S4E7 - A Thing About You

               
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Length: 16:28 - Release Date: July 6, 2022

Hello my fine friends! Today we're continuing with side two of Hard Promises by talking about the second track from this side of the album, A Thing About You.

If you want to listen to the track before we dig in, check out the official video: https://youtu.be/_ZquPbwmDa4

I mentioned a great live version of this track where you can see the on-stage interaction between Mike and Tom. You can watch that here: https://youtu.be/I9ldwvMqHHg

And if you want to watch a fresh-faced Jake Thistle perform this song as part of Tom's 70th Birthday virtual bash, check this out! https://youtu.be/35oJFE4KoQc

Song

Transcript

(* 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.)

Before we dig into this week’s episode, I wanted to give a quick shout out to a few listeners who are super supportive of the podcast. If I miss you this week, don’t turn on me, I’m just picking off a few names that stand out for now! On twitter, a big thanks to American Girl (@TomPetty4Me, Mary Beth Donnelly, @DeneenKrom, Lisa K Pennington, Auntie Social (@AuntieSocial76)< @umrami, Monis Riche (hope I;m pronouncing that right!), and Viola, wildflower forever ((@viola1671). One Facebook, thanks so much to Cheryl Blaquiere (again sorry if I’ve mispronounced that!), Bob Reidy, Carol Rosenberg Shapiro, Laura Jean, Rose Hartley Gras, Janet Massa Lovell (who I’m determined to stump on a Petty Trivia question!), Vicki Morrison, Sharon Kienzle, Edwin Shoemaker, Paul Roberts (my favorite dog on the run), Craig Robertson and Edie Lott. And on Instagram, a big thanks to @therushden, and again @lisakellypennington, who tries to guess my ratings each week! She almost always guesses correctly too, which I find super cool.

I appreciate all of your feedback and support more than I can really express and don’t take it for granted for a second. As I’ve said lots, this a pure passion project for me and connecting with so many fantastic people all over the world has been an unexpected fabulous part of this journey!

Now that the love-in is out of the way, today’s episode covers the second track from side two of Hard Promises; A Thing About You. Head over to the episode notes for a link to the song if you want to listen to it before we dig in and I’ll catch you once you’re back. See you soon!

Tom Petty fans always recognize that outside the truly staggering number of hits that Tom wrote, there are many more buried treasures that we can all unearth and play for the uninitiated. A Thing About You is another one of those tracks that falls into this category. I think I talked about, maybe even in the last few episodes, that a lot of songwriters will write music first and then lyrics afterwards. My best friend sometimes will have an entire song written musically with no lyrics at all and this track strikes me as one of those. It’s such an intricately guitar-driven song structured over a really simple progression that my suspicion is that this was one that Tom would have brought into the studio basically cooked and then jammed with the band to get the arrangement figured out before adding lyrics. It’s another shining example of the way Tom and Mike played complimentary guitar parts and in Conversations with Tom Petty, Paul Zollo remarks on this, saying that “Mike said he loved the interplay of your two guitars”. Tom responds by saying that “That’s typical of us, how we would play live. How we would listen to each other and fill in each other’s gaps.” So this is why I think that this would have been a track that was jammed out in the studio to get the arrangement down, and possibly even recorded, before Tom hm or needed accompanying lyrics.

So let’s start off by talking about the guitar parts in this song as that’s where the real pay off is in this one. The two parts are panned left and right but not quite as hard as they were on the first two albums. Just enough to separate them when you’re listening under headphones. Tom’s rhythm section is sumptuously simply and direct, with Mike adding in the heavily country-inspired licks. It’s similar in this regard to songs like Century City from Damn the Torpedoes and the Hard Promises side one closer, King’s Road. You’re getting lots of sustain on the open chords to keep that jangling heartbeat of the chord progression alive while the percussive undercurrent is kept chugging along in the secondary part. The pace of the song through the first two verse-chorus chorus pairs is pretty unrelenting and leaves you gasping for air a little. This pace holds up until the minute and a half mark, at which we break into the bridge. At this point, we get a key change and a brief switch to half time, which gives you a brief pause which you know isn’t going to last before Tom screams us back into the solo. The solo is then less a virtuosic shredding solo but another balanced interchange between Tom and Mike to build the song back into the chorus and the chorus again and then into the outro. We’re then given a complete curveball. Where the two songs I mentioned, King’s Road and Century City would build into a crescendo for the outro, with a repeated progression from the chorus, A Thing about You instead drops us into that half time, dialed back ending. It’s a left turn that you don’t really see coming and adds a dimension to the song that often became an extended jam when played live, with Mike and Benmoney trading off licks while Tom would entertain the crowd with his shoulder boogie and his devilish grin. This performative flexibility within a song like this is one of the hallmarks of what made the Heartbreakers one of the best live rock n roll acts of all time. Tom tells Paul Zollo “We’re REALLY lucky to have Mike, because that’s a really precious thing, when you get two people who can play together and create A sound. And we always make a certain sound together.” Though this song may not strike you as the best example of this, it’s a striking one to me.

As you all know, I’m a huge admirer of Stan Lynch. Before I started this podcast, there’s a good chance that I’d have said “Yeh, Tom was a master songwriter, but drum-wise most of the songs are easy to play.” I simply couldn’t have been more wrong. Through the first 20 seconds of this song, listen to Stan’s kick drum pattern. In the fourth of every four bars, he comes off beat for a measure every time just to add in a little variety to what he’s playing. The song wouldn’t suffer at all if he’d stuck Phil-Rudd-like to the exact same pattern, but those little syncopated rhythms add a certain swing to the song. Again, they put the roll in the rock. Stan was superb at this. When he’s filling, it’s mainly on the snare and with these train-rail straight rockers, that type of decision really helps keep up the breakneck pace of the song. Then when we head into the bridge, this is where Stan switches to the toms and adds in that little bit of shake rattle and roll. He also switches from the hats to the ride in this section, as is fairly standard, to widen out that treble space on the drums and give a little bit of suspension to the section. But again, it’s fairly on the beat rather than sitting behind it, to keep that 1-2-3-4 tempo crashing along.

During the solo, he starts washing the crash cymbal so that you get that high-range wall of sound and adds in a couple of dropped syncopated kick notes which again just differentiates the groove from what’s been before. This is in counterpoint to the relentlessly driving lead line on the guitars.

It’s really weird to me that Ron Blair left the Heartbreakers right that conclusion of this record because it’s by far the groove-heaviest collection of songs they’d put out to this point. Ron has a lot of scope in this song to walk all over the progression, sticking root notes in the verses and then climbing and sliding through the scales during the chorus. It’s all complimentary to Mike’s big bends and sticks religiously on that kick pattern that Stan is laying down and incredibly cool. Bass guitar might well be the most underrated part of any band (or any podcast for that matter!) and Ron Blair is most definitely an underappreciated player, probably because he was playing in a band with so many characters and he didn’t necessarily need or want to be the shining star. Listen though to the way he drops in and out of the bridge, then sidles his way lazily through that outro. That’s all blues feel and timing, coming off the main kick pattern and filling in the half notes. Absolutely delicious.

The last thing we have to talk about before we focus on the vocals and the lyrics is Monsieur Tench’s organ part. There’s not a ton of piano on this record, but again, Jimmy Iovine finds the gold in Benmont’s organ lines; bringing them forward in the mix when Tom’s vocals or MIke’s lead drops out. Listen to that blistering fill that Ben plays after the line “Lovers hold each other tight” in the second verse. That’s mixed up high and the leslie is in full voice as he holds the root and alternates between the fifth and fourth notes. For the most part, the organ track is again just providing width in the song without driving the melody. It just sounds bigger - and when it’s brought up in the mix it’s to transition back up to the high tempo. Listen to the solo; there’s plenty of Benmont there, but it’s backed off to give the focus to the guitar. Great playing, great production.
Alrighty, it’s time for some Petty Trivia!

Last weeks’s question was this; Gainesville is the birthplace of several hall of fame musicians, but can you tell me which founding member of the Eagles was born in Tom’s home town? Bernie Leadon.
The answer is…. It was a trick question! I was feeling tricksy last week and decided to throw a curveball in to see who I could catch out! Don Felder was born in Gainesville in 1947 but joined the band late on in the recording sessions for their third album On The Border. Felder was an old friend of founding member Bernie Leadon, who recommended him to the band. Leadon is the other Eagle commonly associated with Gainesville, but he was born in Minneapolis, also in 1947, before his family moved to Florida. He would eventually graduate from Gainesville High School and was an important member of the local music scene during Tom’s formative musical years.
Your question for this week is this; In which of the following countries did the Heartbreakers never play a gig; Belgium, Spain, Germany, France?

OK, back to the song. Vocally, this is another blistering attack-heavy vocal from Tom where he’s hitting his high register hard during the choruses and belting out those screams.  His delivery on this song reminds me of the raw talent of Fooled Again or Hurt from the first two albums, harnessed and refined by a student who is taking his work seriously. It’s a relatively easy song to sing in terms of range, but it’s always incredibly difficult to try to mimic Tom’s intonation and change ups in energy. He was a master at never being boring vocally. Lyrically, this is a pretty straightforward song. As I mentioned at the top, I think this was a melody waiting for a lyric and Tom being the wordsmith he would could likely have written two or three dozen different lyrics that would have worked. “I got a thing about you” is a pretty fun, kinda high-school-note-passing phrase to use but you can definitely hang a song around it. As with Letting you Go, Tom throws in a bunch of extra syllables in this one, in the chorus; “baby let me tell you I got a thing about you”. You have to sing those in a very specific way to get the lines in properly. But it’s one of the few songs that doesn’t have a “holy crap!” line in it. To me at least. But it doesn’t really matter, because this song could have any lyric in it and it would be carried by the infections nature of the groove.

The song was heavily played through 81, 82, and 83 and then dropped from the set, never to return. There are a couple of fantastic live versions of this song, including on the Live Anthology and the band would put false endings in a couple of places during the outro. I’ll add a link in the episode notes to one of my favourites where you can see an interaction between Tom and Mike which makes Mike grin his face off! So go check that out.

OK folks, that’s all for this week.  A Thing About You is a really solid rock n roll song, with a great two-part guitar and a solid vocal performance. The rhythm section is interesting and the keys are solid and overall, it’s far more than the sum of its parts. Again it’s a song I don’t have on regular rotation but one that I enjoy listening to as part of the album, but I’m going to drop it down to the lowest rated song on the album, for me. Which gives away ratings for the last three songs, but given what they are, I don’t think that will be a huge surprise. So A Thing About You is a six out of ten for me. A really fun song with some good performances, but it’s the Heartbreakers doing what they could do in their sleep. The live versions would be a 7 or an 8 (as most of their live work would be) but the studio recording is, in my opinion, the least engaging track on the album overall. And it’s still a banger!

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Petty Trivia

QUESTION: In which of the following countries did the Heartbreakers never play a gig; Belgium, Spain, Germany, France?

ANSWER: According to setlist.fm, the band played 3 gigs in Belgium, 8 in France, and 22 in Germany, but not a single show in Spain. I’ve caveated gig stats before, as I know that setlist.fm isn’t completely comprehensive, but overall you can still look at percentages and draw some fairly significant conclusions. One of those is that it’s incredible how few shows the Heartbreakers played outside the US. Of the 1300 that the database holds, 1124, or 86.5% were in the US, with the UK and Canada being second and third and those 22 in Germany being a fourth by some margin from every other country. I can’t find the comment on Facebook now, but a fan I was talking to about this posited that it could well have been that being a heavy smoker, Tom may not have enjoyed travel quite so much, but back in the 80s and 90s, smoking on airplanes was definitely still allowed, so I don’t know if that’s the only reason. Another question I’ll have to put to one of the band if I ever get to chat to one of them!

Lyrics

I'm not much on mystery
Yeah, you gotta be careful
What you dream
I thought this might pass with time
Yeah, I thought I was satisfied

But oh baby let me tell you
I got a thing about you
Baby let me tell you
I got a thing about you
It don't matter what you say
It don't matter what you do
I, I, I got a thing about you

Somewhere deep in the
Middle of the night
Lovers hold each other tight
Whisper in their anxious ears
Words of love that disappear

But oh baby let me tell you
I got a thing about you
Baby let me tell you
I got a thing about you
It don't matter what you say
It don't matter what you do
I, I, I got a thing about you

Baby, you own
Some strange control over me
Yeah, it's so wild
It hypnotizes me

Raise both hands

But oh baby let me tell you
I got a thing about you
Baby let me tell you
I got a thing about you
It don't matter what you say
It don't matter what you do
I, I, I got a thing about you

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