Sunday, August 27, 2017

Shadows: Shadow of a Doubt (Complex Kid)

Purchase: Shadow of a Doubt (Complex Kid), by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Writing this, I have to say, I feel a bit like a shadow myself. Of myself? I don't know...

I haven't posted all summer: making a permanent household move between three countries (out of Turkey, back to the US, and then on to parts further), I haven't done much writing. Or listening. Or reading, or anything else for that matter. What precipitated this shadowy existence, this strange, disconnected half-life?

I gave up my computer and phone.

I know. I know. Don't ask--I'm not sure how I survived. You can find a lot of data on the benefits of giving up electronic devices, and yes, physically, mentally, et al, it does feel pretty good to go e-free. But, alas, the world turns at a new pace, sometimes speeding up by the day, and it's not really feasible to go entirely free of the web. It's kind of impossible, to be honest. But, then, if you have a smart phone, and try to do anything productive at all you already know that.

And, while I can acknowledge the benefits of unplugging, even though it felt as if someone pulled the plug on me (I'm talking that proverbial big 'plug') it feels good to be back..And honestly, I never want to leave the grid again.

On to our song topic: shadows. When I read Kafka's email to the writers announcing our theme, it is usually a fun, low-stakes game of free association. Often, I would never write about, nor publicly admit to, the first song that comes to mind. We all have guilty pleasure songs, and we all know phrases and snippets of tunes we would be mortified to share and worse, probably hate. Sound patterns, beats, phrases have a way of digging grooves into our subconscious and rising, specter-like, when we least want. Thus, the  often agonizing phenomenon of waking up with a song stuck in your head. Is it ever a good song? One that you are happy to hear?  (While writing this, I admit, the refrain of Taylor Dane's "Tell it to My Heart" is running on repeat in my head...). I'm not writing about Taylor Dane today, so just cool it...But, when I saw we were doing shadows as a theme, the jukebox in my head switched on and Tom Petty's "Shadow of a Doubt" immediately started playing. Writing about my first choice is a rarity. This is a happy one.

From The Heartbreaker's 1979 classic Damn the Torpedoes, "Shadow of a Doubt" has the true designation as a forgotten gem.  But, that's a forgivable sin, because of the brilliance of this album. If Petty had never recorded again after Torpedoes, he'd still be popular. Torpedoes includes the mega-hits "Refugee", "Don't Do Me Like That", "Even The Losers" and of course the crowning jewel, "Here Comes My Girl". With that many great songs, of course there will be a few overlooked tracks, even with something that was released in the heyday of the 'album' age, whatever that means...(editor's note: it means, music used to be celebrated by artists releasing a thing called an album, which was a collection of songs that more or less fit on two sides of a disc (vinyl, cassette or CD) and if you wanted to buy a single song, you had to go to something called a record store, and depending on the year, pick up a 45 rpm piece of vinyl (or cassingle or again, CD), though you usually picked up both the full the LP and the 45. It was a strange time, when human beings had to leave their house to purchase music and took great enjoyment in perusing stacks, or rows, of music in one of the above-mentioned forms. Alas.) So, "Shadow of a Doubt" was as twangy bit of radio pop, with an earnest intro, and chuggy verse and a soaring course. With an almost new-wave (ish) polish and vox, "Shadow" is a  set piece in an incredibly strong selection of Petty's most polished and expertly produced (thank you Jimmy Iovine) and genre-spanning music yet at that point in the Heartbreakers then short career. Torpedoes was their third, and by far, best album to date, a critical success and a full-on radio hit smash. It was kept from the # 1 spot on Billboard only by Pink Floyd's The Wall, which really, who could beat that album, on any level?

I discovered Petty in retrograde fashion: Around 1984, I was in 6th grade, and just starting to realize how important good music was. I was steeped in "classic" rock and developing a fine pedigree, in no small part due to what will always be to me great radio: DC 101, one of the longest running FM signals in the DC Metro area, was a rock n roll powerhouse and in no small measure responsible for much of my musical education. By the time Springsteen's Born in the USA, a truly seminal moment in my lifehit the airwaves, I considered myself a convert, eager to learn as much as I could. Luckily, without an allowance or a nearby record store, I had the radio to rely on. In the 1980s, the classification "classic rock" was a relatively new format designation, seeing as much of what I was listening to--Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Stones--had barely hit the 20 year mark. Add the Dylan tapes I'd inherited from an ex-hippie neighbor into that mix, already the grandfather of rock, and Tom Petty was sure to follow. Discovering music back then was both a joyful experience as well as one of simply connecting the dots. I loved listening to rock radio back when I was a kid--it was more of an experience, a passage, than it is now. Radio was more uniform, : classic rock was classic rock; there wasn't a need for cross-over to draw more audience. At least that's the way it seemed. But age and nostalgia bring on a brighter sense of things, a fonder, more pure memory than the reality. I know for me that listening to the radio was kind of like going to school, only I liked the learning, and no one made me sit in my seat and be quiet.

Speaking of nostalgia, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are on tour this summer, celebrating 40 years. I've heard the shows are fantastic. I haven't been able to catch one, as I believe the ticket prices are commensurate with the band's age and experience. And what I mean by that is: holy crap! tickets are expensive! I've never stopped listening to Tom Petty and his brilliant Heartbreakers. They are a radio staple and if you have XM/Sirius, you know that TP has his own channel, so a good tune is never far away. But, if you haven't done a deep dive into the back catalogue, check out "Shadow of a Doubt", and the rest of Damn The Torpedoes and revisit some of that once in a lifetime radio rock 'n roll. The kind that doesn't get made anymore...

blog comments powered by Disqus