This Is Why Tom Petty Wasn't A Fan Of Modern Music

The name alone — Tom Petty — conjures images of low-key, mellow, organic rock bred straight from homegrown instruments, all-natural fabrics, approachable and real lyrics and songcraft and, of course, a whole lot of weed. As described by the BBC, Tom Petty dedicated his life to music after shaking Elvis's hand in the '50s, and by the age of 17, he'd dropped out of school and joined up with future Heartbreaker bandmates Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. Petty was a free-spirited musician through and through, and he'd sit and write lyrics and songs from an early age, long before Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker's self-titled first album took off in the UK in 1976. In the beginning they practiced songs from the Beatles, the Byrds, and the Yardbirds, who themselves produced artists such as Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck.

With all these homey, folk-and-classic rock influences, with a bit of twang and a bit of blues, it's easy to trace Petty's musical tastes. His soul is everywhere in his music, and it centers on authenticity. Petty radiated a "keep it real" outlook — vinyl records, Stratocaster guitars, vintage gear, let your kids play outside and scrape their knee, do something you love to pay the rent — and in an interview with Esquire he said the same about his music: "If you're phony, they will feel it in the farthest row of the arena. You have to really care. And you have to make yourself care time and time again." 

Keepin' it real, keepin' it authentic

So all in all, it stands to reason that Petty took issue with some of the turns that music made in the decades since he hit the public stage, particularly turns of the digital variety. Not necessarily in an "old man yells at clouds" kind of way, but definitely in a "it's stupid to watch a DJ spin records without enough drugs to make it interesting" kind of way, as reported by Ultimate Classic Rock. This distaste for certain elements of musical modernity extends to the quality of digital music, an issue shared by fellow old-schooler Neil Young, per Wired. Petty simply thought that music not on vinyl sounds like trash, but admittedly, he thought that CDs sound worse than MP3s. 

Petty also held a dismal view of the craftsmanship of modern music, as well as its performance, stating that televised singing competitions are jokes because, where he came from, "You would've been laughed out of the room. We were suspicious of people that had hit records." (On a related note, Petty predictably disliked Reality TV.) As for the music itself, Petty simply believed that the most interesting revolutions in music happened in the past, when music held some kind of "magic" that newer music is lacking. Petty thought this of modern country music in particular, which "reminds me of rock in the middle '80s, where it became incredibly generic and relied on videos."

Keep it real, Tom. Keep it real.