I think Tom Petty (RIP) is overrated

I apologize for bringing this into the other thread.

Let’s begin here. I was a big fan through the third LP. I saw them at least 4 times, sometimes second on the bill, to J Geils. I like the Waiting. The LPs were some of the first I played guitar to and that has been my passionate avocation since then, so I do follow the field.

But he is known to me for this string of middle of the road kind of rock by numbers songs. They just don’t jump off the needle. If you can point me to some great moments I’ll listen. but it has to be something special for me to want to hear tom petty. If there are deep cuts I haven’t heard of them. What are they? I think he kind of found his strata in the classic rock firmament and just kind of stayed there. It doesn’t make for the things I cherish about rock, but hey. He’s making rock records, but they stopped being visceral experiences, like great records or hits.

runnin down a dream, wont back down or last dance with mary jane? It just can’t compete with his younger self, much less the replacements, Wilco, American Music Club and a hundred others.

His catalog is very thin on greatness. And the great stuff is so simple it wears less well as time goes on, for me anyway.

He never came close to making a song like Shadow of a doubt again to my ears.

I was never a big fan. His songs were good enough, but there never was a great one. But I did like his show on SiriusXM, and he certainly had his fans. I just felt there was something missing that kept him from greatness.

I think his appeal was wider than it was deep (i.e. lots of casual fans vs. rabidly enthusiastic fans); and he was fairly widely respected.

I somehow never regarded him as that much of a musician, and I only just kind of like even his most popular songs. But given that he became one of the Traveling Wilburys I had to acknowledge that perhaps he had talents I wasn’t aware of. Also toward the beginning of his career I read that he had broken his hand punching a brick wall or something and this caused me to regard him as something of a hotheaded dumbass. So I was never much of a fan even though respected musicians seemed to think well of and accept him.

I didn’t dislike him, but I didn’t particularly like him, either. If his music is on in the background, it doesn’t bother me, but I won’t ever seek it out or buy any of his albums. In the old days when I used to listen to the radio in the car, if Petty came on I might flip through the other stations to see if anything better was playing, then settle back on him if there wasn’t.

He was just kind of… there.

Some people think The Beatles are overrated. Tom’s in good company.

I’m struck by the sheer number of great songs Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers churned out up until the late '90s, in addition to the obvious hits. A small sampling:

“King’s Highway”
“Makin’ Some Noise”
“The Waiting”
“Straight into Darkness”
“Jammin’ Me”
“Runnin’ Down a Dream”
“I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”
“Yer So Bad”
“Love Is A Long Road”
“Even The Losers”
“Out In The Cold”

…and many more that never achieved major airplay.

He may have an equal as an all-time great American rocker (Chuck Berry?) but there’s not a lot of competition.

Petty was a solid “B” performer. Consistently good but not at the top of the genre. Do that for a long while and you leave an impressive body of work behind you.

CCR was never anybody’s favorite. (Well, anybody that I know), but it’s the same thing.

Wonderful interview about Tom and his work for charities.

Tom was very loyal to his friends.

Skip to 1:48 for the Tom Petty segment

Sounds like a great guy, but his music was never my style.

Sad he died so young, though.

Do you actually mean Tom Petty’s music is overrated, or just that you don’t think it was all that good? Because I think this:

is basically Tom Petty’s reputation.

He was a reliable middle-of-the-road rocker for many years. He had a number of fairly well-known songs but few big hits. Wikipedia tells me his highest charting single was (as I would have guessed) “Free Fallin’” in 1989, which peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. (It went to #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts, as did several of his other songs.) His only other song to crack the top ten on the Hot 100 was “Don’t Do Me Like That” a decade earlier.

I’m sure he has some obsessed fans, but I don’t think I’ve ever met or even heard of anyone who thought he was the Greatest Rocker Evah. Nor have I encountered anyone who said they outright despised his music – the harshest criticism I’ve ever heard of him was that his music was kinda boring.

In the mid 80’s, Tom and the boys released an album called Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) that scored one hit single: Jammin’ Me. I loved that album, even though it wasn’t his most popular, because it spoke to me, and I liked the dynamics of his band working together. Think About Me still makes me smile with its now-dated techno references (your boyfriend got a big red car/he got a compact disc, got a VCR). Maybe it was the appeal of a regular guy in the rock star world aspect of his personality, like the time he came on the Garry Shandling show to return the garden shears he borrowed, but Tom Petty always had something about him that an ordinary guy could relate to. That to me was why he was so popular. My Life/Your World off that album is a pretty good song.
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Those people are also correct.

That’s my thinking. Out of 300+ million people in the US (not to mention the world) some are going to hold the minority opinion. Someone has to make up the 5% on Rotten Tomatoes.

What about the time he slipped on peepee in the Costco

Can I think both of those things? He isn’t that brilliant, and he is tending to be overrated by people from even the most avant circles at the moment. It was curious to me. I’m very familiar with the early stuff. It seems that we are having a lot of rockers die on us and I think we are getting a little punchy now, and maybe somewhat over sentimental.

He may share a category with Springsteen. But the Replacements were the great americana parking lot sage band. The middle of the country never hears the real stuff. So they think it’s petty and the boss.

The 'mats opened for Petty on a tour and it seems like tom lifted the line “Rebel without a clue” from the 'mats hit “I’ll be You.” It was an unhappy marriage that tour but Tom and the rest of the Heartbreakers would stand in the wings and watch a lot.

When I hear Petty I can hear the gears running in his mind about how he’s crafting what he’s going to sell me. The chords, the words, it seems second hand to me. It’s an art form where he never uses one extra creative muscle.

Oh man! Someone’s wrong on the internet again. Just when I thought I fixed it.

Which would you use to change my mind on Petty?

Weird 80s sound there. Think about me is so derivative it’s like listening to a faint echo of 60s music. This is my problem with him.