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Hoodoo Man

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers "cover songs"

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I’m arriving a little late to this party, but alas…

Boy, this covers vs. originals debate seems pretty intense…tread carefully.

I may be stating the the obvious here, but I think the reason TPATH played so many covers is because they LOVED playing covers. They LOVED all those songs. Tom and the band were faithful, lifelong students & historians of Rock and Roll. They knew it deeper, wider, over, under, sideways, down.

Shelter mentioned DNA, and playing covers was simply a part of their DNA. It started early. They didn’t just play covers in 1977, but also in 2017 – in fact, they played covers throughout their entire 40 years of touring. TPATH played covers more than most, if not all of their contemporaries.

Why? They were fans. Do you remember the music that blew your mind when you were a teenager (maybe it was TPATH!), experiencing it for the first time? Remember that jolt of freedom, escape, possibility, rebellion, hope, joy, confidence, discovery, revelation that it gave you? The same thing happened to Tom in the 60’s. And he never forgot it. It stayed with him for the rest of his life, probably leading him down further roads, discovering new artists, going deeper, doing backwards, tracing it to the roots of it all. It was a natural progression, a lifeblood, an ongoing love affair.

In the same way that I’m a fan of Tom Petty, Tom Petty is/was a fan of the Byrds. I put my pants on the same way he does. The only difference is that Tom can play & perform music at a masterful level and makes gold records, and I can’t. Thus he showed his love of these formative artists by playing covers in concert. If I had any music talent whatsoever and were in a band, I would play a TP song. Makes sense to me. It’s Good To Be King would be nice. On piano, just to you know, mix it up.

Let’s look into some backup evidence, shall we?

1. The Live Anthology
Here we go. Exhibit A. Tom said something to the effect of this box set being an “accurate representation of the band.” The authentic, real deal document of one of the greatest American Rock and Roll bands ever. Of the 61 songs on this collection, 17 of them are covers. I counted last night. That’s more than 25%, and almost a third. That’s a lot! Then look at Pack Up the Plantation as well, the bands first live release. 16 songs, 5 of which are covers. Again, a third! This is obviously a thing.

2. Residencies
During those brief, flat out awesome times when the band played residency shows, they stretched out with…covers! Deep covers, baby! Yep, they played some of their own deep cuts, but the also played an ABUNDANCE of covers. Hardcore TPATH fans almost get the feeling that you are seeing the “true band” or the essence of the Heartbreakes when you get a residency show. After all, this is TPATH with no rules, no pressure, no expectations placed upon them. Finally, free from Free Fallin’. And look at the average residency setlist…..

3. The I Wish They Would Play “Luna” or “Waiting for Tonight” Argument
This will come out wrong I’m sure, but you almost get the feeling that Tom preferred a cover over one of his own album deep cuts (not the popular, beloved songs, mind you). Because he could’ve easily played any song from his catalog. Now, would I love to hear Magnolia or Casadega live? Yes. YES!!! Tom was rarely self indulgent with his own material. If a deep cut was played, it would make sense to assume it was a personal favorite of Tom’s. Like perhaps Swingin’ or Crawling Back to You. The only song he “personally picked” on the last tour was Walls. He “requested it, because he liked that song.” Again, if he had it his way, and he did, he chose to stock his setlist with covers.

Think about this. Have you ever seen Tom point out a song request sign from the crowd, and then spontaneously play it for that person? I haven’t…

4. Soundcheck
I wonder what songs TPATH played at soundcheck, behind the scenes. For fun, for warming up, for whatever. I have this bootleg from a 1995 show, I can’t recall what date or city at the moment. Somehow, there are snippets of the soundcheck included at the beginning. There’s a moment when Tom is trying to remember the chords and lyrics to an old Zombies song. He’s humming and singing the lines, trying to piece it together, and he asks the band, “Hey do you remember this one…” The song was “Leave Me Be”. It’s a deep cut by the Zombies, and it’s an awesome song! My point in all this, is that he was a huge fan of the Zombies. And he was thinking of a rare, obscure song at the moment. I would have to think that only a fan does this…

Also think about this. The cool thing for any artist to do is to cover the BIG HIT song by someone else. Because that’s easy, gets the most applause/reaction, and appeals to the largest amount people. For example, if you were a popular country artist today, you might show off to your crown and play Free Fallin.’ And they would love you all the more. The ultra cool thing to do is to play a lesser known cover song…Tom did this all the time. Did he play Time of the Season or She’s Not There by the Zombies? No, they played I Want You Back Again. Because they LOVE that song.

5. Clubhouse jamming
I remember watching a behind the scenes thing (I think it was for Mojo), where the band was describing their process of making the album. Basically, when the HB get together and plug in at the Clubhouse after time away, they just start out by playing old blues songs. For hours. One band member might throw a song out, “Hey let’s try this one..” or “Do you remember this song by…” Yeah!! Again, because they loved these songs. They were imprinted and ingrained, back in the recesses of their mind somewhere. These songs, just like their own, tied the Heartbreakers together. Mutual love.

6. Tribute albums
Tribute albums are made when artists honor or celebrate other artists that they love or appreciate. Some are cool, most are just a hodgepodge. How many tribute albums was Tom Petty or TPATH a part of? I’m too lazy to look it up myself, but I’m guessing not a lot. And any that they were involved with, I’m guessing wouldn’t be a shock to us. I know one, and it’s pretty awesome. It’s called The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale. Tom doesn’t contribute vocals to one song on this album, but THREE. I will add that Tom stayed faithful to Cale's understated vocal delivery. And if you thought 13 days was an obscure Cale song, well check out the 3 that Tom chose for this project. Why? Because he LOVED those songs.

 

It all goes back to the DNA, I suppose.

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9 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

It all goes back

You've got a lot of nerve.. like Bob would say. :DBut yeah.. while I too agree with you that this is not exactly rocket science, I appreciate you taking the time and effort with that nice write-up. It really all is DNA, isn't it. In music it's shared by all and channeled by most - and embraced a lot by TP. Simple as that, I suppose. Nothing overly abnormal about it, is there. Well put, thanks.

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Redford Cowboy, very good points.  We all have our views on the covers/setlists, and it's great to see the various opinions.  I would have loved to have seen a poll of TPATH fans back then, but I suppose it might have come across as a "demand" to TP if the requested setlists were different from what he was doing.  And we were just happy to have him, touring and putting out more great studio albums.

One thing I think I touched on but didn't mention in much depth - I think performing covers might have helped Tom's songwriting and then band's contributions.  If you only play your own songs, it's harder to develop in those ways.  And to sustain the creativity of 40 years as they did, perhaps doing covers was a significant factor in that.     

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16 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

Boy, this covers vs. originals debate seems pretty intense…tread carefully.

Ha ha yeah well, the topic began as a place to enjoy and discuss the covers they play. I guess along with a thriving message board follows discussion and in this case, the valid if perhaps overstated take about originals versus covers. But I think it's all cooled off. I think your breakdown of the covers pretty much covers (no pun intended) all the bases. I will give those Cale tracks a listen, not heard them before though I doubt any are going to approach my enjoyment of Travelin' Light.

cheers

 

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1 hour ago, TheSameOldDrew said:

One thing I think I touched on but didn't mention in much depth - I think performing covers might have helped Tom's songwriting and then band's contributions.  If you only play your own songs, it's harder to develop in those ways.  And to sustain the creativity of 40 years as they did, perhaps doing covers was a significant factor in that.  

That's a very interesting point Drew!

Maybe someone else will run with and/or comment on your theory. Even if not, it's something I don't recall hearing before.

cheers

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How many of you actually saw Tom live on the last tour? Do you realize how much time and energy went into the light display, the video back drop and choreography between these things? its not the same as 1978 or even 1987 when the band came on and there was a jumbtron display and blinking lights.  It was never the sheer spectacle of say Pink Floyd and the pig going over the crowd with laser lights creating hologram images but with what Tom wanted for the fans simply did not allow for more than a couple of songs to be substituted out and even that was planned for as "Swingin" typically came out on night two.  The set list gripes are so ummm petty. ;)  I'm all for debate here and there but we are really (quite sadly) talking about History and you can not change the past. If he chose to do Oh well its most likely because the band OWNED that song and could play it as well if not better than Peter Green.  I'm far more interested in hearing about obscure covers Tom did for a Carl Perkins CD than the merits of him doing a song vs only ever releasing original material.  I'm pretty sure Springsteen and Dylan do the occasional cover live...  Its also a safe guess the band really liked and enjoyed the music they cared to share with fans. Ugh. 

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Hear hear.  Your thread, your rules (within forum guidelines, of course).

There is such a thing as thread dumping or thread crapping (call it what you want) where people see a topic that the thread starter actually likes and then say how much they personally dislike it.  A far better idea is to start a second thread & call it something similar to: Oh, how we dislike *this topic*.  Then everyone's as happy as they're ever gonna get.

  • It's not as though TPATH were some buskers playing for coins or some drunk & disorganised band who were taking requests from that night's crowd.  There are bands out there like that who - I'm sure - have a fascinatingly diverse gig history.  
  • Nor were they on-stage to do improv chats each night.  I've never played in front of giant crowds (has anyone here because they might have some insights to share?) but I can totally understand it would be a situation full of adrenaline and there would be advantages in knowing in advance how it's going to run.  I remember reading an interview where TP said after talking to a racing driver (one of George Harrison's friends) he too began using visualision techniques.  So he'd thoroughly visualise the show during the afternoon - once he'd run it through in detail he could feel the pressure lift - it meant he could perform in a lighter mood. Now, I have done that myself (public speaking) & it's an excellent idea.  
  • As an aside, they sure did show their musical versatility when playing on the Bob Dylan tours.  

Beyond that, I could die happy never to read / hear some of these phrases again.  In other words, hear the feedback - you're boring us senseless and we are die-hard TPATH music fans ourselves.  Heck, I've bored people myself in real life, so yeah, we've all been there with people's constructive criticism.  There are topics I'm asked never to mention in real life - because my friend just isn't interested in that & she will stand up and walk away if I do.  Our friendship is still strong.

 

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On 5/4/2020 at 9:12 AM, Hoodoo Man said:

How many of you actually saw Tom live on the last tour? Do you realize how much time and energy went into the light display, the video back drop and choreography between these things? its not the same as 1978 or even 1987 when the band came on and there was a jumbtron display and blinking lights.  It was never the sheer spectacle of say Pink Floyd and the pig going over the crowd with laser lights creating hologram images but with what Tom wanted for the fans simply did not allow for more than a couple of songs to be substituted out and even that was planned for as "Swingin" typically came out on night two. 

Ah, the "light display" argument again.  Or the choreography.  Please. This is not a Britney Spears show, or Madonna, or Michael Jackson or whatever dance-and-light theatrical show you want to name.  It's about the music.  Plus, if they wanted to do the same setlist on every show within the same tour, I'd have been fine with it.  But the problem was when they did essentially the same setlist from one tour to the next, plus a bunch of covers - which took away from time that could have been spent on their own songs.  Leaving a huge number of their own great songs unplayed or rarely played.  And we'll never hear those now, at least not with Tom and probably not ever.  But hey there was Gloria 133 times instead, so suck it up buttercup.  Sorry but I don't accept the light show excuse, never have.  How many TPATH fans go there for the light show and the choreography?  

On 5/4/2020 at 9:12 AM, Hoodoo Man said:

The set list gripes are so ummm petty. ;)  I'm all for debate here and there but we are really (quite sadly) talking about History and you can not change the past.

Actually it sounds like you are NOT  in favor of debate, at least not here.  As far as history, it's all history now, so maybe we should just shut down this website rather than talk about past history.

On 5/4/2020 at 9:12 AM, Hoodoo Man said:

If he chose to do Oh well its most likely because the band OWNED that song and could play it as well if not better than Peter Green. 

I wouldn't care if Tom did Baby better than Justin Bieber, I still don't want to hear him do it at the expense of doing his (Tom's) own great songs.  That's the real problem here, that many of the pro-covers people won't acknowledge.  Not doing your own deep catalog when you've got 40 years to do it.  

On 5/4/2020 at 9:12 AM, Hoodoo Man said:

I'm far more interested in hearing about obscure covers Tom did for a Carl Perkins CD than the merits of him doing a song vs only ever releasing original material.

Ok, we all have our personal preferences.  Thanks for expressing yours.  Is it ok if we express ours too?

On 5/4/2020 at 9:12 AM, Hoodoo Man said:

I'm pretty sure Springsteen and Dylan do the occasional cover live... 

Yes.  However, Springsteen and Dylan did a much better job of covering their own song catalogs.  And IMO Petty's catalog was a lot deeper in great songs than either Springsteen's or Dylan's.  But even if someone doesn't agree that TP had more great songs than either of those two guys, the reality is that they did cover their own songs.  And they did a few covers too, but the percentage of cover time vs. the concert was not nearly as high.  Also Springsteen and Dylan didn't do the same 10 or so "greatest hits" every tour.  With Dylan you probably couldn't count on even one song that he would definitely play at any given concert.  With Springsteen he almost always played Born To Run, but that was about it.  And he even did a tour (2006 I think) where he didn't even play BTR at any of the shows

 

On 5/4/2020 at 9:12 AM, Hoodoo Man said:

Its also a safe guess the band really liked and enjoyed the music they cared to share with fans. Ugh. 

I don't know how safe that is, but it's irrelevant to me.  Maybe my roofer would rather be fishing than replacing my roof, but I have my reasons for wanting what I want from him.  It does seem to me that Tom hamstrung himself by directing his shows greatly at first time concert-goers.  I think I recall him saying something like "Well we have to play certain songs, because the fans expect it".  Which fans, I would ask?  After a while a high percentage of the fans are NOT seeing their first TPATH show, though a lot of people might stay home if they think the show will be essentially the same as the other tours.  

Also, I recall a quote from Mike Campbell of maybe 10 or so years ago, where they asked him what he thought about before a concert.  And he said something like "I just hope that the night's setlist won't be the same as the prior one".  Now I don't mean to put words in his mouth, maybe he never said that or anything like it, but for some reason I seem to recall a quote like that.   At any rate I think Tom called the shots on the setlist, though he would listen to input from other band members.  I recall TP saying that he did certain songs that Stan wanted to do; also on the SA tour he mentions "Howie wanted to do this one" before a performance of Change of Heart. So Tom listened, but he decided what the band was going to play.  

Bottom line - some people love the covers and think TPATH was the greatest cover band, and they just want the band to be happy playing what they want to play.  I understand that.  But is there something wrong with having wanted the band to actually cover their own great, deep song catalog a little more than they did?  That's merely reflecting appreciation of their neglected songs, not criticism of their skills at doing cover songs.  I don't think it deserves an "Ugh" to harbor that opinion.             

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These covers are terrific.  Made my day!!!

Same Old Drew... go, come on, man, let it go.  There are other threads (or you're 100% free to start your own) where you can deep dive into whatever aspect you want...

Hoodoo Man is - pleasantly - saying what content would be good for this particular thread.  So, will you please just let it go.  Thanks.    

PS there's enough drama & worry going on in the world - let's keep this a happy place.  Keeping the world sane, one thread at a time.  

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On May 4, 2020 at 10:12 AM, Hoodoo Man said:

with what Tom

I don't know how many years passed till I learned So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star wasn't a TPATH original. First time I heard it was on PUTP and I thought it was one of theirs. If Tom didn't announce Psychotic Reaction as a cover I probably thought it was one of theirs I hadn't heard before too.

cheers

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I know, right?  Tom's such a great storyteller & song-writer that the fabulous Stories We Could Tell seems a natural fit as part of their canon.  Maybe he would've written it someone else didn't create it first.  : )

 

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10 hours ago, TheSameOldDrew said:

It's about the music.  Plus, if they wanted to do the same setlist on every show within the same tour, I'd have been fine with it.  But the problem was when they did essentially the same setlist from one tour to the next, plus a bunch of covers - which took away from time that could have been spent on their own songs.  Leaving a huge number of their own great songs unplayed or rarely played. 

I don't think there's another person on here, on the 'Farm who agrees with you as much as I do on all of this. From the lighting issue, the lack of deep cuts, the same set from tour to tour largely, I'm right there with you. At the same time, in my opinion, I'm done making this point, most people here (heck, maybe everywhere) enjoy the covers, the whole topic began to basically celebrate them so I'm just leaving off on this. Actually, I left off on it a little while ago. I believe in free speech, and I understand why you responded to Hoodoo on this and realize it comes from a deep passion for the music of TPATH and some level of disappointment with the band.

On May 4, 2020 at 10:12 AM, Hoodoo Man said:

I'm all for debate here and there but we are really (quite sadly) talking about History and you can not change the past.

At the same time, if you and myself can rant about the covers, going off topic, then Hoodoo can rant about us ranting...!

Maybe he needed to get that off his chest as much as you or I needed to about the covers/deep cuts. He just wanted a fun topic about the covers, to discuss them, to share videos and enjoy them, not to have them ripped apart and criticized in yet another topic.

I think everyone gets where everyone stands here on this issue, so...how about people just get to their takes on the covers. What is it about them they enjoy? Are there some versions better than others? Is it partly a glimpse behind the curtain so to speak, Tom sharing something of himself with the crowd by playing what he grew up with?

As for set lists and such, man, there's tons of topics with valid points from years back, some making points you'd later make yourself. A lot of interesting discussions, I'd be curious for your take or if you find some new angle on there, much as your good point about perhaps there was some positive link between Tom and the band playing covers and their own songwriting. An interesting insight perhaps someone can explore.

You have to skim through some of these to find the more involved discussions but they are there:

https://www.mudcrutch.com/forum/index.php?/topic/14229-2014-tour-setlists/&tab=comments#comment-295006

https://www.mudcrutch.com/forum/index.php?/topic/14730-set-list-sameness-kicked-in-from-2003-onwards-discuss/&tab=comments#comment-300128

https://www.mudcrutch.com/forum/index.php?/topic/15422-2017-tour-trail-memories-pics-songs-played/page/5/

https://www.mudcrutch.com/forum/index.php?/topic/3396-your-dream-setlist/&tab=comments#comment-299643

cheers

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3 hours ago, Big Blue Sky said:

Stories We Could Tell seems a natural fit as part of their canon

Now that I think about it even more, I recall the surprise at reaching the last track of PUTP. Now I know the covers from the originals and so on but when I first heard it I didn't know what the heck I was listening to...! On top of it...why are there all these horns? But Stories We Could Tell was particularly surprising, so different, so much more tender (yet with a bit of late night raucousness) from Shout and the rest of the album. I liked it though, sounded intimate and catchy. And that woman's voice (I didn't know whom it was) sure sounded good. But man, it was quite strange going from Shout to that. Sounded like it was from a different concert, heck, it kinda sounded like they recorded it in a hotel room. 

I thought the whole thing was from one concert till I looked at the liner notes. Back then there was no setlist.fm, rock reviews were either in magazines or in newspapers and good luck getting a set list and you were lucky if they added some interesting detail. So hearing PUTP and that's my first exposure to live TPATH was jarring enough, no, not jarring, just...odd I guess, rocking but less so than I thought, let alone not knowing some of these songs were covers and that it all ends with some friends drinking and singing (that's how it felt to me) made for an interesting experience.

Oh yeah, the one song I knew was a cover was Shout which I only knew from the movie Animal House.

cheers

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I know the 2013 audio of this one has been posted, here is the 2014 Hypnotic Eye tour version of I'm Not Your Stepping Stone from the Honda Centre Anaheim CA played as a tribute to Paul Revere who had passed away a few days previous. It was my birthday and I was there, it's great to have these memories to look back on. 😀

 

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