Book Review: Conversations With Tom Petty | By Paul Zollo | Omnibus Press
Review by Monica Cady
R.A.G. Magazine — November 2005
Conversations With Tom Petty is the first authorized book about one of the greatest singer/songwriters of American rock’n’roll. Through extensive interviews with Petty from 2004 to 2005, Paul Zollo captures the velvet underworld of the man beneath the mysterious round sunglasses and outrageous hats.
Petty reveals details about his childhood in Gainesville Florida, being a rock fashion plate in high school, his difficult relationship with his father and meeting Elvis Presley. He explains how he always felt more like an L.A. musician than a southern rocker. His story also provides insights into the changing music industry — from the days when bands could simply walk into Hollywood record companies and have their music heard, to a time when Full Moon Fever was initially rejected by MCA (only to have the exact album be accepted when the company’s upper management changed). He talks about the struggles with labels over pricing albums and other pivotal moments in music history, including the introduction of MTV and its effect on the scene. Petty discusses fame and the emotions felt by he and his family when a stalker burned down their home.
Petty addresses the misconception that he is a laidback stoner, saying that he is an intense workaholic and doesn’t drink or smoke pot (“…today I don’t like [pot], because the pot is much too strong. They’ve evolved pot to where it is almost like acid,” he says.). Petty goes into depth about his close friendships and invigorating recording sessions with Stevie Nicks, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Johnny Cash and others. He also details his personal relationships, children and how these people influences his musical career.
The book reads like an extensive question-answer interview, with Petty’s story told in his own words. The work is divided into two sections — Petty’s life and music. Rare photos with Petty’s own captions add intimacy to the people and events. Conversations With Tom Petty is something that diehard fans will devour and casual listeners will appreciate. Petty’s tales are as personal and heartfelt as they are technical and informative. The discussions about the music range from gear-head speak to influences of the soul and spirit. It’s what every Petty fan wants to know and never imagined to discover.