When Tom Petty got into a fight with John Lydon

Tom Petty

Tom Petty never conceded an argument. Notwithstanding the corny dad jokes, Petty always followed his own set of rules. He never allowed anyone to stop him from achieving his goals at any given chance. Even though he could follow his passion and have a great career, another budding rock and roller fought with him in one of his early interviews.

Petty felt out of sync with his generation compared to the rock scene in which he grew up. Similar to musicians like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Petty got to perform the songs he loved.

Petty’s channelling of his dreams of the Byrds and Beatles changed the rock landscape forever. The punk scene, led by John Lydon, was rapidly emerging to upend the music industry after years of witnessing hard rock bands like Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith tearing up the charts.

As one of the most contentious frontmen to ever step in front of a microphone, Lydon gained a reputation for constantly teasing the status quo. A reputation vividly portrayed by his massive takedown of authority in Nevermind the Bollocks. Despite frequently receiving inaccurate labels as a punk during the band’s heyday, Lydon and Petty nearly engaged in a fight during one of Lydon’s Rolling Stone interviews.

Petty said he nearly got into a fight with Lydon during his first cover story. He said, “We were talking into our hotel lobby in London. And I hear this snotty voice saying, ‘Oh, it’s the American pop star Tom Petty’. I make my way over to the lift. Someone is complaining, “There the hippies go”. Stan turns around at this point and moves towards whoever it is. He desires to murder.

Petty knew he wouldn’t succeed despite having to put up with being heckled by one of the most well-known figures in British music because of the masses of reporters observing both Lydon and him. Instead of physically resolving their differences, Petty returned to Lydon and verbally attacked him.

Petty approached him and said, “Stan needs to be restrained.” I asked, “Who the fu*k are you talking to?” as I approached. Without saying anything, [Lydon] launched into that wounded-punk act right away. Man, there are no Robin Hoods in the rock. That punk stuff is all a bit too trendy.

Tom Petty may not have identified with punk, but his strategy for taking advantage of the music business fit the same mentality that Lydon and others were advocating. Rather than sit back and enjoy his success, Petty chose to wage war on his record company, keep music accessible at a lower cost. And negotiate the terms of his contract without ever having to use a nose pin. Lydon might have lived for confrontation, but Petty demonstrated that day that real punks don’t always require praise.

Leave a Reply

You May Also Like