Imagine, for a moment, that you’re in a studio working on a new album, sat next door to the legendary Beatle Ringo Starr, eagerly expecting to meet his former bandmate, John Lennon. You’re incredibly excited to introduce yourself to one of the most influential artists of all time then, suddenly, you receive the worst news imaginable: John Lennon has been killed, gunned down outside his home in New York City. That’s how December 8th, 1980, played out for Tom Petty.
“I was working with Jimmy Iovine, who was a friend of John’s,” petty recalled in the book Conversations with Tom Petty. “And Ringo was working next door that week. The talk right around that time was that John was coming to sing on Ringo’s album. So we were kind of jazzed up, thinking we were going to meet John.”
Petty was, of course, not alone in his love and admiration for the Fab Four. Their music reached out to millions, selling approximately 600 million units worldwide with hits like ‘Here Comes The Sun’, ‘Come Together’, ‘Yesterday’ and countless others. “They were the first people we could relate to who showed us that your dreams were within your reach. That’s what I found so liberating about seeing The Beatles,” he added.
On Lennon’s final day alive, Petty was working on ‘A Woman In Love’ when he received a call. “We just thought it was nonsense,” he recalled in the book Conversations. “And then a call came right back in about 15 minutes that said that John’s dead”.
Lennon was shot dead by an unhinged fan just outside of his home, The Dakota, and was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital. After hearing the news, Tom Petty and his band could no longer concentrate on the job at hand. The tragic news was too much, and so they left the studio for the day, unable to write or record any longer. Instead, Petty and his band decided to pay tribute to the Liverpool legend and pay their respects in a what that can still be seen today.
“If you ever see a vinyl copy of Hard Promises, etched in the run-out groove, you’ll see, ‘We love you, J.L.’ We etched it in the groove at the mastering plant,” Petty mentioned in the book.
Petty went on to perform with the other Beatles and even became close friends with them. He still, however, massively admired them, and at times, couldn’t believe that he was in the same room as his idols. “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,” petty added when speaking to Guitar World Magazine.
Petty concluded: “I know I might sound jaded, but I don’t think anything could ever grab us in quite the same way.”