Our Inbound item on FedEx Express's pilot training program is named after the song "Learning to Fly" by the late, great Tom Petty (in image above, at right). The training aims to produce the next generation of cargo-plane pilots.
Tom Petty was born in Florida in 1950. Meeting Elvis Presley when Petty was 10 and seeing The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show at age 13 helped spark his interest in music. After his encounter with Presley, Petty traded a Wham-O slingshot for a stack of Elvis singles. He started playing music himself in high school. (For a while, he took guitar lessons from Don Felder, who was later to become lead guitarist for the Eagles.) He started playing professionally when he was just 14 and dropped out of high school at 17 to play in a band called Mudcrutch, which included future members of the group that eventually made him famous: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
The group's first album was released in 1976. It didn't get much notice at first, but when the band toured in the UK as an opening act for Nils Lofgren, the album starting selling there, and soon the group had its first two U.S. hits, "Breakdown" and "American Girl." The group went on to release a string of popular albums. Petty also released a few solo albums and for a time was part of the "supergroup" The Traveling Wilburys, along with Bob Dylan, George Harrison of The Beatles (more on them later), Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, and Roy Orbison. In fact, Petty and Lynne co-wrote "Learning to Fly" for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' 1991 album Into the Great Wide Open. It reached 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Petty became known as an advocate for artistic freedom, having battled his record label at times. He also did some acting, including a stint as one of Garry Shandling's neighbors in the late '80s/early '90s cult TV program It's Garry Shandling's Show and an episode of Shandling's long-running HBO series The Larry Sanders Show. He acted in a few movies, and, like many celebrities, played himself on an episode of the cartoon sitcom The Simpsons. More than one group has performed a song called "Tom Petty," including goth/metal band The Cult, country artist Adam Brand, and Swedish artist Kristian Anttila.
Petty died in October 2017, just a week after Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers finished a 40th anniversary tour.
A second rock reference was in the headline "PX, I love you," which appeared on an article about the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) installing a new warehouse management system in preparation for opening its "PX" e-commerce site to a larger customer base. (AAFES is now the 56th-largest retailer in the country.) It's a play on the early Beatles hit "P.S. I Love You."
Credited to band members John Lennon and Paul McCartney (although both have said McCartney wrote most, if not all, of it), "P.S. I Love You" was the flip side of the group's very first single, "Love Me Do," released in 1962. McCartney sang lead vocals on the song, which, as the title implies, takes the form of a letter written to a girlfriend. Some of its chord changes had never been heard in a rock record before, but after the Beatles introduced them, they went on to be used by such disparate artists as Abba and Black Sabbath, as explained in this video. Such musical innovations were typical of The Beatles, who had a huge influence on both their contemporaries and later artists alike. (Lady Gaga is a fan.)
Submit October answers by Nov. 15.
There were a few song-title references in our October issue. If you think you've IDed one or more, email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight Pacific time on Thursday, Nov. 15. If you don't have a copy of the magazine handy, just look through the headlines in our mobile version or online. If you guess the answer, you'll be entered into our drawing for a three-pack sampler of Joey Kramer's Rockin' & Roastin' Organic Coffee. Hints for October's answers: The Notwist or Bottleneck or Thousand Foot Krutch. (Please note: Previous contest winners may not enter for the next three months.)
Tom Petty photo by Larry Philpot. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.