How Tom Petty Embraced the Future With ‘You Got Lucky’


Tom Petty‘s method to songwriting was easy: Keep humble and write what you like.

“I do not assume that I can sit down and select, ‘OK, one other basic,’ you understand, or ‘All the pieces I write is an epic,'” he mentioned in a January 1983 interview, lower than three months after the discharge of his fifth album with the Heartbreakers, Long After Dark. “I hate that perspective.”

The way in which Petty noticed it, there was a center floor between custom and transformation – a technique to write trustworthy songs that will stand the take a look at of time regardless of once they have been written. “I wanna be free sufficient to put in writing ‘Tutti Frutti,’ to put in writing that as a result of I like that,” he mentioned. “I like these outdated low-cost rock songs. I actually do, as a lot as I like ‘Born to Run,’ however I simply had this principle that if it is a good tune, no matter that’s, it should endure. I feel any songwriter that stands up and performs the guitar and actually thinks that he is altering the world and singing to thousands and thousands wants a tomato within the face.”

This was the perspective Petty carried into the ’80s, which began turbulently after Petty went head-to-head with MCA Data. The label wished to lift the worth of his 1981 album, Hard Promises, from $8.98 to $9.98; Petty refused to launch the file until the worth remained the identical. MCA finally relented. “If we don’t take a stand, considered one of lately, information are going to be $20,” Petty said on the time.

The standoff turned a chief instance of a big-name artist pushing again in opposition to the profit-driven nature of the music business. It additionally led some observers to consider that Petty was a part of the outdated guard and oblivious to the swiftly altering music business’s march to the longer term. However that is not fully correct. Petty’s roots have been grounded in ’60s rock ‘n’ roll, however that did not imply he wasn’t inquisitive about new methods of recording and releasing music.

“You Bought Fortunate,” the primary single from Lengthy After Darkish, was written to a drum loop that guitarist Mike Campbell had put collectively. The loop was recreated within the studio as a template for the band to observe, a apply that was turning into extra mainstream on the time however was nonetheless one thing of a overseas idea to rock musicians accustomed to conventional recording strategies.

“The drummer [Stan Lynch] would truly exit and play, then we might lower the tape and tape the loop collectively,” Campbell recalled in a 2003 interview with Songfacts. “We ran it across the room over some mic stands and thru the tape heads, after which printed that for 3 or 4 minutes after which recorded the tune over that drum loop.” The key ingredient, as Petty later recalled, was Lynch monitoring his drum half once more with the loop enjoying, making for an additional sturdy groove.

Watch Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Carry out ‘You Bought Fortunate’ 

After which there was the principle riff, carried out on a DX7 synthesizer by keyboardist Benmont Tench, who wasn’t precisely excited to take action. “He begrudgingly performed it,” Petty recalled within the 2005 e-book Conversations With Tom Petty. Tench had grown up taking classical piano classes, and even when his consideration shifted towards rock ‘n’ roll and he started enjoying electrical keyboards, he by no means understood the enchantment of synths. “I hear folks do nice issues with them, and I cannot make them do this,” he said in 2017. “Mike will sit down at a synthesizer and write ‘You Bought Fortunate,’ and I will sit down at a synthesizer and it is … ‘You Bought Ugly.’ I haven’t got quite a lot of enjoyable or persistence going, ‘This is how I get a sound.'”

Petty wished to verify the usage of the synthesizer was strategic. He’d heard albums by different artists during which synths have been used simply sufficient to make an impression however not sufficient to develop into a distraction. “I did not wish to use synthesizers simply because they seem to be a neat toy. You possibly can create a large spectrum of textures within the music, however I do not prefer it when synthesizers sort of wash out the entire file,” he informed Hit Parader in 1983. “I am fascinated by the expertise, all the brand new devices which are popping out, and though a few of my purist pals assume they need to be prevented in any respect prices, I feel they’re the devices of the occasions. One among my favourite albums of the 12 months was Roxy Music‘s Avalon. There have been issues on there that simply blew my thoughts.”

The video for “You Bought Fortunate” additional emphasised Petty’s willingness to transfer ahead whereas staying true to his imaginative and prescient. The Heartbreakers had spent loads of time on music video units earlier than, largely lip-syncing for promotional clips. It was merely one other technique to get their music on the market. “We made movies earlier than we knew they have been movies. … And we truly thought the time period ‘video’ was bizarre, as a result of they have been on movie,” Petty later mentioned. “They weren’t critical, large, enormous tasks.”

Watch Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ ‘You Bought Fortunate’ Video

“You Bought Fortunate”‘s video wasn’t essentially an enormous, enormous mission both. Within the clip, the band members arrive within the desert by way of a spacecraft and encounter a cassette participant containing the tune. Petty drew inspiration from outdated westerns.

“I’ve all the time admired these Clint Eastwood films, with the music by Ennio Morricone,” Petty informed the Gainesville Sun in 1983. “That is what the tune jogged my memory of, so we made the film ourselves.” The tune’s guitar solo borrowed from these movie scores, too, Campbell remembered. “Form of a surf guitar with a tremolo arm, like a Clint Eastwood film,” he famous. “A Good, the Unhealthy and the Ugly sort of factor.” A near-silent intro that lasts greater than a minute was included within the clip and was a novel thought on the time. “It actually modified every thing,” Petty mentioned. “Nobody had ever – even Michael Jackson – carried out a prelude earlier than the video. A little bit of enterprise earlier than the tune began.”

The video arrived simply in time for the rise of MTV, which debuted a little bit greater than a 12 months earlier in August 1981. “That is when everyone knew who you have been. Like, you understand, even grandmas knew who you have been. Since you’re on TV all day lengthy, you understand?” Petty later mentioned. “MTV was this unimaginable promotional system. … There was this complete new factor taking place, and we have been proper within the entrance of it.”

The one, launched in October 1982, only a couple of weeks earlier than Lengthy After Darkish got here out, made it to No. 20 on the Billboard Scorching 100. However the tune did not make it to his set lists too typically, admitting in 2005 that “You Bought Fortunate” was by no means considered one of his favorites. However he additionally confessed that the tune had grown on him through the years. “It isn’t about loads,” he mentioned. “It is simply sort of a love tune. Nevertheless it would not should be about loads to be good. ‘Tutti Frutti’ will not be about loads, however I prefer it.

“You recognize what that tune is? It is an ideal little single. … After I hear it on the radio, I feel, ‘Wow, we actually simply crammed each little area in the precise manner.'”

The Greatest Track From Each Tom Petty Album

There is a frequent thread operating via Tom Petty’s catalog, and it is the Heartbreakers. 

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