Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

Tom Petty

Dateline: 4:15 pm November 1, 2017 Filed under:

When it comes to music, 1989 is my formative year, hands down. I was 14, years old, discovered The Beatles, learned guitar, started my first band, saw my first concert, smoked my first cigarette, became a vegetarian and grew a mullet (thanks to Paul McCartney for, um, all of these). Eventually bacon obliterated my vegetarianism, the mullet was short-lived, and luckily I had friends who would have laughed if they knew I smoked, so I never made it a habit. I still try to play bass like Paul McCartney. But definitely the most lasting influence from 1989 is Tom Petty’s album Full Moon Fever.

My Well-Used Copy of Full Moon Fever

By the end of the decade 80s pop was being bludgeoned to death (thank you Rick Astley), and 1989 was a year of comebacks for some rock dinosaurs. The Rolling Stones toured with the semi-decent Steel Wheels album (my first concert was the Rolling Stones at the Metrodome, with my mom, in row 10!). Paul McCartney released the pretty good Flowers in the Dirt (Put it There is a great song) album and toured for the first time in a decade. Bob Dylan released the excellent Oh, Mercy (check out Ring Them Bells and Most of the Time). Don Henley released The End of the Innocence (New York Minute and The Heart of the Matter). Billy Joel (I’m not afraid to admit I like Billy Joel) released Storm Front (Downeaster Alexa is a great song, also And So it Goes). Phil Collins released But Seriously (seriously, I’m not afraid to admit I like Phil Collins, either!). Tom Petty released Full Moon Fever (Free Fallin’).

What most of these albums share in common is artists who made their name and released their best work in an earlier decade, either the 1960s or 1970s. But this made 1989 a great year to be introduced to some of the best ever. These decent albums in my tape deck were direct lines back to Rubber Soul, Beggars Banquet, Hotel California, The Stranger, Blonde on Blonde, and Damn the Torpedoes. and songs like Street Fighting Man, Norwegian Wood, The Last Resort, American Girl, Chimes of Freedom, Only the Good Die Young, and hell, the entire side 2 of Abbey Road!

Those other 1989 albums had a couple good songs each (the exception may be Oh, Mercy, although its classic status has been eclipsed by every Dylan album since 1997), but Full Moon Fever stands up to the test of time. Won’t Back Down follows Free Fallin’ as a one-two punch. Runnin’ Down a Dream provides another classic. A Face in the Crowd may be my favorite track on it. The zany Zombie Zoo is good fun, and high the the most catchy tune on the album. Full Moon Fever remains in the top three or so Tom Petty albums, and has stood the test of time. And who can forget the Free Fallin’ video, with Tom Petty playing a guitar on an escalator at the Westfield Pavilion Mall in LA?

In an homage to its distinct moment in time with regard to technology, at the halfway point on the CD, Tom Petty’s voice cuts in between tracks and tells us that this is the place where you’d usually turn the tape over. A relic from a lost era.

And let’s not forget the Traveling Wilburys’ two albums around the 1989 timeframe (Tom Petty was Muddy Wilbury). Who doesn’t like End of the Line? (How sad is it to see the video, with the empty rocking chair when Roy Orbison sings his verse?) For what it’s worth, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ most recent album, Hypnotic Eye, is really quite good.

I’ve formed other, better bands since 1989 (The Gypsy Moths did a little better than Sam and the Goodtime Gang). Every time I’m in Los Angeles I listen to Green Day’s American Idiot, Hotel California by the Eagles, and Tom Petty. The “441” in American Girl evokes all the freeways in LA, and Free Fallin’ is indispensable for cruising in a convertible along Ventura Boulevard and especially Mulholland Drive (“I want to fly down, over Mulholland”). Full Moon Fever is the only album from 1989 I still listen to in its entirety. And so, 1989 will remain that seminal year for me, the year I was introduced to so much great music, and Full Moon Fever is timeless.

1 Comment »

  1. Totally forgot to mention Eric Clapton’s Journeyman as a great album from 1989 that helped form my musical notions and tastes. Running on Faith, No Alibis, Pretending, Before you Accuse Me…some pretty good stuff there.

    Comment by Sam Newberg — January 25, 2018 @ 12:22 am

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