Tom Petty Sings “Free Fallin'”

Listen to this track by Heartbreaker honcho and first-time solo artist Tom Petty. It’s “Free Fallin'”, a smash hit song as taken from his first solo record, 1989’s Full Moon Fever. The song was the first single from that album, and remains today as his most enduring hit song.

The album was recorded around the same time as Petty’s involvement with the Travelling Wilburys, a “supergroup” that was more of an happily accidental situation that brought Petty together with some of his musical heroes, and by association revealing just what many people knew all along; that Petty himself had achieved hero status himself. Besides impressive results on the charts and with heavy rotation on the radio, one of the many things that came out of that situation was his relationship with Jeff Lynne, former ELO creative head and a producer with a signature style. The two began writing together. “Free Fallin'” is arguably their best result.

In some ways, this gambit in creating a solo album was a tough move for Petty, who’s backing band The Heartbreakers had been his comrades in arms for such a long time by then. Purportedly, others in the band were disdainful of the project, possibly fearing that their association with Petty was nearing its end. Still, a few Heartbreakers appear on the album including lead guitarist Mike Campbell (who plays on this song), bassist Howie Epstein, and keyboardist Benmont Tench. Ironically, instead of being a dramatic departure from his life fronting his old band, there’s something about this song that hearkens back to Petty’s earliest days with the Heartbreakers. Read more

Electric Light Orchestra, aka ELO, Performs “Mr. Blue Sky”

elo-out_of_the_blue_lpListen to “Mr Blue Sky” by Jeff Lynne-led orchestral pop Beatle-heads the Electric Light Orchestra, AKA ELO. The song is taken from the band’s 1977 record Out of the Blue.

Don’t be confused. This band is desperately uncool. They are big and sweeping in scale, and not a cool haircut to be found among them.  And they have their own string section.  How can that possibly be cool?  But the charm of this band  is not about that.  The fact is that “Mr. Blue Sky” is one of the most stunningly optimistic, and joyful pop songs ever written.  And pop is really the word. Listen to it shimmering with intricate, yet memorable, melody with almost child-like abandon.  I tell you; if you’re not moved by this, you have no heart.

ELO came out of the glam era, originally co-led by Lynne and Roy Wood, who stayed for their debut, then left to form British glam rock band Wizzard. But, Lynne strayed from the glam model and looked at another stream of pop music – Sgt.Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour.

What he wanted was a rock group which incorporated the same sort of orchestral feel as Pepper, with actual classical overtones to boot.  Yet, Lynne was interested in writing pop singles in that vein, which separated his approach from prog rock, who also wanted to take rock to a more ambitious level, albeit with much longer pieces.

The result was a string of hits in the mid-to-late 70s, and one or two in the 80s as well, before the band fractured and Lynne left.  “Telephone Line”, “Turn to Stone”, “Livin’ Thing”, and many more hits dovetailed nicely into the orchestral sensibilities that people were getting from disco.  And it also appealed to those who were interested in Beatle-esque pop hooks, during a period when everyone was wondering whether or not the actual Beatles would ever get back together.

Lynne of course would go on to become a sought after producer, one of his most high-profile jobs being when the Beatles did get back together in the 1994 single “Free As a Bird”, which took a John Lennon demo and turned it into a memorable, if nostalgic, epic single.

For more information about ELO, who have toured without Lynne for some years as led by original member and drummer Bev Bevan, check out the ELO official website.