S5E12 A Wasted Life

               
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Detail

Length: 15:12 - Release Date: November 9, 2022

"Completing the -Iovine Trilogy-, Long After Dark closes in a similar way to Hard Promises before it and Damn The Torpedoes before that. All three songs drop the tempo on each successive album but all three are more “mood”-oriented rather than really hanging on any of the band member’s virtuosity. I actually think this one might be the pick of the three closers. I would say that Louisiana Rain is probably a quote unquote better song, but this one feels just absolutely right closing out this at times dark, at times confessional album. It leads you gently off side two with a clear heart and a clear mind."

Check out the song here: https://youtu.be/ZxLBUJHVdWk

If you want to hear the live (bootleg) version I referenced, check that out here: https://youtu.be/A0vfH_x-KJ8

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.)

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, my fine friends. Welcome to the twelfth episode of season ten of the Tom Petty Project Podcast! I am your host, Kevin Brown. This is the podcast that digs into the entire Tom Petty catalog song by song, album by album and includes conversations with musicians, fans, and people connected with Tom along the way. As I’m recording this, the results of the US midterm elections are coming in so I have my fingers crossed hard that empathy, reason, and good sense will prevail. I also wanted to give a quick mention of my other podcast, Seaside Pod Review, which I record with Mr. Randy Woods, the guy who does all the awesome guitar licks for this podcast. We’ll be releasing our second episode and the first one to feature the spin of the wheel of Queen. I’ll leave a link in the episode notes if you wanna go check that one out. It’s a bit more light-hearted and conversational and we’re having a ton of fun doing it.

Today’s episode wraps up the songs on Long After Dark as we’re looking at the hugely melodic and easy-feeling closer; A Wasted Life. I’ve left a link in the episode notes so that you can go listen to the track before we start and once you’ve refreshed your memory, we can dig in! 

“That was another one where the record turned out to be an entirely different arrangement than what I came in with.” This is how Tom describes this song to Paul Zollo in Conversations With Tom Petty. There have been a few of those types of song on this album, where the band really had to work hard to find the bones of the track and get inside it. This again highlights the reason Tom always wanted to be in a band rather than be a solo artist playing with hired guns. He had the guys in the band to bounce ideas off when he started to hit any creative roadblocks. He goes on to say that after deciding to do something completely different with it, “We just played it once with Benmont out in front. And that’s the way it came out.”

Completely different is the best way to describe this song. It doesn’t sound at all like anything else in the catalogue and a lot of it is down to Benmont’s sumptuously caribbean-flavoured organ lead.

We get a twin attack of keyboards on this one and my guess is that Tom is playing the Prophet synth and laying down the tonal pads in the background, while Benmont is playing the lead on, I suspect, his Vox organ. I would guess this because Tom seems to be saying that this was cut basically live off the floor and I only hear one guitar part throughout the track. You’re immediately immersed in what I believe the kids these days call a “vibe”. You can easily slip into an imaginary beach-side lounge or swim-up bar out in the sun somewhere. Maybe it’s the end of the day and the sun is gently setting behind you but that’s the imagery that I get from the instrumentation and arrangement on this one. I love the lush sweep of that synth in the background. There’s no attack on it and it just glides around underneath the melody of the song without being intrusive. Maybe the original arrangement had strummed guitars or something and you could see how that would less effective than those warm, gentle synth pads. Phil Jones is credited with percussion on this album and I’m pretty certain he’s the one playing those congas and adding in that little bit of latin flair. There’s a very gentle kick drum underneath that rhythm and probably the hi-hat being played lightly with the foot rather than being struck with a drum stick. The overall effect is, as I say, a very comfortable, lazily winding melody that kinda sticks in your brain long after it finishes. It’s a fairly short, four bar intro, with Mike also adding in some small guitar licks and Howie’s bass, which reminds a little of the intro to Billy Joel’s Innocent Man. All very peaceful and low-key.

Tom’s vocal delivery really complements the whole thing as he drops back into a really lazy drawl, blending syllables together and taking and attack off the sibilant notes. No sharp edges here folks, just a warm, treacly voice gently weaving its way through the percussion/synth landscape. The chord progression of the verses is incredibly simple, four bars in B major, the 2 in A and 2 back in B. On that change to A, it almost feels like it’s a suspended chord, but I think that’s down to the melodic choices Tom is making vocally. The refrain “Don’t have a wasted life” comes in right in the verses, providing a cap on the seventh of each eight bars. And again, if this was live off the floor, Mike Campbell shows just why he’s one of the all time great guitarists. In the first half, he sits on the bass notes of his guitar; I’d bet a decent amount it’s a Fender telecaster. Then in second he moves up to a mid frequency to ring out some light chords. 

All the time, Howie is just keeping that same rhythm moving along on the bass and he almost takes the place of a drum kit in the way he’s playing so percussively. The end of that second half of the first verse leads us into the chorus a little unexpectedly as it comes in a bar earlier than you might expect. The chord progression then changes to a 1st 4th 5th pattern on each bar with Tom singing those oh oh ohs. over top.

The lead into the second verse  also changes things up timing wise and adds in extra bar before there’s a slightly heavier guitar chord on the one count and a very faint hand clap on the two. In this verse, Tom switches up the lyrics a little and takes out the wasted life refrain from the 7th bar of each eight, so that the song doesn’t fall into predictability. The second verse really showcases how Tom is enunciating the consonants in this track. If you listen to the way he sings lonely - he basically takes the N out almost completely, to make it lo-ly. He also lets the word down just fall away without again pronouncing that final N. And when he really pushes that drawl in songs, it can quite often to give the track a real sultriness, but the way its employed here, its a more peaceful and comforting feel that you get from it. 

The song then moves to the minor third rather than the minor 6th in the bridge section. The bass line backs off slightly and plays those couplet notes. You also hear a gentle cymbal hit on the first beat of that bar and I would guess that this was played with brushes not sticks, to really take the attack off but still get that slight metallic shimmer from the decay of the note. Benmont starts to play pairs of notes around that minor chord and you also hear a third keyboard part, which I’d guess (I’m doing a lot of guessing in this episode) is the Oberheim synth that he’s credited with playing on the album. In the lead out of this middle eight, you get Stan playing some fairly deep floor tom notes before the song goes back to B major, with a gentle little Mike Campbell guitar lick. What I like about that section of the song is that it creates a nice tension, coming off the back of the happy major chords of the song so far. It also doesn’t create darkness per se in the way that going to the minor sixth would have done, but leaves that minor third hanging for that full eight bars and making you feel like you’re almost waiting for a sudden drop on a fairground ride. It’s sort of apprehensive feeling and it’s added to by some more percussion; Stan starts to play some side stick; which is where the drummer lays the stick on the drum head and taps the rim of the drum with the bottom end of the stick. Over top of that are also some handclaps which I’d guess were overdubbed later and left deliberately a little off time. This tension in the bridge is lifted completely by the change back up to that B major chord and Benmont’s lead is mixed a little louder even and he plays it with a slightly more jagged edge, shortening some of the notes up. This basically resets the song back to the beginning where we have the same four bars with Howie dropping back to his groove and Stan keeping the side stick going. There’s also a glorious conga or bongo trill leading back into the last verse, which doesn’t change much of anything other than a couple of really subtle little things. For example, right at the end of the first 8 bars, around the 2:50 mark, you’ll here stan play miss the kick beat and play an extra pedal hat note. This gives a little space for just a moment and just adds that tiny bit of colour that you wouldn’t necessarily hear but would register subconsciously as a change. There’s also that slightly louder ascending guitar jangle starting when Tom finishes the line “Feel let down”. Finishing out with that last chorus, Tom changes the way he sings Love you too much” on the word too - the second pass around and it’s just another very slight, very gentle change, to make sure the song has a little forward momentum still. 

Alright folks, It’s time for some Petty Trivia! 

Your question from last week was this; not including Tom, who was the youngest of the original Heartbreakers? Was it a) Stan Lynch, b) Ron Blair, c) Benmont Tench, or d) Mike Campbell?

Well, I threw this out on Twitter again, after a short hiatus, and the results surprised me a little bit. The majority of you got this one wrong, which doesn’t often happen. No-one picked Ron Blair, and I think it’s pretty well known that he was the elder statesman of the original lineup. Ron celebrated his 74th birthday in September of this year and was the eldest by a couple of years. Mike Campbell slides in in third place, and was born on the same day, February 1st, as my wife. Only she’s much younger! So the baby of the group was either Stan or Benmont, with most of you picking the Heartbreakers keyboard warrior. However, he was born in 1953 while Stan came into the world almost two years later, in May of 1955.

Your question for this week is this; The latest release from the Fillmore 1997 album is a cover of Call Me The Breeze, but which act wrote and originally released the song in 1971? Was it a) Lynyrd Skynyrd, b) Chuck Berry, c) JJ Cale, or d) The Everly Brothers

OK, back to the song. After that last chorus, the song goes back into the intro progression with the rhythm section picking up a little and Stan playing a nice little shuffle with his brushes on the snare and hat, before the song sends us one more little curveball by changing keys again, this time to D and a second guitar part coming in, with Mike playing some gorgeous, suspended notes into the fade out. I’d love love love to hear the entire track before it was faded as I reckon the boys got really funky in that section! Thankfully the only time I can see that this was played live (according to setlist.fm at least) was captured on audio and in this section, Mike very gently plays those augmented and suspended notes in a couple of variations over top of the outro which actually has a very pleasing floor tom roll from Stan to walk it out.

Lyrically the song is pretty straightforward I’d say. Don’t have a wasted life, I love you too much. 

Paul Zollo says to Tom that he sees it as an affirmative song and Tom replies “Yeh it’s very positive. There again it has something to say. It’s a friendship song, just being kind of sweet”

I think that sweetness is really encapsulated in the line “So when you're lonely and you feel let down. You can call me, I'll come around and treat you nice”

You could actually imagine this being sung by a father to his daughter. Not a romantic song in any way, but a supportive, I got your back sort of sentiment. Very cool. 

Alright folks, that’s all for this week. Completing the Iovine trilogy, Long After Dark closes in a similar way to Hard Promises before it and Damn The Torpedoes before that. All three songs drop the tempo on each successive album but all three are more “mood”-oriented rather than really hanging on any of the band member’s virtuosity. I actually think this one might be the pick of the three closers. I would say that Louisiana Rain is probably a quote unquote better song, but this one feels just absolutely right closing out this at times dark, at times confessional album. It leads you gently off side two with a clear heart and a clear mind. It’s yet another song on Long After Dark that doesn’t sound a thing like anything the Heartbreakers had recorded up to this point and yet it somehow dovetails with the rest of the album effortlessly and doesn’t sound out of place at all. It’s one of those that I often forget about until I’m listening to the album and Benmont’s beautiful organ intro kicks in. That point I usually smile and get ready for four and a half minutes of relaxed vibes. I’m going to close out Long After Dark by giving A Wasted Life a nice, solid seven out of ten.

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Petty Trivia

QUESTION: The latest release from the Fillmore 1997 album is a cover of Call Me The Breeze, but which act wrote and originally released the song in 1971? Was it a) Lynyrd Skynyrd, b) Chuck Berry, c) JJ Cale, or d) The Everly Brothers

ANSWER: TBA!

Lyrics

I know you're walking down a lonely street
I know you can't get out of the heat
Baby, it's alright, don't have a wasted life
I know you have to feel a little used up
And no one can give you enough
Baby, hold on tight

Don't have a wasted life
I love you too much
Don't have a wasted life
I love you too much
Ah Ah Ow, Ah Ah Ow, Ah Ah Ow
Don't have a wasted life
Ah Ah Ow, Ah Ah Ow, Ah Ah Ow
Don't have a wasted life

They give it to you from the time you're born
You keep trying to make one more score
Baby, alright, you got to stand and fight
So when you're lonely and you feel let down
You can call me, I'll come around and treat you nice

Don't have a wasted life
I love you too much
Don't have a wasted life
I love you too much

They give it to you from the time you're born
Someone's got to put the pressure on
Baby, alright, you got to stand and fight
So when you're lonely and you feel let down
You can call me, I'll come around and treat you nice

Don't have a wasted life
I love you too much
Don't have a wasted life
I love you too much
Don't have a wasted life
I love you too much
Ah Ah Ow, Ah Ah Ow, Ah Ah Ow
Don't have a wasted life
Ah Ah Ow, Ah Ah Ow, Ah Ah Ow
Don't have a wasted life

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