the petty documentary

I have to say that when I heard about a 4-hour documentary about Tom Petty, even if it was directed by Peter Bogdanovich, the last thing I wanted to do any night was sit down and watch it. But it was taking up 4 hours on the DVR and it was either watch it or not, so I agreed to watch an hour.

And watched all four. Avidly.

It will probably sound ignorant in the extreme when I offer that on one level it amazes me that there was a significant enough story to comfortably fill four hours without feeling thin. It’s not so much ignorant as myopic, I think; I was never an *enormous* fan and kind of stopped following his career around Wildflowers. And probably ignored some of the commercial releases after Damn The Torpedos, because, well, it was everywhere and you didn’t have to work for it or look for it.

But I liked Petty, even if he struck me sometimes as an absolute bastard. He was definitely one of the good guys.

The documentary is priceless for many things (including the fact that someone around Petty had a video camera since the band’s VERY FIRST TRIP TO CALIFORNIA, not to mention every single other moment after that), but the winning footage to me is the evolution of the Wilburys. What luck to have such great interview footage with George. What serendipity that the camera was there the whole time. How sad that they never got to tour. The footage of him working with Johnny Cash – even more breathtaking than Petty and Orbison.

I sat there the entire time going, “Oh, yeah, *that*, I forgot about that.” The tour with Dylan. The fight over the $9.98 album price. Filing for banktruptcy, which at the time I didn’t even begin to understand. How good the videos were, and how many of them were so iconic and still hold up today. The unsung talents of people like Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench.

I also felt that the coverage was fair but not fawning. Howie Epstein’s death, Stan Lynch’s departure – these were the things that were not ignored, not glossed over.

Even if you think you don’t care about Petty, if you are at all interested in the history of rock and roll, this is worth the investment of your time. And for Petty, it’s a dignified representation of his legacy; there’s no other word for it. Would that other artists of his stature use this as a model. (Hint, hint.)