The Petty Archives

Petty's 'Other Stuff' echoes disdain
By Bruce Westbrook
Houston Chronicle - Friday, June 2, 1989

Rocker Tom Petty has taken much the same disdainful, irreverent approach to music videos as REM. The latter's first tape was titled "REM Succumbs" (read: We don't really want to do this but the label is forcing us). And Petty's new one is called "A Bunch of Videos and Some Other Stuff" (from MPI Home Video, 65 minutes, $24.95). That title echoes the playful insolence shown in many of the clips themselves - not to mention a news release that describes the tape as "a blatant example of crass commercialism."

"A Bunch of Videos" features 13 song clips, ranging from cheap, grainy work for strong early material "(Refugee, Here Comes My Girl) "to elaborate, fanciful videos for tamer, later tunes "(Don't Come Around Here No More, I Won't Back Down)."

The latter is the tape's only fresh song, emerging from Petty's current debut album as a solo act ("Big head goes solo" reads a crawl across the screen). Thus, this constitutes a greatest-hits retrospective. Songs are often intercut with "the other stuff." This includes hand-held video shots made by Petty as he tracks down his band members, "Candid Camera-"style.

Petty is also seen blissfully describing the bleak ordinariness of the San Fernando Valley as he rides in a convertible (echoing David Byrne's look at small-town Texas in "True Stories)". And he speaks to his manager by phone, wondering how footage from a South American golf video got mixed up with his tape (ludicrous shots of a golf pro in rumba attire are seen amid the rock 'n' roll). The best videos are concert clips for the bluesy "Breakdown" and the hard-charging "American Girl" and "I Need to Know." But these are a form of self-plagiarizing. All three were lifted from a previous videocassette, MCA's "Pack Up the Plantation. " No matter.

They're especially well shot, and the performances are powerful. Perhaps Petty isn't as indifferent to video as he'd really like us to believe...