I'm not a huge Tom Petty fan. Sure, I'm familiar with his top 40 radio hits. You couldn't avoid Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in the '80s and '90s. But I never saw them live and never followed them that closely. But "Petty: The Biography" by Warren Zanes is something special. First of all Warren Zanes knows his music. His band, the Del Fuegos, opened for Tom Petty in the '80s. And he's an unapologetic fan. But he's also an extremely gifted and objective writer who brings a serious study to a field that is littered with "I was there" stories that don't tell you anything you don't already know.
Zanes explores the ups and downs of Petty's career with remarkable insight. He's also great at putting a broader societal context on the evolution of the music business. You get the feeling of what was going down in Gainesville in the 70s and what gave Petty, Benmont Trench, Mike Cooper and others the drive to sustain themselves when so many bands fell by the wayside. What emerges is the complex story of a band that managed to (more or less) evolve and stay together for 40 years under the leadership and songwriting of Tom Petty. You get to experience the band politics, friendships and loss. There are also some very funny scenes whether it's about the manager who needed a manager or touring with Bob Dylan. This is a great book, told by someone who understands the music world. If you're a fan of Tom Petty, you will love it even more.
Best of all, Zanes narrates the audiobook himself. Here's a video of the original line up of the Heartbreakers covering that '60s classic "Louie, Louie."