Sign up for our free newsletter

Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.

Over the holiday, my family and I watched four-hour rock doc opus/slog “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” the story of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. I’m a default Petty fan—-it happens a few years into listening to “Full Moon Fever” on every family road trip since 1989.

Tom Petty’s got a lot of songs about women. Pretty much all the songs—-the ones that aren’t about smoking weed, road trips, rock, or vague generalities—-are about girls. So, what women inspired Petty? Runnin’ Down a Dream—-while completely awesome—-doesn’t offer many clues. These are the only mentions I could find of women in Petty’s life:

– Vague reference to heading out on the road with the band “a couple days” after getting married to a woman, whereupon:

– she is never mentioned again, even when Tom Petty’s house burns down and it’s revealed he has two daughters with her, whereupon:

– Petty delivers a heartfelt testimonial about how much he loved his dear mother, who died too early in his life, whereupon:

Stevie Nicks keeps asking Petty to let her join the Heartbreakers but he won’t because “there are no girls in the Heartbreakers,” whereupon:

– Stevie Nicks keeps asking Petty to write a song for her but when he gives it to her and she starts practicing on it he steals it back because he likes it too much and wants it for himself, whereupon:

Eurythmics musician/autobiographical vibrator designer Dave Stewart writes a song for Stevie Nicks, but calls Petty in to write some lyrics and he steals that song, too, whereupon:

– it is revealed that actually, Petty’s mother dieed after a long illness when Petty was like 30 years old or something reasonably old like that, but he never stopped in to see her that often because he was touring Japan with Bob Dylan and dancing with Mary Jane, whereupon:

– we fast forward to “Echo,” an album vaguely about Petty’s vague divorce from his vague wife that nobody in audience can fucking believe has stayed married to him this long, whereupon:

Dana, Petty’s new wife, emerges on the scene in a skin-tight patent leather bodysuit posed on a Harley, then proceeds to dance seductively on the side of the stage in skin-tight, fringed leather bodysuits for the remainder of the Heartbreaker shows.

What can we take away from this?

Point: Tom Petty doesn’t care about women. Counterpoint: Tom Petty doesn’t want to air his family’s dirty laundry on film.

Point: Really, though, he doesn’t appear to spend any time with his family! He’s just like, okay, marriage, babies, then peace, I’m going to go create the great American rock band, check’s in the mail. Counterpoint: The band was really good.

Point: Tom Petty was kind of a dick to Stevie Nicks, though. Counterpoint: That Dave Stewart song that Petty stole from Nicks? “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” Fucking classic! Plus the Heartbreakers would have sucked with Stevie Nicks in it.

Point: Tom Petty could have been nicer to his mom, at least. Counterpoint: Yeah, we all could have.