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Music

The Beatles album that changed Tom Petty's life

The Beatles “changed everything” for Tom Petty, and they were the inspiration he needed to chase a career as an artist. Without their interference in his life, the world would be significantly worse off if it wasn’t for his work.

The first time he discovered the Fab Four was a moment which lived with Petty for the rest of his life. However, the Liverpudlians didn’t immediately make Petty want to go out and become a rockstar. Instead, that happened after he fell in love with Meet The Beatles, and the album single-handedly changed how Petty viewed music forever.

In 1964, Petty was one of the millions glued to the tiny television screen in their home to watch The Beatles make their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, which was his first introduction to the band. It was an instrumental moment in his life, and over 40 years later, the Heartbreaker remembered it in graphic detail like it was yesterday.

“Most magic is a trick, an illusion. But [when The Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show], this was real. Man oh man, was it real,” he told Music Radar in 2009. “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.”

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The excitement about the performance was palpable, and something extraordinary was brewing in the air. Petty added: “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’.”

Following the show airing and seeing The Beatles in the flesh, albeit on television, Petty needed to hear more from the band. The singer couldn’t get enough of the group, and he soon went out to buy a copy of Meet The Beatles, which became his prized possession.

Petty continued: “[At school] you either had a copy of Meet The Beatles or you didn’t, and if you didn’t it was like something was wrong with you. Come to think of it, that was the first time an LP was a significant thing. Up till then people only bought singles. But with Meet the Beatles, that was a record you really wanted to listen to – both sides of it.”

Meet The Beatles was their second album released in the United States and spent a staggering 11 weeks perched at the top of the Billboard Chart following its release in 1964. It was more than just a record for Petty, and Meet The Beatles was his version of the Bible. Without that album, he’d perhaps have never sought out a career as a musician.