The Waiting

The Waiting – Spotify

The Waiting – YouTube

How do you follow up a hit album?

That’s the dilemma Bruno Mars is facing and it appears he’s failing the test. Music is frequently best when it’s a Rorschach test, when you think less and just react. Imagine what music would sound like if it was done quickly, on inspiration as opposed to contemplation, once you’re worried about getting it right, you often get it wrong.

And when Tom Petty put out “Damn The Torpedoes” most people had no idea who the man was, or considered him to be a minor artist with a cult hit, “Breakdown,” and a mild, more poppy one, “Listen To Her Heart,” they were unprepared for what came next, the delayed third LP, after the bankruptcy proceedings, the one that started off with a bang, from the moment “Refugee” emanated from the dashboard you were hooked, it reached out and grabbed you without caring at the same time, what a conundrum, but that’s Petty’s genius, the ability to be so personal yet distant, it’s like we’re watching his life through a hole in the wall.

Actually, my favorite cut on “Damn The Torpedoes” is “Here Comes My Girl,” and if I’m completely honest, I prefer the debut, produced by Denny Cordell, it’s darker, like a hot, steamy Florida night. It feels like a blacker Richard Linklater film, a whole world you’re peeking at while the sweat is dripping down your neck.

But once “Damn The Torpedoes” went big, then what?

Now interestingly, Petty had more peaks, but they didn’t come soon. In 1985, “Don’t Come Around Here No More” was a surprise hit, bolstered by MTV. And then when the band was cold, Petty went solo and became a superstar with “Full Moon Fever,” come on, who doesn’t feel good when they hear “Free Fallin'”?

But now it was 1981, two years after “Damn The Torpedoes,” and Petty had to measure up, prove himself again.

And he didn’t.

The irony is he gave the best track away, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” was a gigantic hit for Stevie Nicks, it made her solo career, and TP and his Heartbreakers ultimately released their demo on 1995’s “Playback” and it was just as good but “Hard Promises” suffered without it.

Not that “Hard Promises” wasn’t good, it just wasn’t as good as “Damn The Torpedoes.”

It’s really about side one. The highlight is “A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me)” which is about as good as Petty gets, and the following tracks, “Nightwatchman,” “Something Big” and “Kings Road” carried through, but it was the opener that got all the airplay…

Oh baby don’t it feel like heaven right now
Don’t it feel like something from a dream

With a Byrds-like intro setting you up, the above words cut right to the chase, telling a love story we all live at least once, when we’re infatuated, when romance is new. And I’ve got nothing bad to say about the track, I love it, BUT LINDA RONSTADT KILLS IT!

That’s right, Petty is the outsider, the loner, it’s a peek into his little world, whereas Ronstadt makes it for everyone, she belts and blows the top off and the darkness is eviscerated and you end up with a celebration that is not solely male, but one that’s inclusive, that resonates for everyone!

You’ve probably never heard her rendition. After all, this was the nineties, after the experimentation, Broadway and the standards and Mexican excursions. 1995’s “Feels Likes Home” was a return to what once was when people no longer cared. Released in the seventies it would be a smash, but twenty years later it’s a curio.

Linda Ronstadt, a much-maligned superstar seemingly unknown by the younger generation who paid her dues and triumphed and became so big that the only thing she could do was to sidestep into new genres.

We had no idea who she was when she cut those hits with the Stone Poneys.

And then she had a solo career sans traction, until David Geffen rescued her, she worked with Peter Asher, and in one fell swoop she was everywhere, with “You’re No Good” and the album “Heart Like A Wheel.”

But the rap on Ronstadt was she was sans nuance, that it was like singing the telephone book, who knew what was to come, with Mariah Carey and the television divas. And I get the point, her take on Randy Newman’s “Sail Away” is laughable, with no sense of irony, no humor, eww…

But she self-corrected pretty fast, yet the critics wouldn’t cut her a break, because she was so good-looking and so successful.

But the public didn’t care what the critics thought, they embraced Linda, and never completely let go until she called it quits herself.

Then again, she deserves credit for not playing the game. For speaking her mind on politics, for being unconcerned with body image. Think about that, Linda Ronstadt, seen as pure pop way back when has more of a backbone than anybody working today, when the big breakthrough is Alicia Keys not wearing makeup, when no one will take a stand for fear of alienating a potential customer.

So, Ronstadt’s version of “The Waiting” does not start off rockin’ and rollin’, it’s all acoustic…

But then Ronstadt begins to sing.

Oh baby don’t it feel like heaven right now
Don’t it feel like something from a dream

This is not an alienated guy finally revealing his truth, rather this is the well-known high school student, maybe even a cheerleader or school President, who is stepping up to the mic…AND BLOWING US AWAY!

Hey, I’ve never known nothing quite like this

Most of the rockers are male, the women tend to be balladeers, what to do about the person singing this song?  EMBRACE HER!

It’s a boy’s dream. The girl who can play baseball and get dolled up for the prom all at the same time, “The Waiting” is a roller coaster ride on a Saturday afternoon with your dream date, you’re pinching yourself, this is as good as it gets!

She’s still singing about chasing a couple of women around, but that makes no difference, you want to chase HER!

Can I bring you back? To an era where fashion was de minimis? Where it was all about blue jeans and a nice top? When beauty was more than skin-deep? Then you’d be in the seventies, when Linda Ronstadt ruled.

And whereas Petty’s take is dense and dark, the light is shining on Ronstadt’s, she’s right there in the open, she’s hiding NOTHING!

Yeah, then there were those that made me feel good
But never as good as I feel right now

She feels it too. She’s not an ice queen, not a wannabe in a porn video, not one of the social media nitwits, she’s a human being AND SHE’S IN LOVE!

Maybe with you.

Of course not, but listening to Linda Ronstadt sing “The Waiting” you feel…it’s exactly what you’ve been waiting for, someone you can fall in love with just like this!

And that’s what made Linda Ronstadt a star.

The waiting IS the hardest part, for what once was to come back.

It will, eventually, just a little bit different.

Boy bands are cyclical, and so are those who value talent, the ability to write, play and SING!

Never underestimate ability. We live in a world where everybody thinks they can fake it. Use auto-tune, get plastic surgery. But it’s authenticity we crave, not perfection. And when you’ve got the pipes, the skill, the look, and you evidence it, we cannot get enough of it!

So, what have we learned?

That it starts with the song, and they’re damn hard to write and we must revere those who come up with them.

And a great song can be sung by many, they can make it their own if they’ve got something to bring to it.

And what Linda Ronstadt brings to “The Waiting” is not only her raw talent, but the way she exhibits it, rides the throttle, decides to give us all she’s got without banging us over the head with it.

Don’t let it kill you babe, don’t let it get to you


She’s employing all the tools in her box. She knows the fakers are no challenge to those on the right side.

Once upon a time, we were all there on the right side of rock, led by people who thought getting it down on wax was the most important part. That everything else was just the trappings.

Come along for the ride. Listen to the picking, the pounding and the wailing. It’ll squeeze out the noise in your head. It’ll make you feel…

That the good times are coming if you can just wait long enough.

And she can do it live:

Linda Ronstadt – The Waiting (Letterman 3-21-95)

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