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Tom Petty’s Music is a Life Soundtrack to Millions of People

Firing Up: Damn the Torpedoes

Dec 13, 2017
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Hot rods and rock music. The two go together like peanut butter and jelly, peanut putter and chocolate, and lately it seems nothing is off limits to mix with bacon. I could go off on some crazy tangent about the disgusting food mash-up going on with bacon these days, but I’ll stick with my initial thought about music and how it does a great job of helping us get through the day a little easier.

If you think about it, music makes great company while wrenching on our rides in the shop or in our garage and has the ability to ease us through some nasty rush-hour traffic that might otherwise be unbearable.

One of the most amazing things about music is how a song or collection of songs from an album can transport our minds to a specific time and a place. Like many of you, I was hit hard by the recent and unexpected death of Tom Petty. Although I never met him in person, his music, lyrics, and personality carried a certain rebelliousness that we could connect with. That rebelliousness made him more real to us—a blue-collar rock star if there is such a person. He seemed like the kind of guy you might like to hang out with, have a beer, and shoot the breeze. Although I don’t have every one of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ LPs or CDs, I’m a fan, especially of his early work.

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Having attended high school in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Damn the Torpedoes album that was the soundtrack to those teenage years. It was common—a given, really—to hear a song from that album blasting from cars pulling into and out of the high school parking lot pretty much every morning and afternoon in 1979. And at backyard parties you could always count on some cover band “attempting” to pull off a Petty song or two.

Although, not a mega star like Springsteen or Bono, for years TP consistently put out solid albums with tons of great music. To put it into perspective, Tom Petty boasts the most (28) Top 10 songs on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs chart. Only Van Halen comes close with 26. That’s some serious longevity.

We commonly talk about the balance between music and hot rodding regardless of the era. For example, in the iconic movie American Graffiti the music of Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, the Platters, Chuck Berry, and the like never fails to take us back to the late 1950s. I wasn’t around then, but thanks to that movie and those legendary artists, I have an idea of what it may have been like. That music formed around the movie and confirmed the time period. Similarly, Tom Petty musically guided us through the late-’70s and somehow managed to keep us on track through the ’80s even with all the trendy music and fashion diversions that came with that crazy era. Throughout his career, Tom stayed true to his music and left us with an extensive catalog of great tunes that will live on forever.

There are very few music artists my 17-year-old son and I share common interest in, yet when a Tom Petty song comes on the car radio there’s no fight to change the station—his appeal is that wide—an appeal very few artists have.

So, next time you are heading out on a long drive, load up your iPod, iPhone, or your favorite MP3 player with some classic Tom Petty. You’ll likely be taken back to a great time and place in your life. At the very least, you’ll be listening to some great American rock music that just might get you where you are going a little quicker.

You in?

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