“I couldn’t wait to retire”
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers toured with Bob Dylan in the 1980s and Petty felt it was a career high point. He explained that he learned a lot from the other musician and was grateful for the friendship they had built. While Petty was happy with the tour, Dylan didn’t have as much fun. He explained that he felt at a low point in his career and couldn’t wait for the tour to end. Eventually, however, he had an onstage epiphany.
Tom Petty felt he learned a lot from Bob Dylan
In 1986 Dylan invited the Heartbreakers to join him as a backing band on a tour of Australia.
“We were all huge Dylan fans, and we were very intrigued by the idea of playing with Bob,” Petty said, per American songwriter. “So we left. And it lasted two years. We would do some of it, then some more would be added to it, then some more would be added to it. We really made the world with Bob Dylan.
He explained that he learned a lot about music while touring with Dylan.
“I learned so much from Bob Dylan,” he said The Daily Telegraph in 2012. “He gave us a kind of courage that we never had, to learn something quickly and to get on stage and play it. You had to be pretty versatile because the arrangements could change, the keys could change, there was just no way of knowing exactly what he wanted to do each night. You really learned the value of spontaneity, how an actual moment in a concert is worth so much more than the one you planned.
Bob Dylan felt he was at his career low while touring with Tom Petty
Petty was excited about the tour, but Dylan didn’t share his enthusiastic emotions about it.
“I had been on an eighteen month tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers,” he wrote, according to the book. Petty: the biography by Warren Zanes. “It would be my last. I had no connection to any kind of inspiration. Whatever was there at the start was all gone and shrunk. Tom was at the top of his game and I was at the bottom of mine.
He explained that he felt completely disconnected from his songs. He thought he should retire from music altogether.
“It wasn’t my moment in history anymore,” he explained. “There was a hollow song in my heart and I was eager to retire and lie down in the tent. One more big payday with Petty and that would be it for me. I was what they called on the hill. If I wasn’t careful, I’d end up fuming and raving in shouting matches with the wall. The mirror had flipped and I could see the future – an old actor rummaging through the garbage cans outside the theater of his past triumphs.
He finally had an epiphany on stage
Despite its bleak outlook, the tour would not be Dylan’s last. It’s because he had an epiphany on stage.
“It all came back, and it came back in multiple dimensions,” he wrote. “Even I was surprised. It left me a little shaky. Immediately, I was flying high.
Petty explained what it was like to see that moment happen on stage.
“I remember having a shock when he went to sing and nothing came out,” he said. “He just took a deep breath and came back, at the top of his voice.”
Decades later, Dylan is still performing in front of audiences.
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