and a while, half as a joke, half as a way to get into a joke, and it goes like this “How can hip-hop be dead if Wu Tang is forever?”

How can Tom Petty be dead if his music is forever?