Ch. #37 – “Our simple mortal coils”


Unfortunately there has been a bit of an unintended lull on what’s suppose to be a weekly series, but I have had some milder turmoil in my personal life and with my relationships the last few weeks which have left me emotionally drained to the degree that I have just not been able to keep up with “Rambling in B-flat” as I want to and had promised myself.

So this piece is me trying to get the show on the roll again, not just for the blog’s sake but also attempting to restore some kind of balance to my life. And at this moment I couldn’t think of any better song for this purpose than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers‘ 4-chord classic anthem about ups and downs of our mortal coils, “Learning to Fly“.

It’s a fitting song for today not only because I have recently been listening to this little gem a lot in the past days; seeking comfort from the soft guitars and amazing harmonies and solace from the unassuming but wise word of the lyrics.

It’s sadly also fitting because just the other week marked another year since the passing of front figure and principal song writer Tom Petty; now tallying 2 years since the one of a kind musician left us in early October 2017.

In recent years a lot of great artists have regrettably left us sooner than anybody had liked. Prince, David Bowie and Chris Cornell are a few but far from all on that sad list. Seeing a lot of these people go that I have looked up to in one way or another have left an impact on me, but few to the degree as Tom Petty. There are few artist’s whose work I have listened to as much during my life so far and few to have inspired me so much into not only playing music myself but also dabbling with the idea of creating songs of my own than that of Tom Petty. Upon learning of his demise and realizing that he’s not around to play anymore shows or to to treat us all with another masterfully crafted song left me heartbroken.

“Learning to Fly” remains to date on my of absolute favorite songs penned by Petty, all of his musical project accounted for. I have already praised the unassuming yet so dense lyrics and the cool guitars on the track, both acoustic and electric. Those are just so great. But what equally if not even more fascinates me about this song is the utterly simple template it’s based on.

As I mentioned in the beginning, it’s just 4 freaking chords that loops around and around through out the song. It’s a F-chord, C-chord, A Minor-chord and a G-chord (a variant of the doo-wop progression/chords for those with a little insight in music theory). No more, no less.

Mind you I’m underlining this not as a critique or to be condescending; I’m stating this in awe and in sublime appreciation.

To me this song really encapsulates one of the strongest hallmarks and brilliance of Tom Petty as a song writer; K.I.S.S. As in “Keep it simple, stupid”. Don’t mess around and add a bunch of bells and whistle that ultimately detracts from what you want the song to say or the message the song is meant to carry. Keep it simple and put in just the building block the song needs, and let the songs grow on it’s own.

If someone ask me what’s so great about Petty’s song writing I usually thrown them “Learning to Fly” or “Free Falling” their way. This idea of simple basics is so clear in these songs yet they carry an unfathomable amount of emotions that I think astonish most listeners how relatively little the songs are actually based on when they analyze the songs a little deeper. At least that was my reaction.

There is definitely something to be said about the beauty and awe that complex song structures and instrumentation can bring, but I would without hesitation say that there’s equally, if not more, awe-inspiring about creating something deep with so few parts. I could go on about this but I feel this could be a topic of its own for a later date. For now as I soar on hopefully being able to leave the turmoil of my mortal coil behind for now I leave you with this quote from another high-flyer:

Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


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