Chris Hillman’s New Album May Contain Tom Petty’s Final Recordings
Depending on what material is in the vaults, there’s a fairly good chance that Byrds cofounder Chris Hillman‘s new album Bidin’ My Time, which hit the shops about a month ago, includes the final recordings made by Tom Petty. As well as producing the album, Hillman’s late Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame mate played harp on Given All I Can See, and guitar on Hillman’s version of the Byrds nugget Here She Comes Again.
In a media release, Hillman says, “I loved Tom so much. He was such a blessing in my life. Tom touched everyone with his beautiful music. I am praying for his family, bandmates and friends.”
Hillman says that Petty was one of the people who convinced him to create the new album. “I didn’t think I would ever make another record,” he says. “This just came along through Herb [Pedersen] and Tom Petty … after I had a long conversation with Tom in the fall, November, I said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?,’ and he was, ‘Do you want me to?’ I said, ‘Well, yeah, can you make the commitment?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, do you want me to do this?’ ‘Of course I’d love to work with you.’ He said, ‘Great, we’ll use my old studio and everything.’ I told him the budget, which wasn’t’ very much, and he says, ‘That’ll be interesting …’ But all in all it was a joy. I’ve never had as much fun recording.”
It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s a fan of chiming guitars that Petty and Hillman have been tight for a long time. Hillman says he’s always been appreciative of Petty’s recognition of The Byrds as an influence on his music. “Tom has always acknowledged the Byrds in the early part of his career. He cut a couple of our songs, ‘Feel A Whole Lot Better’ and ‘Rock and Roll Star’ on a live album and he really nailed ’em, just so much excitement. And he’s a great guy. I knew him from 1978 when the Heartbreakers were starting to break. I really got to know him on this project and it’s hard for me to look at Tom as a true rock star that he is, and he is such a humble guy and he loves music and understands and loves all kinds of music, which I like. So as a producer he was fantastic.”
The closing track on Bidin’ My Time is Hillman’s version of Petty’s Wildflowers, which he and Pedersen performed at the MusiCares Person Of The Year bash honoring Petty earlier this year. “After that I said, ‘We should cut this song ’cause it’s so comfortable for me to sing it,” Hillman says. “It wasn’t any kind of ‘Thanks for producing us, Tom. Here, we’re gonna do one of your songs’ thing. I was hoping it would meet his approval, and he loved how we did it. It’s such a great song.”