After 15 years, rocker Tom Petty still his own man

September 25, 1991|By Gary Graff | Gary Graff,Knight-Ridder News Service

Toward the end of their new album, "Into the Great Wide Open," Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers crank into the uppity, rockabilly beat of "Makin' Some Noise," a song that may be the closest to a declaration of purpose Mr. Petty has made:

"I had to rock the boat, I had to shake the tree/ To see what'd fall down on me/ I thought, Maybe I can make it if I never give in/ I been down before, I ain't going down again."

During 15 years of recording, Mr. Petty has never given in.

The 40-year-old rocker, who was scheduled to perform last night at the Capital Centre, has relentlessly created his own brand of rock, ignoring marketing and musical trends and personal travails.

"If you're not careful," Mr. Petty says, the music industry "can convince you that this is a career opportunity, like being a professional person. That's not the reason I came into it."

Mr. Petty's story could have been lifted from a Chuck Berry record: A working-class kid in Gainesville, Fla., leaves school to play in a rock-and-roll band. "Back then," he says, "it was almost like admitting that you were never going to make any money but saying, 'This is what I love, so I'll do this.'

"I'm a little concerned that the industry tries to convince people the other way now. All these kids who want to play rock-and-roll for a living. They get into this big, corporate nightmare. . . . It's like entering law school."

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