By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
19. The 101 Freeway. Petty stared out at the 101 while staying at label-boss Leon Russell's house in Encino. In "American Girl," Petty imagined it as the highway of his hometown, the 441 in Gainesville, and placed a woman as the urban poet: "It was kind of cold that night/She stood alone on her balcony/She could hear the cars roll by out on 441 like waves crashin' in the beach." One of the band's best songs, it contains the perfect Petty formula of Americana nostalgia, narrative, the open road and a bittersweet realization sung against a great pop hook. "God it's so painful/Something that's so close/and still so far out of reach."
20. Mulholland Drive."I wanna glide down over Mulholland/I wanna write her name in the sky," Petty sings in the final verse of "Free Fallin'" (from 1990's Full Moon Fever, a Petty solo record). Is it any coincidence that Petty's world-weary voice makes the name of that place sound like "Valhalla"? In the video for the song, skateboarder Mark "Gator" Rogowski gets air just at this line on a ramp constructed between Laurel Canyon and Outpost.
21. Reseda. The video for "Free Fallin'" shows a 1950s-seeming, white, middle-class family living out the American dream in 1980s Reseda, a wry commentary that made the song an anthem for the "good girls" growing up there (and other cookie-cutter 'burbs) at the time. A mom throws a party for her disenchanted teenage daughter, who seems to have gotten dumped by Petty's narrator, a former good boy gone bad. After witnessing some old-fashioned sexual harassment among the wild ones at the hot dog stand, the good girl decides to freefall into a half-pipe set up on Mulholland Drive and leave the suburbs behind. (Beats going to the Galleria, where Petty filmed the escalator scenes.)
22. Vampires on Ventura Boulevard. A moment of out-of-towner cynicism, Petty's invocation of vampires on Ventura has less a monster-movie feel than that of the everyday slow-draining suck of sameness. Petty told Paul Zollo that the label didn't think "Free Fallin'" would be a single. "They didn't think anyone outside Southern California would relate to it." (CWTP) Little did they know, vampires lurk in every town.
23. Rose Bowl. In 1982, Tom Petty played at "Peace Sunday: We Had a Dream" at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. More than 85,000 attended this rally and concert, which was held in support of the Second Special Session of the United Nations on Disarmament. Later, Petty was inspired to write lyrics in response to Bush I's Gulf War on "Learning to Fly": "Well the good old days may not return/And the rocks might melt, and the sea may burn." Even though it seemed his populist politics shifted the other way when he performed "I Won't Back Down" during a 9/11 tribute, he has become an outspoken critic of the current war.
24. East L.A. Within 24 hours of the breakout of the L.A. riots in 1992, Petty had recorded "Peace in L.A." and had it played on the radio, with all proceeds going to charities in East L.A. The working-class whiteness of Petty's lyrics and his trad-white-rocker pedigree make him seem like something of an anachronism in the current moment, but in Conversations With Tom Petty he reveals that he is one-quarter Cherokee and that his grandparents, poor migrant farmers, experienced violence and racism because of his paternal grandmother's heritage.
25. Viper Room. Johnny Depp played rebel rocker Eddie in the 1991 video for "Into the Great Wide Open," and Petty returned the favor in 1993 by playing the inaugural charity opening for Depp's Viper Room. Around this time, Petty and Heartbreakers drummer Stan Lynch had a falling-out. Lynch was told that if he didn't show at the Viper, Petty would ask Ringo to fill in. Lynch showed but left the band soon after. 8852 W. Sunset Blvd.
26. LAX. Flying overhead, landing, watching the world below — the generic tropes of lonely contemplation for a road-weary rock star. Somehow Petty's voice contains the mental and physical exhaustion of many trips to and from. In "Straight Into Darkness" (Long After Dark, 1982), he sings, "I remember flying out to London/I remember the feeling at the time/Out the window of the 747/Man there was nothin', only black sky."
27. Dave Stewart's house in Encino. Stewart, the eccentric Eurythmics front man, worked with Petty for the psychedelic track "Don't Come Around Here No More" (Southern Accents, 1985). Petty convinced Stewart to buy a place in Encino, and the two had wild parties where Stewart and Petty would wear their custom rhinestone cowboy outfits.
28. Sunset Sound. This is where the backing vocals were recorded for "Don't Come Around Here No More." Stevie Nicks booked backup singers for a session there but didn't show up, so Petty and Stewart put them on their song instead. Nicks was a longtime friend of the band and even asked to join them at one time — to which Petty responded: "There aren't any girls in the Heartbreakers. You can be our friend but you can't be in the band." (CWTP) 6650 Sunset Blvd.
29. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. In 1984, Petty was rushed to Cedars-Sinai hospital after shattering his left hand. He had literally punched a wall in frustration over the recording of the song "Rebels." It would take months for him to recoup his playing ability. Paul Zollo asked of Petty's wild era: "You said you were doing a lot of cocaine. Did that affect your songwriting?""No. I think it affected my breaking my hand."8635 W. Third St.