Hey, Petty fans, don’t expect to hear “You Don’t Know How It Feels” during this year’s Super Bowl halftime show. Apparently the NFL wasn’t too keen on the whole “let’s roll another joint” refrain. In an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone, Petty chatted about his forthcoming February 3rd halftime gig, informing fans not to expect a medley or dancers — he will, however, stick closely to his greatest hits. Keep reading to check out the full Q&A, where Petty talks about his first Super Bowl (“This is the only way I could get tickets”), a potential spring tour, staying away from corporations and “the long-overdue Heartbreakers record.”
Rolling Stone: How long ago did the NFL approach you about this?
Tom Petty: I’m not exactly sure. I think it was six or eight weeks ago.
RS: Tell me your first reaction to their offer.
TP: I said, really? That was it. I was shocked, then I started thinking about it and thought it might be cool. It’s not the kind of thing you ever think about, playing the Super Bowl. It never really crossed my mind.
RS: Was your instant reaction to say yes?
TP: I thought about it and I heard that some pretty good people had been doing it. I looked at the shows that McCartney and the Stones and Prince had done and I said “Okay, this looks like it could be pretty cool.”
RS: What’s the show going to be like?
TP: I’m just — You don’t have a great deal of time. I’m trying to, right now, figure out how much material I can squeeze into that short space of time. I think that whatever you do you probably have to edit yourself a bit. I doubt we’d do a medley. We’ve never done a medley and I can’t picture us doing one. It’s not the kind of band that can remember a medley.
RS: Have you given thought to what songs you’ll play?
TP: I don’t want to give that away. We are thinking about that. We’ve got a few in mind. I think in a show that big in a place that bit you need to play songs they know.
RS: Lots of acts have fireworks and dancers in the field. Are you going to do anything like that or will it be more stripped down?
TP: That I don’t know. We won’t have any dancers, I’m sure of that. You want to give them a halftime show, maybe not in the traditional sense — but I’m sure there are a lot of people there who enjoy the fireworks and stuff. I’m just approaching it as a pretty high-energy rock & roll show — maybe like it used to be in the 1960s were you come on, do four or five of your best numbers and get off.
RS: Has the NFL given you any guidelines as far as what you can’t play as far as drug references and whatnot?
TP: I don’t think anyone was too big on me making drug references, which I never even said I’d do. I was asked — it was strongly hinted that playing “You Don’t Know How It Feels” probably wasn’t the best thing. It’s a family show. People of all ages and musical tastes in one place is what’s exciting about it.
RS: Some acts pre-record some of their instruments when they play these things. Are you guys going to do any of that or will it be totally live?
TP: No, we’re a live group.
RS: Are you at all nervous to play to half the planet?
TP: You’re not human if you’re not a little nervous about that. When it comes time to do it you don’t really want to be thinking about it. It’s a big gig, but you’ve got a job to do.
RS: Are you going to do any shows next year?
TP: We’re mulling that over right now. There hasnt’ been a majority vote yet. [Laughs] We’re talking about doing some shows next year, yeah.
RS: Would these be summer shows?
TP: I don’t know. I’ve heard everything from April to June. I really don’t know.
RS: Who exactly votes on this?
TP: We all vote. We all decide on the time frame. I think everyone has voted but me.
RS: I would guess your vote is slightly more important than the others.
TP: It carries a lot of weight.
RS: Getting back to the Super Bowl. When you watched U2 and the Stones and McCartney, what lessons did you take away?
TP: I think they all did well. What you do there that works best is to just be yourself and do what you do well. I think that’s what they all did and that’s what I intend to do.
RS: Thanks for not doing a medley. I hate when bands try and cram in fifteen songs into fifteen minutes.
TP: Then you never really get to enjoy one of them. They never asked us to do that and I can’t imagine us doing that.
RS: Have you sat down with the NFL and mapped out what you’re going to do?
TP: I’ve only had one meeting with the NFL so far. They were all really cool people and seemed to know a lot about doing this kind of show. You only have five and a half minutes to set up everything. That’s the most challenging thing, how do you get your gear up and get it working in five minutes. They seem to be pretty pro.
RS: Is this your first Super Bowl?
TP: Yeah. This is the only way I could get tickets.
RS: This halftime show is sponsored by Bridgestone Tires. Are you softening your stance about working with corporations?
TP: No. I’m not sponsored by Bridgestone. My deal is with the NFL. The halftime show is always presented by a sponsor. If I play on The Tonight Show, it’s presented by sponsors. Truthfully, every venue in America has some sort of corporate sponsor above the door or on the wall. It’s not a deal that I made, you know? Don’t worry, I haven’t gone corporate.
RS: There’s only a few other holdouts left. Is it getting harder to keep saying no to that corporate money?
TP: No. That’s the way the world is run. They certainly own all the venues. If you play a bar you see signs for Budweiser. There is no way around that. We don’t use tour sponsors or do commercials or anything. I saw someone write in the press that we had in some way sold ourselves out to the Super Bowl because of this deal with Bridgestone Tires. The truth is that if you play on TV there is always a sponsor. There is no way around it. I’ve already passed on so much money I don’t worry about it anymore.
RS: Are you ever tempted?
TP: When someone offers you $10 million and you pass on it, you do think about it a little bit. I go, “God, would anyone have cared?” I care. It will bother me, is the problem. It’s like I say: If you couldn’t feed your family and someone offers you that, you would take it. I’m in a good position where I’m not hard up for bread so I can say no, but it does make you think.
RS: How about a new solo album?
TP: That’s not even on the burner yet. I guess we’ll have to start thinking about that soon?
RS: Will the next one be solo or with the Heartbreakers?
TP: No, we have decided that the next one will be the long-overdue Heartbreakers record.
RS: You’ve said recently you don’t want to do any more long tours. Do you still feel that way?
TP: I just don’t want to commit that much time to it. I love doing it and I’m sure I’ll do more tours, but I’m not going to do big long ones. I have so much I want to do right now. If I’m going to do another Heartbreakers album I need some time to write that and record that and do it the way I want to. It’s just a lot of things I want to do that keep getting put down the line because of these lengthy tours. If you take five months out of the year it really takes a hit, because then it takes you a month to recuperate from it and then there’s just a few months left to work.
RS: How do you feel about the general state of the music industry?
TP: What industry? I don’t really follow the industry too close, but I understand there’s less and less of it each time.
RS: Do you care?
TP: It’s sad, but I’m not going to worry about it. What I think the problem is they just don’t have a working model of what the industry should be, getting music to people at a fair price and make it easy for them. I think they have to kind of find that model before its all going to work.
RS: Yeah, selling physical CDs to kids for $19 is just not going to work.
TP: Hell, I was saying that in 1981.
RS: Do you see a point in five or ten years when you might stop doing this?
TP: No, no. I’m not going to stop. [Laughs] I have too much I want to do. We’re having as much fun as we’ve ever had. It’s too much fun, you know? But we’re still enjoying it.
(Check back later this week for even more from our Petty interview, where he discusses reuniting Mudcrutch.)