Tom Petty: Rolling Stones Were 'My Punk Music'

Rocker talks about his early musical influences and the fleeting nature of fame in 2014

July 17, 2014 5:10 PM ET
Tom Petty.
Tom Petty.
C Flanigan/Getty Images

Tom Petty called the Rolling Stones "my punk music" during an interview with CBC, crediting the British rockers with convincing him — and thousands of other aspiring American musicians at the time — that they could make rock and roll music. "They were grittier [than the Beatles]; it was rawer," Petty recalled. "They were playing blues in this really energetic kind of raw way, but it wasn't complicated. There wasn't a lot of beautiful harmony involved."

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Petty touched on the Stones while speaking about his early musical influences and how attainable they made playing in a rock and roll band seem. Calling Elvis Presley the "American dream," Petty didn't believe he, or anyone else, could ever recreate or live up to what Presley had achieved. It was the Beatles who started to make things seem a bit more realistic.

"These people look like they're self-contained," Petty said of his initial impressions of the Fab Four. "They're making music that they wrote themselves and their music is all their own. They're playing it, they look like they're really good friends and they're having a lot of fun — and I'll bet they're not worried about bread, either. Of course, they were so absolutely genius even in '64 that it seemed really hard to ever reach that kind of musicianship." But with the Stones, Petty said, "It was like, 'That can be done.'"

In a different segment, Petty touched on the world of popular music today, noting the ineffable nature of what he called "plastic computer music" — though, he mentioned, "Nothing was any worse than corporate rock." And at the end of the day, Petty added, what matters most to the listener is not how it's made, "but what they're hearing."

As far as achieving that rock star dream in 2014, Petty said he thought fame seemed more fleeting and temporary these days in the age of reality singing shows. "If they had tried to offer my generation someone that had won a game show, it would've been hysterical, you would've been laughed out of the room," Petty said. "We were suspicious of people that had hit records, it was that different a time."

As for his own music, Petty and the Heartbreakers are prepping for the July 29th release of Hypnotic Eye, their first full-length since 2010's Mojo. The band has been working on the record for nearly three years at Petty's home studio in Malibu, and at their Los Angeles rehearsal space, the Clubhouse. You can hear a handful of album cuts now, including "American Dream Plan B," "U Get Me High" and "Red River."

Following the album's release, Petty and the Heartbreakers will hit the road for a massive American arena tour, starting August 3rd in San Diego. The trek also includes headlining sets at the Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco and at the Lockn' Festival in the Blue Ridge mountains in Central Virginia.

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