Thursday, July 31, 2014

Petty wants me to buy vinyl (& who's better, him or Springsteen?)

Tom Petty’s disappointed I won’t be buying his new his new “Hypnotic Eye” album in vinyl.

The classic rocker — and I use that adjective as a heartfelt compliment and not a genre designation — says vinyl is far superior to digital.

I’ve heard this argument before from others whose opinions I respect. They say our digital formats make their carefully crafted music sound like crap. 

To me, it’s like hearing someone tell me sex would be better if we did it on a different mattress. I enjoy sex just fine the way it is, thank you very much.

It’s the same with music.

Amazon sells the vinyl “Hypnotic Eye” for $26.98, but buying it would actually cost me $171.16 because I’d need to buy a $144.18 Sony turntable to play the thing. 

In fact, buying “Hypnotic Eye” on vinyl could conceivable cost me $22,267.78 because I’m sure I’d need to change my entire digital collection — all 820 albums — onto vinyl.

And that’s not counting time and money I’d need to buy and install another 12-or-so feet of shelving in the basement.

I don’t have the scratch for that kind of whimsy.

The first vinyl album I ever bought was Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” It was 1973. I still remember the exact notes where the scratches from the beloved old album dinged the tunes.

By the time I went to college at Ohio University, I must have had 300 or so albums. I remember what a pain in the ass it was to lug boxes and boxes of them up the steps at the old dorm (it was Pickering, Bobcats).

I’m not sure of the last vinyl album I bought, but I know the first CD was “Steel Wheels” by the Rolling Stones in 1989. Vinyl had a good long run. I loved everything about the format. I loved the cover art, the liner notes and even the way a new album smelled. 

I have very little affection for digital, it’s so sterile, but I love being able to carry 7909 songs by 241 artists in my pocket.

I don’t think Petty and others — let’s go ahead and call them music snobs — understand what goes on in my head when I hear their music played usually through an iPod linked to my Bose Wave Stereo (and that’s some quality equipment, that Bose).

I’m not sitting here in my office.

No, I’m right there in the studio with him and The Heartbreakers. I look over and see Mike Campbell tearing into a scorching solo. My spine tingles with the beat drummer Steve Ferrone’s laying down. I look over at pianist Benmont Tench and he smiles at me. He’s the best. He lets me sit right next to him on the piano bench.

That’s how much music means to me.

It’ll offend some diehard Springsteen fans — and I consider myself one of them — but Tom Petty is our most perfect American rocker.

At 63, he’s still electrifying. His great rock has always seemed the most effortless, the most authentic, the most testicular.

I said a few years ago that Petty’d only written one bad song (“A Wasted Life” from 1983’s “Long After Dark.” That’s hyperbole. It’s maybe three.

But Springsteen had one bad decade. It was the 1990s. Chuck that whole decade from his catalogue and nobody would miss a thing.

Picking between the two is more of a “Sophie’s Choice” than most people imagine.

It’s easier listening to two uninterrupted hours of Tom Petty on satellite radio than it is doing the same with E Street Radio.

Petty just never misses the bullseye, while Bruce, who often indulges a more experimental bent, sometimes is wildly off-target.

Of course, Springsteen’s the superior live performer and Petty’s uniformly great albums have never reached the towering heights of, say, “Born to Run,” “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” or “Tunnel of Love,” one of my favorites.

I’m sure many of you will disagree with me, some vehemently. But it would be fun for the two of us to get together in some really great bar with an old jukebox and just spend the day debating song-by-song, album-by-album who's better.

And I’ll bet most of us on this one point will be in agreement.

You’d have to be an idiot to start buying vinyl all over again.

Related . . .


Anonymous said...

Your frequent and inaccurate critique of Bruce in the 90s hads again led you to a faulty conclusion.

Petty is a superior rocker and has always been since '79s "Damn the Torpedos" was debuted on my college radio program. With my audience I think I single handedly lauched his career!

But saying TP outdistances the Boss is really so much PP or poo poo. Your assessemtn of Petty's greatness correct--but your conclusion and for Tom's rich, deep catalogue, Springsteen still swamps it in volume, rock and all the experimental efforts you mention.

Your analogy is the equivalent of saying Jackson Browne is the superior American figure in his genre over Dylan. Its enticing and provocative but on further deep review such a claim does not pass muster. Neither does yours.

Chris Rodell said...

Ouch. I stick up for Petty because I think too many people overlook him while deifying the Boss, something I, too, have done, by the way. I know it's a "dangerous" comparison and there's no need for anyone to have to choose one over the other. But I felt it needed to be said.

Thanks for lauching in Petty!