Conversations With Tom Petty

Gift guide

Rock & Roll Books

Conversations With Tom Petty

by Paul Zollo

Omnibus Press, 376 pp., $24.95

Classically catchy, immediately eternal, and uniquely American, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers have conquered radios internationally with perfect rock & roll that cuts to the chase and resonates with every listen. There's something about Petty's warbly voice and Mike Campbell's masterful guitar that pulled them out of the British lexicon and made the boys from Gainesville, Fla., homegrown heroes. Paul Zollo's biography isn't some rumination on his idol or an editorialization of Petty's outbursts and dramas. It's simply the story told by the "Refugee" of the South. Presented in Q&A style, Conversations With Tom Petty is a bountiful picture of the notoriously private songwriter. His formative days in Mudcrutch, his epiphanic connection to the concrete wall that shattered his hand ("Did [cocaine] affect your songwriting?" "No. I think it affected my breaking my hand"), even the rarely-spoken-of arson of his California home, are all revealed by the musician who lived to tell. Broken into two parts – "Life" and "Songs" – Conversations is peppered with rare photos explained by Petty and the stories of the genesis of specific songs. Anyone who grew up listening to the man in the top hat, or who paced him through the last 30 years will relish the words. After all, there aren't many songwriters who can hold court with Dylan, Orbison, and Harrison. Charlie T. Wilbury, word for word.

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