Tag Archives: Juliet Naked

Oh, my my! Oh, hell, yes! Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers at DTE Energy Music Theatre

28 Aug

Tom Petty smiling at DTE - 082414

So happy, he glows/ Photo by Davis Kurepa-Peers

Anyone reading this who knows me – and that’s a given because those who don’t know me never read this blog – knows I’m a Tom Petty fan.

Who am I kidding? I am a shameless, obsessive and thoroughly insufferable bozo of a Tom Petty fan. Two framed, autographed album covers adorn my office walls. I’ve downloaded pretty much every song the guy’s written, sung, played, produced or mentioned in passing. I’ve bought his autobiography, Conversations with Tom Petty. I’ve seen the Peter Bogdanovich’s four-hour documentary multiple times.  I’ve even gone down numerous YouTube rat holes searching for prizes like this one from 1976, when his label mate Dwight Twilley needed a bass player to stand behind him while he lip-synched songs for a long-forgotten TV program – fast forward to 1:42:


I am also one of those saps with a paid membership in the Tom Petty Highway Companions fan club. There are two reasons I pony up the dough every year. For one, I get to listen to “Buried Treasure,” his weekly XM Sirius program featuring “the best in rock, rhythm and blues,” which has introduced me to a number of great records over the years. And for another, I can buy concert tickets several days before they go on sale to the general public. I don’t get any discounts, mind you; I just get to buy sooner and have better seats to choose from … all while paying an annual membership fee on top of it.

My high-velocity fandom only began a few years ago, and I may never completely understand why this man overran my musical receptors so completely. It’s like Nick Hornby’s description of the bond between a musician and his fan in Juliet, Naked:

You speak to him. For him. He connects. You plug right into a very complicated-looking socket in his back. I don’t know why, but you do.

TP at DTE - 082414Tom and the boys released their 13th album, Hypnotic Eye, a few weeks ago. New material from a classic rock band is often not a reason to celebrate. They may just go  through the motions; vocal power may wane and songwriting can get stale. Or, the band may decide there’s no time like the present to release that experimental album they always wanted to do, even if their audience doesn’t want more than their hits from a generation ago. (Even I didn’t care much for their 2010 release, Mojo, a bluesy psychedelic saga of an album that gave guitarist Mike Campbell permission to jam in any direction he wanted to, breaking their cardinal rule for success: “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.”)

Petty acknowledges as much. As he said in an interview in Men’s Journal recently,

[S]uccess is a dangerous thing. What great band hasn’t done some absolute shit? So I’m kind of to a point where, if I’m going to do it, I want it to be good. Otherwise there’s no point. Who needs another Tom Petty record?

Let me tell you: we needed this Tom Petty record. Hypnotic Eye is honest-to-God rock-and-roll, which is surprisingly rare these days. Its lyrics are timely and the melodies have grit. Petty’s got a gift for portraying downtrodden men who hold onto hope. At this point in his life, though, his hippie optimism has gotten hammered, and sometimes he’s  just grateful to be noticed. My favorite song on the new album is “Forgotten Man,” with a Bo Diddley beat driving lines home like, “I feel like a four-letter word”:


Steve Winwood - 082414

Steve Winwood/ Photo by Davis Kurepa-Peers

Leading off their concert at Pine Knob (aka, DTE Energy Music Theatre, whatever) was the phenomenal Steve Winwood, who still sings like a teenager and can fill in for Eric Clapton in the Blind Faith songs with ease. By the time the headliners opened their set with the Byrds’ “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” I was vibrating with glee. Tom Petty was in fine voice and good humor, exchanging licks with Mike Campbell on some of the most beautiful guitars on the planet. They even included some older material they don’t play at every show: the redneck howler “Spike” and “A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me),” one of the best breakup songs ever written. Even the group of exceedingly tall, exceptionally drunk people who kept filing in and out of the row in front of us didn’t diminish the experience.

My favorite musician and his crackerjack band played some of my favorite songs in the world less than 50 feet away for a crowd of 15,000 … and also just for me. It was magic.

See you at the final stop on my summer Concertpalooza tour: The Black Keys at Joe Louis Arena with special guests Cage the Elephant on September 12.

P.S. Is your book club gearing up for the fall? Want to chat about reading, writing and rock and roll? I’d love to do a reading of Love and Other B-Sides in person or via Skype for you and your book-loving friends. Just reply to this post.

The Rock and Roll Bookshelf has a new author: me!

12 Dec

Love and Other B-Sides - ebook cover

Love surprises an aging rock star when he meets his newest fan in his old home town.

I’ve got the world’s best reason for not posting for the last several weeks: I was busy publishing my first novel.  I am now officially an authoress!

Surprise, surprise: it’s a rock-and-roll novel. Who’da thunk?

Love and Other B-Sides began five years ago when I started getting into rock-and-roll in a big way. I began to wonder what daily life was like for a name-brand rock musician: like, does Bruce Springsteen pump his own gas? And, if you are at the level of a Bruce Springsteen, what do you aspire to when people will pay you millions to play the hits from thirty years ago? Plus, what happens when a musician falls in love with a civilian girl? Could she possibly keep her day job?

This fueled my story about Stee Walsh, my fictional “seventh most successful American rock musician still performing today.” I had a first draft well underway and was feeling really good about my unique take on a fairly unexplored topic  …

Juliet, Naked cover

After getting out of a long-term relationship with a man obsessed with a reclusive singer, a woman begins a flirtatious email correspondence with that singer.

and then Nick Hornby published Juliet, Naked in 2009, two days before my birthday, no less. My heart nearly broke.

Nick Hornby is one of my favorite storytellers – no surprise there. He is able to put words to the pleasures and pitfalls of being righteously self-absorbed and the desperate need for music like no other. Here’s an example from About a Boy:

But later that night, when [Will] was home on his own and listening to the sort of music he needed to listen to when he felt like this, music that seemed to find the sore spot in him and press hard up against it, he remember the deal Marcus was prepared to strike.

That his books were also the basis of three of my favorite movies – High Fidelity, About a Boy and Fever Pitch – just adds to my awe.

Here I was with a manuscript barely begun and an idol of mine goes and publishes a novel (with a relentlessly cool book cover) that riffs on my premise. And the deluge of rock novels had only just begun. The next year Jennifer Egan won a Pulitzer for the Möbius strip of a story rooted in the San Francisco punk scene, A Visit from the Goon Squad. Jonathan Franzen – who in my opinion spills way too much ink creating characters he despises – had a minor character find some musical success in Freedom. There was Dana Spiotta’s Stone Arabia which made several top 10 lists that year, about a brilliant recluse of a rocker whose only audience is his sister. Then Jonathan Tropper’s One Last Thing Before I Go and Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (not about rock and roll, but close enough) came out in time to be on my Christmas list in 2012.

Clearly I was not the only writer swept up in the rock-and-roll zeitgeist. I was in good company … good, famous, already published company. Crap.

Then it occurred to me: so what? There is room on the virtual bookshelf for everyone. Hey, a lot of great songs use the exact same chord progressions and we love them in their own ways. (Listen to this mashup of “25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago, Led Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Brain Stew” by Green Day to hear what I mean.)

So I am proud of my book and I sincerely hope you’ll buy it,  enjoy it, write a review and recommend it to your friends … all the while listening to the music you love most.

See you on the flip side …

P.S. Even though Love and Other B-Sides is only available through Amazon, you can download it using the Kindle App onto your Nook, iPad, smart phones (if you like tiny, tiny screens) and even desktops. Hard covers may be available in the near future depending on demand. So, demand already!

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