Ocean Beach Memories of Tom Petty

by on October 10, 2017 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

Editordude: Here are two tributes to Tom Petty by two members of the Ocean Beach community – both the local and the extended one.

Tom Petty RIP

by Bob Edwards

Another giant of rock passed away last week.

Tom Petty had the same sort of swaggering, rock and roll presence as Bruce and Mick and Ray Davies of the Kinks.  He was glad to be there rocking for you and let you know it.

I saw him several times but my favorite was at the SDSU Open Air Theater in October of 2002, almost exactly 15 years ago.  He played some of his classics and even covered the obscure Count Five song, “Psychotic Reaction”.

A transplanted Floridian who considered his group The Heartbreakers “an LA band”, he moved to Southern California in the mid-1970s.  Petty showed his love for SoCal and LA with such songs a Free Fallin’ and King’s Highway.

Although in the 1980s he sometimes featured a Confederate flag on stage, he later regretted the move and published a heartfelt explanation and apology for using the flag.  Here’s a link to an article he wrote for Rolling Stone that illustrates his feelings on that subject and some pretty sophisticated political awareness about the Confederate flag issue and race in America:  http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/tom-petty-on-past-confederate-flag-use-it-was-downright-stupid-20150714

Oddly, my most indelible Tom Petty associated memory was not at one of his concerts.  I was seeing the jam band moe. in Denver and during their pre-show recorded music, they played Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers doing American Girl.  All the pre-show jabbering and milling about stopped and the entire audience started smiling, dancing, and singing along with American Girl.  It was a glorious moment, and as former OB Rag writer Dickie Magidoff once told me referencing another song by another band, a moment that showed that pop music can become folk music, that is music of the people.

Here’s a link to the last song of Tom’s last performance at the Hollywood Bowl just a month ago, American Girl:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4kmZpXGqlw&feature=youtu.be


Tom Petty and Bob Dylan at the San Diego Sports Arena

By Michael Steinberg / Black Rain Press

I’d already heard the OB Dylan stories–at least some of them.

“Yeah, he owns a place on Abbott Street, everyone knows that.”

“Nah, you got it all wrong, it’s Bacon, and I saw him in the back yard during that lunar eclipse.”

“You’re both tuburlary tripping Why the other night I couldn’t nod, so’s I head out to greet the light, heading down to Dog Beach, and here comes this big black limo into the lot and guess who’s in the back with that hat from Blonde on Blonde?

“And then he gets out before it’s even started to stop and he’s motivating down to the surf, grinning back me. So I’m just about to follow him down, but this humongous dude jumps out of the front and puts me in a sleeper hold and the next thing I know, the dude and Bob are laughing down on me, a righteous doobie going back and forth. Don’t Bogart that joint, I’m about to say but the next thing I know they’ve evaporated and two cops are giving me a ticket for impersonating a Rottweiler without a license. Can you top that?”

In any event, I found myself back in OB Tangled Up In Blue when I heard that Uncle Bob was going to be at the San Diego Sports Arena that night along with Tom Petty and his band. I’d never actually heard Bob play live, though I could easily recite all the words to Desolation Row, Visions of Johanna and many more,

By this time Dylan had already teamed up with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom and that other dude as the Traveling Wilburys, and I swear I still have that tape somewhere in my room.

Though we had nothing resembling a ticket, Helen and I decided to take out chances and ventured to the Not Quite Already Famous Arena. In those days (circa 1985) you could still obtain reasonable facsimiles of scalped entry passes for only a week’s salary (if you worked at OB Peoples like us ) and signing over all your assets, of which we had nil.

So we took the leap and the next thing we knew we had somehow gained entry to the inside, where “Masters of War” was resounding way up on the Richter Scale and we didn’t care if the walls came tumbling down at the end of the show!

And then we were somehow seated, not that close, but with an unobstructed view of the stage and all its players. There out front was Zimmerman while superstars Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were reduced to a dazzling backup band. Bob hadn’t played out much for some time, and word had it that Tom had encouraged him to tour with him, resulting in us becoming part of the spectacle that magic night.

They took turns doing sets as the roars went on. Sometimes Dylan alone, next Tom and the Heartbreakers spit out some of their hits, following that they’d all play together. When that was happening the Heartbreakers would be glaring at Mr. D like hawks. You could never tell when he would change the rhythm, lyrics or melody. Or where the song was supposed to end, the esteemed perhaps OB homeowner would wail into a harmonica solo that never wanted to be still.

In this era arena rock had become formulaic and predictable, but what we were witnessing proved to be artistic improvisation before a mass audience. Throughout all this Tom Petty and his band struggled successfully to rise to the occasion to seize the changing times. And Tom at times joined Bob at the Mike to bring it all back home.

At one point Bob actually talked to us! Most of what I remember were loud heartfelt thanks to Tom for helping him get his ass back in gear and his life back on the road that never ends.

Before this I’d considered myself a reluctant Tom Petty fan. I didn’t think he was that politically correct, or that his songs were that original or creative. Yet when I heard those songs on the radio in those post punk Reaganistic times, it was hard to resist their seemingly simple pull. He had the ability to create art that reached a lot of people in ways they related to and continued to do so without repeating himself. Yes, so after that performance at the Sports Arena I changed my mind and I changed my heart.

I mean, how many of us could make a tune spouting, “Let’s Get to the Point, Let’s Roll Another Joint” into a proclamation of liberation that still means a lot to us today? Thanks Tom.


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