Tuesday, October 03, 2017

It was the fickle, style-obsessed London media that made a star of Tom Petty

Oddly enough, London was the making of Tom Petty.

When their first album came out in 1976 it made no impression in the USA. Their manager Tony Dimitriades, a Greek Cypriot born in London, just happened to be visiting his family here at the time when he read an enthusiastic review of an import copy in Sounds.

He went to see a British agent, showed him the review and he decided he could get the band a support slot with Nils Lofgren, who was due to tour the UK.

They came in Spring 1977 and went down so well that they stayed behind to play headlining shows of their own. They did "Top Of The Pops" and "Whistle Test" and got on the covers of NME, Melody Maker and Sounds, achieving in that short period national prominence that would have taken years to achieve in the USA.

What's more they went back to the USA as the band that the British had taken to and with punk credentials that would never have occurred to anyone over there.

Maybe it was the leather jacket he wore on the cover. Whatever, it worked. Of course it couldn't happen today. You only miss gatekeepers when they're not there anymore.


  1. Squirrel Nutkin10:27 am

    Surprised at how quietly sad the news of his death has left me.

    I do remember the reviews in NME and Sounds (?) about how the much-anticipated Lofgren band was being blown off stage by an unknown support act - all of which seemed to match up with what I heard on the radio. (I also think that when they went on to headline their own tour it was their support who got all the praise in the press - some chancers calling themselves the Boomtown Rats (led by a gatekeeper turned poser, which may have helped). I wonder what happened to them)

  2. I saw them supporting Lofgren at the Liverpool Empire. Lofgren (or to be kind, his management) obviously realised how good they were. They were made to huddle in the middle of the stage which was full of Lofgren's gear (which included his essential rock 'n' roll trampolines). The reviews were right. Petty and the Heartbreakers absolutely blew the headliners off the stage.

  3. Tom Petty's first album was part of the soundtrack of my student years in the late 70s. What a great record that was - and how strange the US market didn't get it at the time.

  4. Just watched the whole Old Grey Whistle Test set. Geez they were an exciting band in the early days.

  5. I watched Peter Bogdanovich's epic documentary a few years back, and after Tom Petty's death, Money Becomes King was in my head for days.

  6. Regrettably I remember there was similar kind of process that brought Van Halen to prominence.