The Petty Bowl

18Jan08

Unless I think of something else to do, I will be watching my first Super Bowl this year. Tom Petty is one reason for this, but the reason that Prince didn’t get me last year was that until July 2007 I hadn’t had TV reception of any kind for the previous 12 years. The other reason is that now I do, with one of those hi-def monsters that eat up half the wall to go with it. And if there’s one thing that hi-def really improves is sports — in tennis, you can actually follow a round ball instead of a yellow-green streak.

   Oh, did I mention that I generally find football a colossal bore. For TV sports I’ll take baseball, tennis, sex, demolition derby, shit maybe even bowling.

And I’m not the world’s biggest Tom Petty fan — his limits as a songwriter start at his refusal to stretch his musical or intellectual parameters much, which is not to say he’s lazy, just a little routine. You can disprove the argument that at bottom he’s only interested in fun music (without even getting into deliberately un-fun albums like Southern Accents and Wildflowers) because my definition of fun includes seeking out new shit sometimes.

But fun he is, he’s got a raft of great riffs, his formula has proved fairly elastic from the fairly raw debut to the galvanic Damn the Torpedoes to the streamlined Full Moon Fever, and from “She was an American girl/ Raised on promises,” to “So you think you’re gonna take her away/ With your money and your cocaine” to that line about lying on the roof and looking at the moon while smoking cigarettes, he can capture a feeling and even an idea with plenty of wit. And during his Wilbury era — starting with ’87’s Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough), the album whose lead single was written with Bob Dylan, and ending with his second Jeff Lynne-produced album in ’91 — he really showed off a winningly goofy sense of humor.

So: what’s he gonna play? I say he starts thematically with “I Won’t Back Down,” follows up with “Refugee” because everyone will be expecting it already, then “Free Falling” for a change-up, and then “American Girl,” for a rousing and thematic finale.  If he gets to do six songs, I can think of a whole slew — “Don’t Do Me,” “Learning to Fly,”  “Here Comes My Girl,” the thematic “Even the Losers” and on. Don’t suppose Stevie would join him for “Stop Draggin'”?     

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