Rolling Stone #998 — April 20, 2006

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Petty’s Last Summer Tour?
By Austin Scaggs
Rolling Stone #998 — April 20, 2006

The Heartbreakers turn thirty with a blowout tour, movie.
In 1976, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released their debut album, and this summer Petty plans to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary in grand style. He and the Heartbreakers will hit the road in June on a tour that Petty says might be the band’s last major summer outing; there’s an ambitious documentary in the works; and Petty is finishing Highway Companion, a solo album tentatively due on Rick Rubin’s American Recordings label this summer. “It’s a quieter album that I’ve done before,” Petty says, sitting behind the sound desk in his home studio in Malibu. “I don’t think I wasted any lines on this album. I think the songs are all there.”

Petty exudes genuine pride as he debuts for Rolling Stone nine of the songs slated for Highway Companion, including “Square One” and “Turn This Car Around.” He began recording the album last year with Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell and fellow Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne. Each contributes guitar parts, Lynne plays keys and a Hofner bass, Campbell plays a hefty amount of slide guitar (“He’s never been better,” says Petty) and, for the first time on record, Petty plays drums. Though they all but finished recording in February, Petty says, “The only thing keeping me from wrapping things up is just going, ‘Well, I wonder if there’s one more in me?'”

Petty plans to incorporate some of these songs into the Heartbreakers tour this summer, which will kick off in June with openers including Pearl Jam, John Mayer, Trey Anastasio and, Petty hopes, the Strokes and the Allman Brothers Band. “I think we should do this tour and then put an end to doing national tours, and just play now and then where we want to play,” he says. “The idea of doing sheds of arenas … you turn into an animal by the time it’s done.”

Also, filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Mask) has begun shooting a documentary about the Heartbreakers’ history. “We’ve given him access that we’ve never given anybody,” says Petty. Bogdanovich will interview Petty at length and hopes to talk with Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks and members of Petty’s family. “We’re trying to give a sense of what happened to this group of kids that cane from Gainesville, Florida — how they made the big time,” says Bogdanovich. “How did that change them, and how did they change the world?

“I’m not an expert on Tom Petty, I’m just a fan,” adds Bogdanovich. “But what appeals to me is that he’s a real American artist — an impressionist — very much of the American grain.”

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