On another disc you have one of your best rockers, a very underrated song, Jammin' Me. Do you feel as though that song hasn't gotten its due?
"I don't know…I remember when it came out it was on the radio a lot. People like it when we do it. It was cool that Bob [Dylan] helped us with the lyrics. I guess it's gotten it's due. [laughs] I'm happy with it!"
On a couple of cool instrumentals you get to stretch out. There's Green Onions by Booker T & The MGs.
"Oh yeah. That was another thing that came up when we were doing The Fillmore. Benmont had that organ sound and the part down and he said, 'Hey, let's try Green Onions.' Everybody knew it, and we just threw it together and it sounded good."
You throw a real left curve from The Fillmore set with your cover of Goldfinger.
"We were real thrilled to find that one because we'd kind of forgotten that we ever played it; we only played it at The Fillmore and then we kind of left it behind.
"I love that music, and it occurred to me one day that it could be done with a surf kind of arrangement. I messed around with it and showed it to the band. Took us forever to learn all those chords. [laughs] It's a great piece of music. Good sound, too. Ryan did an incedible job on the mix."
Do you remember what guitar you played on it?
"It was a Fender Jaguar, with lots of reverb."
Next, we have one of the standards, American Girl, from the Cow Palace in 1983. I have to imagine you have a thousand versions of that song.
"Exactly. Much like Woman In Love, we didn't think we had a good version of it and we were going to leave it off. You can't put out a half-assed version or an OK version of American Girl - it's gotta be really good. All the ones we listened to were pretty good but we didn't feel we had 'the one,' so we finally crossed it off the list."
"About a week later, Ryan found one and he said 'I think I found one that might be good,' and as soon as we heard the vocal we knew it had the urgency and the spirit and the torment. We were lucky to find that one."
Plus, the band is really cookin'. You guys are really locked in a groove. That's a hard song. Even for a drummer, it's a hard song to nail.
"Yeah, well, it's easy to do it bad. But it really comes down to…if the guy's singing is in the zone, that song flies. And here Tom has edgy, youthful urgency that's so great, and that's what carries for song."
Another Petty classic, I Need To Know, comes from The Forum in '81. What stood out to you about this version?
"That run at The Forum was a great breakthrough for us, to finally go from a medium-level band to a mainstream band. We were real excited. The band was just breaking and audience was there with us. You can feel the excitement and the discovery in the moment."
Listening back to it all, did it make you nostalgic for certain eras of the band? Did it make you feel as though there were elements that aren't there now?
"Yeah, all of those things. It was interesting to hear the band in our 20s, just chompin' at the bit and trying to blast through the stuff. There's a lot of charm in that. It was interesting to see the growth in the songwriting and the musicianship.
"What was really interesting was to hear Tom's vocals in the early days. You know, back then we had no monitors, and we were loud. He sang so good back then. I was surprised to hear how strong and in pitch and how powerful his vocals were, considering the conditions he had to work with.
"But all the eras are good. It's great to hear Tom when he's really young and singing high and screaming, but I love his voice now where it's resonant and full and expressive."
Also, listening back, how do you feel about your development as a guitar player?
"You know, that's a really interesting concept. I was surprised at some of the early guitar work, which was better than I remembered. I think about this with people I admire, like Clapton or Jimmy Page or Jeff Beck, guitar players who get to a point where they establish what they are. Over the next 30, 40 years, do they improve a lot or do they just refine what they are?
"I think I've improved in the finesse and the tone and compositional skills. But I think I basically still kind of play the way I did back then, too. You sort of get to a point and that's how you play."
"Everyone should have themselves regularly overwhelmed by Nature"
- George Harrison