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At the very beginning of Peter Bogdanovich’s mammoth 4-hour Petty documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream Rick Rubin shows up as a talking head saying “It’s really mind numbing how many great songs they have.” I thought that this was kind of a weird and slightly backhanded compliment, but two hours into the documentary I realized that Rubin was actually completely right-on.
It really is mind numbing.
The first two records alone have “American Girl”, “Breakdown”, “When the Time Comes”, “I Need to Know”, and “Listen to Her Heart”—all sufficiently skull exploding. By the time you get to Damn the Torpedoes—”Refugee”, “Here Comes My Girl”, “Even the Losers”—it’s hard to really process what’s happening anymore. Then there’s Hard Promises, the Stevie Nicks duet “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”, and at that point your brain has basically turned into cottage cheese. I had to stop, turn it off, and hope that I could get a bit of breather if they talked about Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) before plunging into late career triumphs like Full Moon Fever and Wildflowers.
Petty’s mechanical royalty checks must be positively mind-boggling. Maybe GM should be asking The Heartbreakers for a bailout instead of the government.