The relationship between Tom Petty and Bob Dylan goes back further than their time in The Travelling Wilburys. In fact, the late great, Petty offered Dylan a safe place to ride out the hellish eighties.
During the decade Dylan struggled creatively. His desire for a chart-topping song left him bereaved of his usual aloofness and offered us a candied vision of the troubadour who once led us all in song.
Dylan may have been in the middle of a lull in his fandom and iconography but he found a home while touring with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers in 1986. In his 2004 memoir, Chronicles Dylan said of their working together, “I had no connection to any kind of inspiration. Whatever was there had all vanished and shrunk. Tom was at the top of his game and I was at the bottom of mine. Everything was smashed. I didn’t have the skill to touch their raw nerves, couldn’t penetrate the surfaces.”
The footage of the shows may beg to differ. It actually sees Dylan in full voice and nearing the top of his live game. Petty, it would seem, provided Dylan with a refuge to hide from his albums and embellish his live persona. While some of Dylan’s greatest hits were given their dues during the tour, below we’re taking a look at he and Petty breaking out a forgotten ’80s gem, ‘When The Night Comes Falling From the Sky’ at a show in Sydney, Australia.
The track was originally recorded in 1985 at the Power Station in New York alongside Steve Van Zandt, Max Weinberg and Roy Bittan from the E Street Band. The song was shelved after Dylan suggested it sounded too much like a Springsteen song. Unsurprising really with half of his band in the recording booth. This version was shelved for Empire Burlesque and, instead, it was re-recorded with Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Al Kooper, Stu Kimball and Bashiri Johnson.
It wasn’t until the unbelievably talented Heartbreakers took on the track for the 1986 tour that it really came to fruition. They add a bouncing vivaciousness that makes the cut for Empire Burlesque feel a touch pallid in comparison. It’s the same bounce that can be found in the footage below as Dylan and Tom Petty take on the forgotten ’80s gem while on tour.
For now, it remains one of the final times Dylan has ever played the song and a stark reminder of the joy Dylan and Petty found in one another.