Tom Petty’s excellent adventure

I saw Running Down a Dream, Peter Bogdonavich's documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I intended to sit down and eat dinner while watching the beginning, but it was so compelling I watched both DVDs, over three hours worth of stuff. Possibly the best straight-ahead music documentary I've seen.

The movie paints a picture of a guy with a charmed career, which is not to take away from his great skill as a songwriter. From popular Gainesville bar band to BFF with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Stevie Nicks, Jeff Lynne, Dave Stewart, Jimmy Iovine, Rick Rubin, Johnny Cash, and others, he's been doing his radio-ready rock for 30 years and seems to have never given in to musical self-indulgence, and each step led to the next with an organic inevitability.

Bogdonovich (or Petty) mostly glosses over the requisite tragedies of business and life. Benmont Tench talks about too much drink and coke, and of course their second bassist, Howie Epstein, had a heroin addiction that killed him, but only a few years ago, not during their most excessive period — and that episode is redeemed by the return of their original bassist, Ron Blair. Petty's first marriage is mentioned early on, and then a divorce and new marriage many years later; one daughter talks about the arson fire that destroyed their home and possessions. His childhood is lightly examined for clues to his drive and anger — which seems to manifest only in his songs. Petty is a laconic guy offstage.

Favorite moment was an obviously joyous Eddie Vedder talking about Petty, and the video of him singing "The Waiting" with TP and the Heartbreakers live. Vedder has such a great voice, you're suddenly reminded that while Petty's is distinctive and evocative, it's not, well, it's not Eddie Vedder voice, certainly.