Tom Petty And Me: My Rock 'n' Roll Adventures with Tom Petty
Chickasaw Buddy Publishing, INC.
2018 Tom Petty And Me
has a most interesting premise, its effect heightened when considering the late musician's tumultuous history with his record label(s). In My Rock 'n' Roll Adventures with...
, a company promo man, Jon Scott, recounts his collaboration(s) with and on behalf of an artist he came to deeply admire.
Fortunately, his reach as a writer does not exceed his grasp. Quite the contrary as the short sharp chapters belie a certain element of suspense that arises from many of them, while the casual informality of the author's writing imbues his prose with a charming immediacy. It's as if the content derives directly from the man's personal journal. The cumulative effect of this deceptively ambitious project is a remarkably vivid portrayal of not just (invariably) famous persons, places, and things, but also of Scott's deep passion for music and the multiple forms it took as he advocated for artists, most prominently including, but not limited to. Petty and his Heartbreakers band.
Forewords for books, like cover blurbs, are generally empty gestures and pure fluff. The very fact a man roundly (self-)acknowledged as a curmudgeon, John "Cougar" Mellencamp, deigned to write for Tom Petty And Me
is more than just a mere gesture of consent: it's an endorsement of Scott as a hard worker, a lover of music and, last but not least, a man with credibility. My Rock 'n' Roll Adventures with...
should thus connect with readers just as Jon connected with Petty, Mellencamp and other artists whose promotions he undertook, including Steely Dan
, circa Aja
But there's also the effervescent prose utilized in these colorful tales. None is more vivid than Scott's experiences of his Memphis upbringing, especially since both men got to meet Elvis Presley
, albeit under slightly different circumstances. But in contrast, Scott's recurring mentions of alcohol and drug usage become tiresome early in the one hundred-ninety pages here, in part because those details do little if anything to heighten the clarity of the circumstances he's describing, such as an evening of camaraderie and consumption in seeing TP and his band open for Blondie. Jon's eye for detail is better trained on the geography of the various environs he inhabits in the Golden State during his various tenures as radio personality then label executive.
Largely taking place during the hey-day of the record industry in the Seventies and Eighties, these accounts of both personal and business interactions nevertheless do not sound dated. And that's even true with the regular insertion of photographs throughout (many from the author's own collection), the staged posing of which belies his vivid but nonetheless discreet renderings of how that particular group interacted on the occasion in question. Unfortunately, the seeming non-stop string of such anecdotes slows, then almost stops, at the mid-point in the book, with the chapter entitled "The Traveling Wilburys
and Tom's Fax Machine;" oddly, this section delves less into the machinations of this super-group of which Petty was a part (with Bob Dylan
, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne) than into Scott and Petty's discovery of, and bemused apprehension in, approaching the new technology of the time.
The writer does redeem himself here, precisely because of the easygoing way he describes their interactions via their respective machines. Scott offers tangible evidence and insight into the fluid and often whimsical nature of their personal and professional relationship. Still, the illustration of their natural back and forth might well have been complete with just the inclusion of one or two instances of same: twenty some pages of replicated fax sheets and additional notes would have been better placed in an appendix. In that way, this tome would better progress directly from Jon's later independent work with TP, then onto the wistful recollections of holiday and special occasion get-togethers at the musician's home(s).
Those remembrances dovetail with the in-person report on the author's attendance (with his daughter) of the final concert of the band's fortieth anniversary tour in 2017 at the Hollywood Bowl. It's touching enough as it is, from a fan's point of view as much as a friend's, but Jon Scott's recollection of that night is as clear-eyed and openly emotional as his affecting description of learning about his colleague's passing just days later. Jon Scott doesn't overwrite to any great extent during My Rock 'n' Roll Adventures with Tom Petty
and it's a veritable coup de grace of his penning skill (or the vigilance of his editors!?) that he resists the temptation to do so at this critical juncture, too.
He thereby leaves the reader with an even deeper impression of his inward and outward honesty. Not that a declaration of credulity is necessary at this point in Tom Petty And Me
, but it stands as one final reminder it must've been as easy to believe (and believe in) working with Jon Scott as it is reading his book.