It was early 1988. Mike Campbell and Phil Jones were hanging out at Campbell's house. Tom Petty wanted to come over and use Campbell's studio—just a tiny room with a 24-track board and a tape machine—to record some demos. Phil Jones was there already; maybe could he play some drums? At the time, Jones couldn't have known that he'd be playing on some of Petty's biggest hits... Free Fallin'. I Won't Back Down. Runnin' Down a Dream. It would be more than a year before Songs from the Garage would finally be retitled and released as Petty's biggest album to date: Full Moon Fever.
But, this wasn't the first time that Jones had worked with Petty. Throughout Hard Promises and Long After Dark, he played with the Heartbreakers as a percussionist, both on the road and in the studio. Before this, Jones also played with rock band Crabby Appleton, netting a Top 40 single: "Go Back." Not bad for a dude from Oskaloosa, Iowa.
The Petty Archives reached out to Phil Jones, who graciously agreed to answer a few questions.
The Petty Archives Interview with Phil Jones
Aimee: Although your work on Full Moon Fever is what most Petty fans first think of when they hear your name, you had been working with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for a number of years beforehand, both on tour and in the studio. How did you first become acquainted with the band?
Phil: I met the band through Richard Fernandez, their tour manager. Richard's first gig as a roadie / tech was as my drum tech in Crabby Appleton.
Aimee: After the loss of Tom, we are all hoping for new stories to keep his memory alive. Are there any stories about life on the road with the Heartbreakers that you'd like to share?
Phil: When I was touring with the band (1980 thru 1984), we all travelled on the same bus, so it was a very close environment. Tom was very funny, and a great guy to be around. I remember suggesting that we cover The Left Banke song, "Pretty Ballerina" and the next night we were playing it in the show.
Aimee: You were credited for percussion on both Hard Promises and Long After Dark. Do you have any particular memories about those two albums?
Phil: I played percussion on other TP & HB records as well: Wildflowers, a Dylan single, Del Shannon, etc. Hard Promises and Long After Dark were recorded at Sound City. I played percussion on the basic tracks, which is unusual. Usually, the percussion is recorded last. I was in a small room in between the control room and the main studio.
Aimee: What was it like recording on Full Moon Fever?
Phil: Very relaxed and very creative. Songs were done quickly. In Mike Campbell's garage. The best project I have been involved in.
Aimee: Stan Lynch was famously displeased about Full Moon Fever. Was contention an issue between you and Stan and did you ever work together after?
Phil: No real issue between Stan and I, although we really have not been in contact since.
Aimee: Is there a particular performance of yours (over the years with the Heartbreakers) that you are most proud of, enjoyed the most, or have any special memories related to?
Phil: Boston Garden in early 80's. Stevie Nicks came on stage to sing and the place went nuts. I remember thinking that this is what this place sounds like during a Celtics / Lakers playoff game.
Aimee: What is your favourite Tom Petty song?
Phil: There's a few. Face in the Crowd, Fooled Again (I Don't Like It), Here Comes My Girl.
Aimee: Have you been working on any new projects lately you'd like us to know about?
Phil: Just put a record called "Now Playing" with Jim Wilson (Dan Lanois, Emmylou, Sparks) and getting ready to release an EP with him as well. I produced and played drums and percussion. It was recorded at my studio, Robust Recordings. Playing gigs with Terry Reid, Jason Sinay (who is in The Dirty Knobs with Mike Campbell), Waddy Wachtel Band, Marc Ford and others.
Aimee: What's your favourite flavour of ice cream?
Phil: Ha! Vanilla bean or black walnut.
A big 'thank you' to Phil for chatting with us!
You can find more info about him at philjonesdrums.com