free fallin’

When I was a teenager, I had a Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers greatest hits CD. I think I may actually still have it, in fact. Anyway – the CD had a defect that caused a tiny skip in the first track, ‘Free Fallin’ ‘:

All the vampires, walkin’ through the valley

move West down Ventura Boulevard

On my CD, the skip was in the word “boulevard”, making it sound like some kind of syncopated contraction….like Tom had taken all the vowels out and was literally singing the abbreviation, “blvd”.

I had heard the song on the radio plenty of times and I knew it didn’t actually go like that, that it was either a microscopic scratch or a manufacturing glitch causing it, but I listened to that CD and that song in particular so many times over the years that it got stuck in my head. To this day, when I hear ‘Free Fallin’ ‘ and the skip DOESN’T happen my brain notes it and judges that version of the song, that particular split-second sonic experience, as ever so slightly sub-standard.

I’m not a music critic or a biographer and I certainly didn’t know Tom Petty personally, so it feels silly to try and eulogize him. What I can say is that I loved Tom Petty for his plain-spoken lyrical style. I loved that he was smart and sly and also a stoner, and didn’t give a shit who knew it. I loved that he was so versatile, writing everything from hard-charging rock like ‘Runnin’ Down A Dream’ to sensitive, almost bluegrassy-sounding diddies like ‘Wildflowers’. I loved his ridiculously nasal voice and his Scarecrow-goes-to-Hollywood looks, and I’ll miss him very, very much.

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worries
You belong somewhere you feel free
You belong somewhere you feel free

‘Wildflowers’ by Tom Petty

wildflowers

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