All we need is more rockers like Tom Petty runnin’ down their dreams

'Runnin' Down a Dream' (From

‘Runnin’ Down a Dream’ (From

Every time I hear somebody utter the hated phrase Rock is dead, I shake my head, sometimes my fist, and say, sometimes to myself and sometimes out loud, Not in my house. Not in my heart.

So when my music-loving sis Sandra Bialdez from the forever-adored West Coast blog Square One Notes (not her real name of course but we have fun with the imagined familiar relationship) asked in an email if I’d ever caught the documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream, I sheepishly had to reply no.

Sandra enthused that I could catch it on Netflix.

Good call, Sis.

Peter Bogdanovich, biography-maker of note, carefully compiled this four-hour chronicle of the rock guy who emerged from Gainesville, Fla., and became a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It’s a great watch. For the music — some of the best rock ‘n’ roll America gave the world — and the deep Petty story and the chance to think back and recall your personal connection to this deep thinker and these nuggets of joy and angst and reflections of real life.

Petty started off in a band by the name of Mudcrutch. I didn’t recall.

Some of his songs already had the lyrics and form that we’d recognize later when the records would read Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Oh, fear not, for Bogdanovich will explain how that change came about as he charts the life of the centerpiece of the band by deep interviews with Petty and his band mates over the decades as well as family members and others in the music business.

Petty appears at ease spilling the beans to the camera.

Why didn’t I get the sound while I was in college here in New York in the ’70s, I lamented, knowing I was one of the latecomers to the Heartbreakers’ thrilling, swampy vibe but certainly among many.

Hey, I recalled, the makers of Fast Times at Ridgemont High were so smart to use Petty’s American Girl in that Jennifer Jason Leigh coming-of-age scene, as that one played.

Geez, I wish I had saved my interview with guitarist Mike Campbell that ran in August 1991, one of the first pieces in my tenure as music writer for the big daily when the Heartbreakers happened to play at the Onondaga County War Memorial. I remember the concert, the sound of the band and even Campbell’s voice far more than I do anything about what I wrote in the paper that quarter century ago.

Yes, a Supergroup; Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison. (From my widescreen)

Yes, a Supergroup; Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison. (From my widescreen)

Damn, this guy is respected, I thought.

Stevie Nicks would have joined the Heartbreakers if asked. But Petty didn’t want her in the band!

George Harrison loved him. Ringo Starr sat in on drums for him. Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan joined a Supergroup with him. And the Traveling Wilburys were tremendous.

The impetus behind the filming was a 30th anniversary concert in 2006 in Petty’s hometown, footage of which is in the film. The movie was released at the 2007 New York Film Festival. So it’s 10 years old. But, oh, it wears so well.

You can find it on Netflix now, so worth the click and four-hour watch.

Are you a fan of rock ‘n’ roll documentaries? What’s your favorite Tom Petty song, and why? Who do you prefer more, and why: Petty, Dylan, Orbison, Lynne or the Traveling Wilburys?


16 thoughts on “All we need is more rockers like Tom Petty runnin’ down their dreams

  1. Sounds interesting Mark. i enjoy documentaries of superstars – they can be so eccentric and the details are intriguing. I have not see this particular film, although I like Petty. Great review Mark. Thank You.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. i have always loved tom petty. i would love to see this documentary and love docs in general. i think ‘into the great wide open’ is my favorite of his, though i have many that i love.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been a big Petty fan since “Damn The Torpedos”, and even before. Haven’t yet seen the doc, but I’m on vacation this month, so maybe I can spare the 4 hrs. A true testimony to his greatness is that he put out a 15-song “best of” collection, and they left at least half a dozen songs off that should have been included. Also liked his appearance in the Costner film “The Mailman.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Not a week goes by that I don’t listen to some Tom Petty. From “Wildflowers” and the contagious chorus of “Crawling Back To You” (which still seems like newer stuff all these 20 yrs later) to the opening drum beat of “Breakdown” (which reminds me of shooting pool for the first time at a now-defunct cue club at 15 with cute older boys and feeling SOOO COOL) to lapses during band practice at church when we accidentally slip into “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” to playing F5 “Don’t Do Me Like That” at a poolhall jukebox in the 90s until the bartender gave me free Long Island Ice teas, Tom’s been with me through the years. I don’t even care if he sounds nasal and isn’t so easy on the eyes. He’s so talented!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the kind of connection that makes me say that Rock Lives, Kerbey. Songs that make you feel your life roll by in your mind. And Tom Petty has them. I gotta believe there are young kids out there ready to “do me like that” for another generation.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I love this documentary. Tom Petty reminds me of my childhood. My MTV upbringing has the video for Free Fallin replaying in my mind (specifically Petty riding the escalator playing guitar and the girl skating the half pipe). I have too many favorite to name, but recently I discovered “Time to Move On” and it’s in heavy rotation on my personal playlists.


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