Dylan & Petty
By Jonathan Takiff
The Philadelphia Inquirer — July 18, 1986
What drew Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Bob Dylan together for their historic tour?
“Money,” suggests Petty dryly, in a conversation prompted by the duo’s appearances at the Spectrum, tomorrow and Sunday. “It also helped,” he adds, ”that Bob asked me.”
The co-billed tour arrangement also made sense for another reason. “It kind of took the pressure off each of us, individually,” says Petty.
Profound stuff, this is not. But at least it’s honest.
Petty and the Heartbreakers have been hitting the performing road pretty regularly and with fair degree of success, thanks to their long and steady string of singles hits.
But Dylan, the folknik who first brought artistic respectability to the rock arena in the mid-1960s by going electric, hasn’t toured the U.S. since 1983, hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with his last half dozen records, and so is almost passe to today’s rock and roll youth.
Together, however, B.D. and T.P. represent a clear line of musical continuity – one master, one disciple of the folk rock genre – and so are a unique supergroup, a (you should pardon the expression) money-in-the- bank proposition.
“It’s also been a lot of fun,” says Petty. “The Heartbreakers have really enjoyed putting our touch on some of the old Dylan hits, and also on some of his new material, which we frankly didn’t know before we got started with this project.”
Dylan’s association with Petty and the Heartbreakers began during the recording sessions for last year’s “Empire Burlesque” LP and became more visible when Dylan invited the group to back him up at Farm Aid in September. The 20-minute gig worked out so well that Dylan invited Petty et al. to join him on the “True Confessions” Pacific concert series earlier this year.
A filmed accounting of the Australian concerts, financed by Dylan and then re-edited by the performer when he didn’t like director Gillian Armstrong’s treatment, has been airing on HBO recently. It is not a fair representation of the actual live gig, though, since it obscures Petty’s solo spots. Petty isn’t particularly pleased to have been left on the cutting room floor, but allows he knew from the start “it was Dylan’s project.”
Popular demand has prompted several extra added weeks of shows for the Dylan/Petty summer tour, which was originally set to fold its tents right here in Philly city.
“If I don’t get back to the recording studio soon, I won’t have another album ready ’til 1988,” cracks Petty.
He’s only serious.