From Reckless Abandon, which comes out on this Friday, November 20, with a live-streamed show from The Troubadour
“Tom has always been my beacon,” said Mike Campbell of his longtime friend, bandmate and co-writer of classic songs from “Refugee” to “You Wreck Me” and beyond.
Mike, the guitar heart of The Heartbreakers, the one whose amazing playing delighted, enthralled and never failed to amaze Tom Petty, still carries that beacon, for which we Heartbreakers fans are grateful forever. Times have been mighty dark, and without Tom especially, that light is needed more than ever. Mike and The Knobs are bringing it with the same love and purity as always here in the single, “Irish Girl,” which we’re happy to share today. It’s the first single from their new album, Wreckless Abandon, produced by Mike and George Drakoulias. It comes out on November 20.
The Heartbreakers was Tom Petty’s band, but one in which he got the greatest musicians to play with him. Mike Campbell’s playing – the power, the passion, the rock foundation, the giant diversity of styles at his fingertips always – defined and graced Tom’s songs from the start . He also was overflowing with his own music, starting with tracks to which Tom wrote masterpieces, such as “Refugee” and “You Wreck Me.” They were brothers onstage for more than 40 years. But also brothers inside the songs and the records.
For forty full years, The Heartbreakers reigned as one of America’s last truly great rock & roll bands. And the roll, as Tom mentioned often, was every bit as important as the rock. By which he meant it wasn’t only about the song’s tempo or volume which mattered. It was also about the soul of the thing. The feel.
That feel is alive as ever in the music Mike makes with the Dirty Knobs, which doesn’t diverge from the essential sound of The Heartbreakers as much as it celebrates and builds on the legacy he helped establish. Which is great and righteous, as Mike Campbell, the guitar hero always of the Heartbreakers, did so much to shape and define that essence. Even on Tom’s solo albums, projects on which he could invite any musician in the world to play (and Tom knew some pretty good ones), he always enlisted Mike. The multitudes of Mike that is, as he played a wide spectrum of guitar – from clean bluesy slide lines, to the most raucous, unchained, screaming solos.
The music of The Knobs – aka the DKs – shares the same sonics and textures as a Heartbreakers album, especially that same friendly tenderhearted touch on top of a solid deep-pocket foundation. It’s there in the warm organic sound of strummed acoustic guitar, which evokes the spirit of the “Wildflowers” era. And very much in the vocals – the phrasing and inflection – which is so close to the sound of Tom’s vocals. Especially those on his later albums – from Full Moon Fever forward – that resonant, relaxed, unforced delivery, with little to no reverb at all, so that the words come across with clarity without being too loud.
Tom was amazed by how much Mike’s vocals sounded like his. For years, their pattern had been that Mike would write music only, and give Tom tapes with many tracks of music, to which he’d write words and a melody to fit. But after some time, Mike started writing the whole song, words and music both. He wrote “I Don’t Want To Fight” during the time of Echo, which he taped for Tom. His tapes used to be all music, and this was different because it was all there, the whole song, vocal, everything.
To that song, Tom said he added one line only, “I’m a lover, lover, lover” to the end of the chorus, which was a brilliantly simple, funny and hip way of closing that section. But except for that change, he felt it was right and that Mike should do the vocal, which he did.
The surprising part is that nobody could tell it wasn’t Tom singing. It’s that close.
“Losing Tom was earth-shattering for me. It was a total shock,” Mike said, “It had felt like we would be playing together forever. For a while it was hard to imagine playing in my own band again, let alone one where I’m the frontman… But everything I’ve been doing since Tom passed, including this album with The Dirty Knobs, is in the spirit of honoring what we did together.”
And with this song which connects back to Tom. After all those years of playing Tom’s classic “American Girl,” which was the last song the band played live at their final show on September 25 of 2017 at the Hollywood Bowl. Now this continental shift, this loving, global leap over the big pond.
“Irish Girl is my favorite lyric on the record,” says Campbell. “It’s whimsical and more poetic than most of the Knobs’ songs. I was inspired to write it driving home late one-night listening to Van Morrison on the radio. When I got home, the song just came to me. It’s very simple musically and I love the sound of the record. It reminds me of Ireland.”
The stop motion video is directed by animator Steven Mertens (Sheryl Crow, Regina Spektor, Dan Auerbach).
Listen to the song here HERE
Videos by American Songwriter
The track appears on the band’s debut album, Wreckless Abandon, which is out on Friday, November 20. Wreckless Abandon is available for pre-order HERE.