Home Music Music News

Mark Ronson Remembers Tom Petty: ‘The Greatest American Song Book’

Producer recounts getting to see one of late rocker’s final shows

mark ronson on tom petty

Mark Ronson remembered Tom Petty and the late rocker's life-long influence in a moving tribute on Instagram.

Theo Wargo/Getty Images, Samir Hussein/Getty Images

Mark Ronson shared a thoughtful and moving tribute to Tom Petty on Instagram, spread out over three posts. Ronson recounted the late musician’s importance in his own life and spoke about seeing Petty in concert for the first time just last month, at what would turn out to be one of the musician’s final shows. Petty died Monday at the age of 66 after going into cardiac arrest.

Ronson said he fell in love with Petty’s music while growing up in “MTV America” during the Eighties, when the rocker was so prominent he “might as well have been the Beatles.” Ronson called Petty’s 1989 LP Full Moon Fever the quintessential Eighties album, praising everything from the drum sounds to the lyrics on “Running Down a Dream,” which he credited with helping him “understand what grown-up melancholy was.”

Growing up in the 1980s in MTV America, Tom Petty might as well have been the Beatles. the music seeped into everything. It was on the TV, the radio. it was culturally important, it was brilliant, it was critically acclaimed. It was the music you wanted to hear in your car. It was the music you’d hear at a baseball game. It was the music you’d hear in a post office. The tri-colored designed scheme of the Full Moon Fever Album was as iconic as the three colors on the Rastafari flag. it was everywhere. The pristine Jeff Lynne production of Full Moon Fever summed up an era in the best way. The kick and the snare were crisp as razor wire. The 12 string guitars rang out like a gorgeous wonder. Of course, Free Falling was the super smash, but Running Down A Dream… that riff, the lyric in the second verse—“the last three days the rain was unstoppable” is the first lyric I heard as a pre-teen that maybe made me understand what grown-up melancholy was. As you grow older, you want your tastes to be a little hipper. music becomes your identity, a badge of distinction. it was then that I discovered “cool” Petty. I realized why Tom Petty was hands-down the American most embraced during the English punk era. as england rejected all bloated notions of arena rock, whether native bands like Led zeppelin or their american approximations, Tom Petty, though being from Gainesville, Florida couldn’t have been anymore American in his own way, was seen as a kindred spirit to Elvis Costello, Nick lowe, the Sex Pistols, . This new generation of kids were shaking off the trends of the uninspired remains of what Rock & Roll had become. i discovered the songs… breakdown. You Got Lucky, American Girl, the songs that—as I got into my twenties—resonated with a rawness that spoke to me on another level. Personally, as I got more and more into Hip Hop, R&B, Soul… I lost a little bit of touch with the kind of music, the guitar music Tom Petty represented. but six years ago, I stumbled across the Peter Bogdanovich Documentary one night. This incredible four hour documentary started to make me re-realize how much I really, really, really, really, really dug Tom Petty and how much his music was

A post shared by Mark Ronson (@iammarkronson) on

Ronson, born in London, also touched on the musician’s importance in England, saying he was “the American most embraced during the English punk era.” While the punk movement signaled the death of bloated arena rock from both Britain and the United States, Ronson called Petty a kindred spirit to Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and the Sex Pistols.

Ronson admitted that his interest in Petty and guitar rock waned as his tastes turned to hip-hop, R&B and soul. But he was eventually inspired to return to Petty’s catalog after watching Peter Bogdanovich’s sprawling 2007 documentary, Runnin’ Down a Dream.

“I fully realized that song book, that catalog, was perhaps my favorite catalog – maybe next to Stevie Wonder – of the entire modern era,” Ronson wrote. “To have so many hit songs, to be routed in so many different sonic eras, from the Americana Rock & Roll of the early stuff, straight into the proto punk, into just the straight anthems of Damn the Torpedoes, into pushing technology forward hooking up with Dave Stewart with the LinnDrum centric sounds of ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’ into the Jeff Lynne rebirth, into ‘Mary Jane,’ all of it, it’s ridiculous.”

how much his music was inside me. I relistened to that greatest hits and I fully realized that song book, that catalog, was perhaps my favorite catalog—maybe next to Stevie Wonder—of the entire modern era. To have so many hit songs, to be routed in so many different sonic eras, from the Americana Rock & Roll of the early stuff, straight into the proto punk, into just the straight anthems of Damn the Torpedoes, into pushing technology forward hooking up with Dave Stewart with the Linn Drum centric sounds of Don’t Come Around Here No More into the Jeff lYnne rebirth, into Mary Jane, all of it, it’s ridiculous. I was such a fan that two, three years ago I started to freak out that I’d never seen him play live and I started to stress out “what if I didn’t have the chance?”. I tried to plan a ridiculously inconvenient trip to Outside Lands because I saw him playing there. I ended up getting double booked thinking on that night it wasn’t going to happen. When I saw that he was playing three gigs in my new home town of LA I decided I was definitely going. Not only was I going, but that I was going to buy tickets for at least two of the three nights because this is my one time to see Tom. There was no way that I was gonna risk potentially going to maybe an off night, so I bought a bunch of tickets for two separate nights. I swear to God, this event hung like a totem in my iCal for months. September 21st and 25th, (with Rosh Hashanah smack in the middle. These were going to be special nights in my life. The 21st blew me away, but there was something strange. They … I wouldn’t say a letdown, but there was something in it that wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be. I think my expectations were so high. I think I expected just a walk through, a very selfish walkthrough of whatever I wanted to hear, which … I mean, this is a man with so much catalog that if he was going to play all of his greatest hits, he’d need a six hour set. These are guys on stage that are in their late 60s—, that never was going to happen. I got a little restless from a few of … a couple songs from the Wildflower era. I was kind of upset there was no “Waiting”. But still, I’d seen a man on stage

A post shared by Mark Ronson (@iammarkronson) on

In the throes of his rekindled fandom, Ronson said he became determined to see Petty live. After several failed attempts, Ronson finally locked down tickets to see Petty play two shows during a run at the Hollywood Bowl in September. The first show, on the 21st, “blew him away,” though he admitted his expectations had been so high there were moments where he felt somewhat let down. However, Ronson called the second night “flawless,” even though Petty more or less played the same set. “I stayed ’til the very end and lapped all of it up,” Ronson said. “It was just so special.”

Ronson said he was eating in dinner in Paris when he heard about Petty’s death and his mind immediately jumped to the concerts he’d just seen. “I really don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t seen those shows,” Ronson said. “I guess that makes him truly the greatest American song book. I love him so much. I don’t know how you could love someone so much that you’ve never met but … this guy who just brought musical fucking joy and everything to so many people on such a level.”

play 14 of my favorite songs of all time. The second night I went was the last night of the run. It was flawless. It was pretty much the same set, but it was so finely tuned, honed. He did play Breakdown, which he admitted to never playing and only played it because he said the crew asked so that truly felt like a privilege, especially hearing Mike Campbell play that … One of the sexiest guitar lines rock and roll radio’s ever heard. He kept just saying, “Thank you guys. You guys are so great..” I didn’t know if it was legit or not because for being someone who’s so famous for being a little curmudgeonly and even contemplative of an audience, you didn’t know if he was at a point where he was paying lip service, but it didn’t feel that way. That show. I stayed ’til the very end and lapped all of it up. It was just so special. On the way out of there I saw a friend of mine who was also a musician. He said, “It was great, man’. he also said It was weird, because he saw the last Prince shows here at the Bowl and mentioned it had a little bit of that air of seeing somebody’s last shows. but I didn’t think for a second that Tom Petty was passing away or anything, it just felt like, okay, it might be his last shows. He might not be playing for a while. I was sitting at a dinner tonight in Paris and someone said, “Did you hear about Tom Petty?” At first, he was on life support and nobody knew what happened and then they said that he’d died. It’s so selfish when you think right away to yourself, “Well, at least I saw him twice last week.” I really don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t seen those shows. I guess that makes him truly the greatest American song book. I love him so much. I don’t know how you could love someone so much that you’ve never met but … this guy who just brought musical fucking joy and everything to so many people on such a level.

A post shared by Mark Ronson (@iammarkronson) on

Newswire

Powered by
Close comments

Add a comment