Into The Great Wide Open with Tom Petty

Tom Petty is nobody's fool and you gotta love him for it. He's had a long and successful (albeit at times, vexing) career driven by a single-minded determination and unwavering commitment to making good rock and roll with unparalleled integrity. These are the very same qualities that have allowed him to transcend the mediocrity of so many of today's artists.

Unlike many of his musical contemporaries, Petty's not interested in strolling idly down the path of least resistance. He's not afraid to stand up for what he believes in, even if it means spitting in the face of the "establishment" as it were, or covering new ground. As he points out "You don't want to do things that are necessarily expected of you. You want to do what you're interested in. That will ring truer than what's expected of you." And he should know. Honesty and directness have always been the hallmark of Petty's work.

On the surface, his music is deceptively simple and direct -- straightforward rock and roll -- but something about his wry manner reels you in deeper. No matter what he's singing about, his lyrics ring true in an understated but compelling way that speak to you as if to say 'hey! now think about this for a minute . . . you know what I mean?' That unique quality allows him to stretch and turn his music in whatever direction he chooses.

His latest release with the Heartbreakers, Into The Great Wide Open, is a perfect example of the evolutionary nature of Petty's work and a tribute to his ability to transcend the ordinary by making the listener sit up and take notice. Produced by Jeff Lynne (of ELO fame) with Tom Petty and Heartbreaker guitarist Mike Campbell, Wide Open is a quieter, more introspective album, reflecting the kind of maturity also evident in the material from his recent solo flight Full Moon Fever. The songs are less rebellious and more thoughtful.

"Though there's a lot to be said for being angry and cocky," says Petty, "I think in these times you need honesty more than anything else . . . In the late '80s, into the '90s, there's been this realization that perhaps money was more important to some people than it should have been."

Building on some of the themes from Full Moon Fever, the material on Wide Open speaks to the failures, compromises and empty existentialism that have come to characterize our society in the wake of the go-go '80s. Petty brings the point home with songs like All or Nothing, Too Good To Be True and All The Wrong Reasons which he calls a "sort of greed trilogy." King's Highway confronts existential dread with lyrics like "I don't want to end up/ In a room alone/ Don't wanna end up someone I don't even know." Dark of the Sun tries to put the Gulf War in perspective; and Makin' Some Noise is a poignant rocker that celebrates the power of rock as a form of liberation from the mundane.

Nearing the end of a 40-city American tour, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers will be performing at the San Diego Sports Arena on November 12th. This tour marks the first time in the band's history that time-tested crowd pleasers like Breakdown, American Girl, and I Need to Know among others, will not be played. Instead, the two-hour performance will focus on material from Full Moon Fever and Into the Great Wide Open. Not without some surprises, the concert will even offer some theatrical shtick. If you've never been to a Tom Petty concert this is a good opportunity to check it out. You won't be disappointed.

Copyright 1992 E-Ticket! Magazine