S1E5 Anything That's Rock 'n' Roll

The Wild One, Forever
Strangered in the Night


Length: 11:40 - Release Date: September 15, 2021 - US Chart #DNC

Today's song is the closing track from side one of the debut TPATH album; Anything That's Rock 'n' Roll. You know the drill by now, so go to the official Tom Petty youtube channel and go listen to the song: https://youtu.be/Vy6cMrXH09U

Once you're done listening, don't forget to check out the killer live version of the song, recorded on July 16, 1978 at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. You can listen to that version here: https://youtu.be/7_Sy6mfULLo

In the Petty Trivia segment, I tell you to go watch the video for John Prine's excellent track, Picture Show, which Tom features in. You can find that video here: https://youtu.be/6jKopYJfjeQ

I also wanted to credit Dylan Sevey's 2014 review of the song, which gave me a couple of ideas for the episode. You can find his complete review here: https://tinyurl.com/78wjmnmk



(* Note - the transcript is as-written before recording. I usually change a few sentences or words here and there on the hoof as I'm speaking.)

Salut, Hola, Ciao, Guten tag and hello amigos. My name is Kevin Brown and I’m your host on the Tom Petty Project podcast. The podcast that spends time with each Tom Petty song in order, from the first album to the last and then lots more in between, around, and after!

I hope everyone is doing well out there and staying safe and sane. One very small ray of sunshine that’s come out of the pandemic for me is that a lot more people have started podcasting and while it can be daunting to choose what to listen to, I find that as a format, it’s a great way to connect with other human beings who share your interests. As you’re listening to this right now, I hope you get the same thing from my podcast!

In today’s episode, we’re talking about the last song on Side A of the self-titled debut Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album; Anything That’s Rock n Roll. In the episode description there is a link to the song for you to go and listen to, so I’ll sit here and wait until you get back. Well, not really, but it would be rude for me to continue without you, so pause this first, go listen, then come back. Got it? See you momentarily!

Rock n roll has a long history of self-referential material, from Chuck Berry’s classic Rock and Roll Music covered in 1964 by The Beatles, through the Stones’ It’s Only Rock n Roll, released 10 years, then Twisted Sister’s I wanna Rock, tens year after that in 1984 and the list goes on. Mike Campbell said that he saw Kiss in their early days and realized if you put the words rock and roll into a song, it usually really worked! Tom said that he was afraid that the term was dying out at the time and he used it in a couple of songs in the early days. In Paul Zollo’s “Conversations With Tom Petty” he says “It was like a Chuck Berry kind of thing, just a good rocking song”. 

Anything that’s Rock n Roll was never released as a single in US but was the song that broke the band in England and was climbing the charts as the band toured in support of Nils Lofgren. Eventually it peaked at #36 and led to an appearance on Top of the Pops on June 16, 1977. For the North Americans listening, Top of the Pops is an old British TV chart show, where the top forty was counted down and three or four bands were brought in to “play” (in quotes) for an assembly of over-stimulated teenagers hopped up on sugary drinks. A lot of bands hated the format and would rather have played live and the format threw up some fairly interesting stunts by bands who found the concept as idiotic as it actually was! The song was also the opener on their appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test on June 20, 1978, another British institution where the acts are very much playing live! It was very rarely played live though after 1982 with the last performance I can find being on October 11, 1987 in Birmingham, England. I guess once you’re seven albums in and have a much bigger range of songs to pick from, it’s easy to see how this was one of the ones that was retired from the live set.

The last song on Side A, it’s a pretty straight up rock n roll strut with an arrow straight bass line. Nothing complicated but Ron does throw a couple of slides in there between the B, E, and F#. He also adds in a fun little E, Db, B progression in the chorus to give it a slightly different feel, but the bass, again throughout the album, is about letting the other instruments lead There is a little more movement in that bottom end on this one though that I do enjoy. Stan’s drums are recorded pretty flat again, and you can really hear that on the kick drum, especially in the intro. He’s playing 16s on the hats in the intro that drops 8s in the verse and then to a fairly standard four/eight alternating pattern in the chorus. In the chorus and into the bridge we get a little syncopation from the snare and kick which provides a little bit of relief from the straight ahead rock n roll of the verses.

The attack on the guitars is super old-school and just feels like a guitar and an amp in a room with no effects, just straight tube-amp distortion. Mike’s playing is great in the solo - panned left and right in a call and response pattern and really very, very heavily leaning into those Chuck Berry licks. This is the first song on the album where we hear Mike really rip into a solo and lay down some tasty solo guitar which again is very Berry. We get a nice, tight middle eight, which builds into that crunchy, up-beat solo. The vocals in the bridge are also layered and the harmony and vocal fills punch in and out in a somewhat unpredictable manner that gives the whole thing more edge.

Vocally, Tom’s delivery is really punchy and clipped. It’s that real staccato delivery that works so well with the overall feel of the song and that Tom utilizes now and again when he’s going for that bad boy vibe. He definitely had that angry-young-man energy on this record and never more so than on this track. I do love the lyrics in this one, as simple as they are. They’re really nostalgic for a time when you were young, had no responsibilities, and just wanted to party. It dovetails well in that regard with the last track, The Wild One, but where that track is wistful and slightly melancholy, this track is unashamedly celebrating youthful energy and attitude. “I picked up the telephone, told the boss he was a jerk”. I think most people have been able to get on board with that at different times in their live. The second verse then has the protagonist’s girlfriend in defiant mood too, “Don’t need her, don’t need school, You don’t like your daddy and you don’t like rules”. A sentiment echoed through the ages in rock n roll. Just ask Alice Cooper!

The opening line “Some friends of mine and me” has a harmony, then the rest of that first verse is just a single vocal track. The second verse kinda inverts that formula and has a full harmony all the way until the last line. I enjoy little details like that in songs as it disrupts the predictability of an otherwise fairly straightforward arrangement. That’s a neat touch and one I’ll definitely have to steal some time! The song one of my very favourite opening lines from Tom. Again that really evocative sense of staying up way too late hanging out with your hoodlum friends. For part of my teenage years, I lived on a housing estate where most of the people were pretty working class and didn’t have much money. It definitely wasn’t a “rough” area, but late at night when the pubs started emptying out and you’d have a few drunks wandering home, when you’re younger, if you were out with your friends, there was definitely a slight frisson of danger in the air that could be exhilarating, and that opening line really harkens back to those days of hanging out late looking for some mild trouble to get into!

Tom commented later on why the band no longer played the song live that : “That song’s really naive; it’s something I couldn’t sing now. It’s a kid singing that song.” And you understand completely where he’s coming from, but I could also imagine that being a killer extended jam song, you know, with Scott Thurston and Benmont Tench wailing through a piano / harmonica battle solo! I think that would be pretty cool!

It’s once again for some Petty Trivia!

Last week, I asked you which artist released the grammy-award winning album The Missing Years, in 1991, which saw Howie Epstein in his debut as a producer, and most of the heartbreakers play on? The answer is, the wonderful John Prine, another exceptional American songwriter. If you haven’t heard the album go check it out and listen for Tom’s harmonies in the chorus of the lead track Picture Show. I’ll throw a link to the video, which Tom also appears in, in the episode details. 

For today, on 1993’s Greatest Hits album, the last track, Something in the Air, is a cover of which band’s #1 single from their 1969 album Hollywood Dream?

Anything that’s Rock n Roll is a fun sort of throwaway song that gets your toe tapping and your head bobbing. It has no deep message and does the job it sets out to do. I imagine it would have been a fantastic opener in the early days and the live version from the Heartbreakers legendary performance at the Paradise Club in Boston on July 16, 1978 is probably the definitive version. It’s definitely my favourite version. Mike really rocks up the opening and is channeling pure Chuck Berry the whole way through. It’s way, way faster too! 145BPM compared to ~126BPM on the recording but also comes in at three and a half minutes rather than two and a half. In this version, we also get some banging Benmont boogie woogie piano licks that really make the whole thing hop. It’s curious that Benmont doesn’t play on the studio version of the song as it’s a track that could definitely stand a rip roaring Little Richard-esque piano part. The solos are extended and the song has a very cool ending. It amps up the rock n roll to eleven. I’ll add a link to this version into the episode notes and you should give it a blast once you’re finished the episode. 

Warren Zanes in the Biography Petty notes: “Cordell had shut them away in the Shelter studio. He’d taught them just enough to leave them alone in there.” This freedom to experiment and not be constrained much by expectation is probably why the first album sounds so eclectic. As varied and experimental as the album is in some ways, it’s grounded by songs like Anything That’s Rock n Roll which reveal exactly what the band’s roots are.

OK, Side A is done! Time to grab another beer, flip the vinyl, and get ready for next week’s song! Don’t forget to go back and listen to today’s song again and enjoy some good old fashioned rockin roll.

It’s now time to score this one. I think that honestly, live it’s a much better song and I’d love to have seen the band open with this in the late seventies, especially at that Boston gig. The album version cuts pretty short and without any Benmont in the mix, I do have to dock it a couple of marks I might otherwise have given it, as I think that would have stepped it up a couple of notches. So. Anything That’s Rock n Roll, like the album opener, gets a solid 5/10 from me. A perfectly serviceable foot tapper but not the most interesting song on the album overall.

Thanks as always for spending time with me and feel free to comment if you have anything to say about the episode, my rating of the song, the podcast, or Tom in general. And next week we’ll be talking about the opening track from Side Two of the album; Strangered in the Night.


Petty Trivia

QUESTION: On 1993’s Greatest Hits album, the last track, Something in the Air, is a cover of which band’s #1 single from their 1969 album Hollywood Dream?

ANSWER:  The answer is Thunderclap Newman. Thunderclap Newman was a project put together by Pete Townshend of The Who, along with their manager Kit Lambert, to showcase the talents of Speedy Keen Jimmy McCulloch, and Andy Thunderclap Newman. John Speedy Keen had been a driver for the Who and shared a flat with Pete Townshend. He wrote the lead track from The Who Sell Out, titled Armenia City in the Sky and went on to write the track the Heartbreakers covered; Something In The Air. Despite the success of that record, the 1970 album was only followed up 40 years later with a second effort and Keen spent most of the rest of his career as a session musician and producer.


Some friends of mine and me stayed up all through the night
Rockin' pretty steady till the sky went light
And didn't go to bed
Didn't go to work
I picked up the telephone
Told the boss he was a jerk

Your mama don't like it when you run around
With me
But we got to hip your mama
That you got to live free
Don't need her. Don't need school
You don't like your daddy and you don't like rules

So, c'mon baby let's go
Don't you hear the rock 'n' roll playin' on the radio
Sound so right?
Girl your better grab hold
Everybody's got to know
Anything that's rock 'n' roll's fine
Anything that's rock 'n' roll's fine

Oh oo oh my little baby
I'm a little bit shakin'
I'm a little bit crazy
But I know what I want
I wanna it right now
While the 'lectric guitars are playin' way up loud

So, c'mon baby let's go
Don't you hear the rock 'n' roll playin' on the radio
Sound so right?
Girl your better grab hold
Everybody's got to know
Anything that's rock 'n' roll's fine
Anything that's rock 'n' roll's fine