Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Four Voices Of Tom Petty

Long before Burning Wood hit the airwaves, my business partner and I sent out a weekly newsletter to our customers. The "NYCD Blog" was an e-mail blast announcing Tuesday's new releases with the same straightforward approach that I used for "If It's Tuesdsay, It Must Be Street Date."

Occasionally, we'd write up an essay. Bottom line, Burning Wood was borne from the ashes of the NYCD Blog.

I found the following. It was written right around the time of Petty's 2006 release, "Highway Companion."

I'm pretty sure this was mostly my partner, Tony Sachs' piece. I may have done some tweaking. I love it. Maybe you will, too.

Tony and I disagreed on many things. Many...many things. But man, did we make each other laugh.

TOM PETTY's excellent new album, Highway Companion, has gotten us listening to a lot of his older material as well. After much deliberation, coupled with boredom brought on by a slow day at the office, we have determined that Tom Petty sings with four separate and distinct voices:

1. THE DRAWL. Used mostly on his earlier recordings, such as "A Woman In Love" -- "Sheeza wowmuh ee-uh laaaaaaahhhhhve." His enunciation seems to have improved over the years, as he rarely employed The Drawl after the mid '80s, although the chorus of "Free Fallin'" is great Late Drawl.


2. THE HIGH-PITCHED QUAVER. As The Drawl was gradually phased out, The High-Pitched Quaver was utilized more and more, although it's in evidence as early as "Here Comes My Girl." The vast majority of his new album is H.P.Q., while the best-known example may be "Into The Great Wide Open."


3. THE QUASI-DYLAN. Not quite singing, not quite speaking, it sounds like Petty's doing a sorta half-assed Bob Dylan impersonation. The quintessential Q.D. is when he sings the title phrase of "Yer So Bad," before switching to High Pitched Quaver on the next line. He employs Quasi-Dylan on many songs, but rarely for more than a line or two. Surprisingly, "Jammin' Me," which Petty co-wrote with Dylan, has more Drawl than Quasi-Dylan.


4. THE PSEUDO-MEXICAN ACCENT. The Drawl taken to the next level. Frequently used on early classics like "A Woman In Love" ("Don' say a wor', don' seh naah-theen") and "Breakdown" ("Issawright if you lahve meh/Ees awrigh' eef you dun'") but rarely, if ever, since then. And that's probably a good thing, in this age of political correctness. Although it would be great to hear him do a cover of "Cuban Pete."

So what are you waiting for? Put on some Petty and find out how many voices you can hear! If you know of any songs that utilize all four Petty voices -- also known as a "Tom Petty Grand Slam" -- email us with the name of the song and at which point he uses each voice, and you'll be entered in a drawing to win a FREE COPY OF HIS NEW ALBUM


Anonymous said...

travelimg wilburys' poor house-
extra heavy drawl

kevin m said...

That is too funny.

Anonymous said...

I believe the correct answer to the Tom Petty Grand Slam question is "The Waiting." Did anyone ever win the CD?