Most Fans Don’t Know This Tom Petty Song Features Ringo Starr
via Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers / YouTube
In the landscape of rock and roll during the 1990s, Tom Petty stood as a living legend, having etched his name in the musical annals with iconic tunes that resonated across generations. Petty, known for his collaboration with luminaries like Bob Dylan and his role as a founding member of The Traveling Wilburys alongside George Harrison, was destined to weave his musical tapestry with a Beatle. Little did many fans know that this collaboration came to life in a somewhat unexpected manner.
As Petty embarked on his career journey post-The Wilburys his creative compass pointed toward working with Jeff Lynne, the frontman of Electric Light Orchestra (ELO).
Renowned for his exceptional production skills, Lynne played a pivotal role in refining Petty’s craft during the creation of the album ‘Full Moon Fever,’ catapulting him into new heights with chart-toppers like ‘Free Fallin’ and ‘Runnin’ Down a Dream’.
Despite the soaring success, the dynamics within the Heartbreakers underwent a subtle shift. While Petty explored his solo endeavors, the rest of the band expressed reservations about their leader going solo. The subsequent album, ‘Into the Great Wide Open,’ saw Lynne seamlessly integrating into the Heartbreakers’ mold.
For the next project, guitarist Mike Campbell proposed collaboration with Rick Rubin, fresh off working with artists like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rubin, aiming to capture the raw sound of Petty’s childhood influences, opted for a more collective approach, bringing everyone together to shape the material that would eventually become the album ‘Wildflowers’.
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Amidst the creative process
The band faced a significant challenge with the departure of drummer Stan Lynch. Unenthused about the material, Lynch distanced himself, leaving a void that needed filling. Throughout the recording, substitute drummers played their part, but the standout was none other than Ringo Starr. Starr’s distinctive midtempo groove shaped the song ‘To Find a Friend,’ providing a steady pulse for listeners to connect with.
Starr’s involvement didn’t end there. He also lent his skills to the B-side ‘Hung Up and Overdue,’ later featured on the soundtrack for the film ‘She’s the One.’ However, Starr inadvertently found himself in the midst of the band’s internal drama when they were asked to perform at The Viper Room.
Using Starr as leverage
Petty conveyed to Lynch that Ringo was ready to step in. This maneuver prompted Lynch to return within 24 hours, but for the subsequent tour dates, drummer Steve Ferrone took the reins and became Petty’s go-to drummer for the rest of his career.
Starr’s contribution, beyond being a favor to a friend, added a Beatlesque swing to Petty’s sound, seamlessly blending the worlds of two rock and roll legends. After years of idolizing the Beatles, Petty had earned the respect to perform alongside one of the Fab Four. In this unexpected collaboration, a hidden gem emerged, showcasing the magic that can happen when musical legends unite.