Certain Songs #1039: Lucinda Williams – “Something About What Happens When We Talk”

Album: Sweet Old World
Year: 1992

Released four long years after she found her groove with Lucinda Williams, the follow-up Sweet Old World established once and for all that — like, say, Bruce Springsteen — Lucinda Williams was going to release albums when she was damn well ready, not a moment sooner.

So in the 21 years before the turn of the century, she released five studio albums, though in the 17 years since, she’s released seven, which is opposite of the normal pattern, and probably spurred by her sense of mortality. Or something.

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Certain Songs #1038: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – “Forgotten Man”

Album: Hypnotic Eye
Year: 2014

I’ve been stalling on writing this last Tom Petty post, even though it won’t be the last Tom Petty post ever — not with Mudcrutch, Traveling Wilburys and even Stevie Nicks in the alphabetical future, not to mention a couple of the songs that I skipped, like “The Wild One, Forever” or “You Wreck Me,” — it’s definitely the last Tom Petty post for now.

That said: I started immersing myself in his music the day he died — at home, at work, in the car — at first for solace and research, but now for comfort and joy. Turning up the volume of “When The Time Comes” while stuck in LA traffic. Watching YouTube streams of Live From Soundstage or 400 Days on YouTube while working the elliptical in the pre-sunrise morning. Apologizing to Rox that all we’ve been listening to while doing chores or running errands is Tom Petty (“I don’t mind; I love Tom Petty,” she always says).

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Certain Songs #1037: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – “I Should Have Known It”

Album: Mojo
Year: 2010

You could see it in the album cover.

There were very few Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers albums that even attempted to feature the entire band on the cover, and only two that truly succeeded. But if you looked closely enough, you could see the entire story of the band in those covers.

The first cover to feature the entire band was their second album, 1978’s You’re Gonna Get It! That cover depicted the band as bunch of serious young dudes — with their calm and confident leader right in the middle who were were clearly focused on a single thing: conquering the entire world.

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Certain Songs #1036: Tom Petty – “Flirting With Time”

Album: Highway Companion
Year: 2006

Finally, in the last third of his recording career, Tom Petty began to slow down a bit, releasing only five studio albums (if you count the two Mudcrutch records, and you should) between 2002’s The Last DJ and his death.

Compare that with eight albums (if you count the Traveling Wilburys, and you should) between 1976-1988, and seven (again, counting the Wilburys) between 1989-2002, and it was clear the Tom Petty was going into a more relaxed phase of his life. And why not? He’d already had a nearly unprecedented run of success, and was as beloved as any musician of his era could possibly be.

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Certain Songs #1035: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – “Have Love Will Travel”

Album: The Last DJ
Year: 2002

For two decades, the Tom Petty Theory — that he’d never make an album that I wouldn’t like — that I came up with way back in 1981 held true and strong.

Until The Last DJ that is, a record that completely repelled me from almost the first listen, and a record that I wrote off after trying to find a way in. I mean, I was never going to care about what zillion-selling Tom Petty felt about the record industry as it tumbled into the new millennium , but what struck me was that I didn’t really like any of the songs musically, either. For the most part, they felt like song fragments looking for a way to cohere.

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