Tom Petty shared a tight-knit bond with George Harrison from The Beatles and were bandmates in the Traveling Wilbury’s. Following his friend’s death, he befittingly unleashed a cover of The Fab Four in tribute to his close confidante.
Becoming friends with a Beatle was a surreal experience for Petty, who had the band to thank for his love affair with music, which instantly transformed his life. Before his death in 2017, he described his first experience of The Beatles with fondness, saying: “I think the whole world was watching that night. It certainly felt that way – you just knew it, sitting in your living room, that everything around you was changing. It was like going from black-and-white to colour. Really.”
He then elaborated on that intense emotion, “I remember earlier that day, in fact, a kid on a bike passed me and said, ‘Hey, The Beatles are on TV tonight.’ I didn’t know him, he didn’t know me – and I thought to myself, ‘This means something.’”
To go from a crazed fan to a bandmate of one of The Beatles is something that millions have dreamed about, yet, few have achieved, and Petty is part of that illustrious exclusive club. It was a dream come true for him, and the emotion that fills this performance of ‘I Need You’ shows just how much Harrison meant to him.
“Getting to know George and actually being in a band with him, that’s one of those ‘pinch me’ moments in life,” he once recalled. “You try not to think about it, and there’d be times we’d all in the room playing together, and then out of nowhere it pops into your head, ‘Oh my God, I’m playing with one of The Beatles!’ That’s usually when I’d hit a wrong chord.
“When you think about the ’60s you can’t not think The Beatles. George knew he was part of history, and he was pretty cool about it, as cool as a person could be, I imagine. I would ask him questions about what it was like, Shea Stadium, the Maharisi, Sgt Pepper – how could I not?”
Their friendship was sincere; despite the band only being a brief experience for both men, it was a thrilling and unforgettable endeavour. Harrison’s death tormented Petty, and his pain bleeds into this tribute to his fallen friend.
Being asked to be in Harrison’s new group alongside the legendary figures Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison shows the love was mutual between the pair. Furthermore, this footage was taken from the ‘Concert For George’ after his death. That extra weight of significance didn’t bring Petty down as he poured every fibre of his being into this heartwrenching performance of ‘I Need You’.