The Petty Archives

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Singles: Bite This!
Column by John Leland
SPIN -- August 1986

Bob Dylan with the Heartbreakers: "Band of the Hand" b/w Michael Rubini: "Theme from Joe's Death" (MCA)
"Down on these streets the fools rule/There's no freedom or self-respect/A knife's point of a trip to the joint/Is about all you can expect." Dylan's mythological street epic is as far removed from reality as any of his recent music and as stylized as Miami Nice. And it's so far off the mark that it almost works. Tom Petty's irredeemably lame Heartbreakers camp up (or, more probably, fake) a sloppy gospel groove. "Band of the Hand" offers 18/8 time and organ and harmonies as a symbol of the apocalypse, and the formula is recognizable enough to work even in such a perfunctory workout. But Dylan is so obviously intent on painting a sordid scene that he invests his apocalyptic scum with bald affection. Which is where these stylized street epics generally go astray. The record sleeve doesn't tell you, but you also get a sub-Jan Hammer instrumental by Michael Rubini on the B-side. Some things are best left unsaid.