If I am being honest, I’ve always had a rock-n-roll dream. Honestly, who hasn’t?
I don’t play as often as I’d like, but I love my guitars. If I lack anything other than time required for devotion to my instruments, I suppose it would be drive and discipline. Maybe it’s my personality — at turns I appear to lack any noticeable ambition. Yet, if I had nothing better to do, and my distractions were adequately limited, I’d probably play my fingers raw on a daily basis.
But there are clean dishes to put away, dirty ones to wash, laundry to do, leaves to rake and a myriad of other tasks left unchecked off previous to-do-lists. Such is life.
Deep down, when I amp up my electric, I often wonder what taking to the stage would feel like. I also wonder about the pathway to that stage — the endless practice sessions with bandmates, writing and recording, making it all blend into some fantastical thing let loose into the world which willfully replicates with every digital download.
On October 2, Tom Petty died just 18 days shy of his 67th birthday. As frontman for his band The Heartbreakers, not to mention his solo work, Petty is responsible for three decades worth of hits and musical influence. For me his most iconic song is “Runnin’ Down a Dream” mainly because it seems to be his most confessional and personal track. In it Petty reveals his influences; his hopes and fears; his love of the Californian dreamscape; and his response to fame, that rarified aspect which pursues him as much as he pursues it.
Here the songwriter, the artist, is both creator and created. He is the magician responsible not only for designing the journey but all the obstacles that befall him as a traveler. He is responsible for his salvation as much as he is for his own suffering.
Basically we’re all refugees, but as the man says, we don’t have to live like it.
Years back I had a music teacher that gave me and the girls lessons. At one lesson I broke out a book I’d taken out of the library: The Tom Petty Songbook. I told him that if I could learn just one complete song out of it I’d be happy. Pointing to the intricacies embedded in the sheet music he basically told me good luck with that. My teacher meant this not in a condescending way but rather a gentle way of saying, “Not so fast cowboy, Petty’s a lot more complicated he actually sounds.”
That’s the gift, right?
Making the complex appear simple. Layering simplicity, over simplicity until it renders some mystical singularity we lay people call “song”. Our ears are pleased, our hearts are touched, as we settle back in the driver’s seat so that we might feel as though we’re actually running’ down that dream when in fact we are locked bumper to bumper in rush hour traffic rather than winding down the Pacific Coast Highway.
Yep. Right playing Petty still eludes me, but maybe now I might be able to catch him while he’s standing stilled.
Next time I’m at the library, guess I’ll look for that songbook on the shelf, thumb through it and see what it has to say. Maybe I’ll take it out, maybe I won’t. Either way, I can still dream.