This weekend marks a couple of milestones for Tom Petty. October 19 is the 34th anniversary of his Heartbreakers' classic album, Damn the Torpedoes, which is reason enough to break out the dusty old vinyl and belt out "Refugee" at the top of one's lungs. But more importantly, it's Tom's birthday. Yes, Mr. Petty was born a rebel on October 20, 1950, which of course makes him THE coolest 63-year-old on the planet. (Sorry, Dad. You didn't headline Bonnaroo this year. Tom did.)
So what makes Tom so agelessly cool? Well, many things. Too many to list here. But his decades-spanning videography makes a pretty strong case for his greatness. Way back when many of his classic-rock peers were pooh-poohing this new-fangled thingy called MTV, Tom embraced the music video medium, invited his fabulous friends (Johnny Depp, Kim Basinger, Ringo Starr) to the MTV party — and in one video, he even served some cake. Some really creepy cake.
To celebrate Tom's big day, let's have some video cake and watch it, too. Here are the man's most memorable music video moments, via the birthday GIFs that keep on giving.
"Don't Come Around Here No More" (watch it here)
This psychedelic, Wonderlandian classic was one of Tom's first truly epic videos. Along with an opening scene featuring the Eurythmics' Dave Stewart seated on a magic mushroom strumming a sitar, there was the scene where Alice (played by Heartbreakers drummer Stan Lynch's then-girlfriend) sloshed around in Mad Hatter Tom's teacup…
…and that time when she gave Tom indigestion…
…and then, of course, the freaky scene when Alice became a human sheet cake. For this video shoot, only one cake was baked, so the scene had to be done in one take. (Hey, that rhymes!) Luckily, Tom and his band aced this cake, and this scene.
"Last Dance With Mary Jane" (watch it here)
Well, no one can accuse Tom of making warm 'n' fuzzy Disney videos. When he wasn't cutting up cake-girls, he was dancing with corpse-girls. This VMA-winner starred A-list actress Kim Basinger as a dead lady who ends up being taken home by lonely morgue employee Tom for the weirdest, most Dickensian dinner date ever.
And yet somehow, even in this icky context, Tom managed to be charming. He and Kim made a cute couple, actually. Too bad there would be no second date.
"You Don't Know It Feels" (watch it here)
Speaking of cute couples, Tom and the mystery woman who briefly dueted with him here looked real good together. Who was she? No one knows for sure. Even a phone call to Tom's camp elicited the reply, "Her name's not in the production notes."
"Into the Great Wide Open" (watch it here)
Tom hit the Hollywood big-time with this Julien Temple-directed mini-movie, not only enlisting various silver-screen elite to be his video stars, but also stepping into multiple roles himself, including the "roadie named Bart." He also notably portrayed the grizzled tattoo artist who inked Johnny Depp…
…and he played the dorky newspaper reporter who interviewed Johnny's alter ego rock star, Eddie Rebel — with Faye Dunaway by nasty Eddie's side!
Oh, and did I mention that Terence Trent D'Arby made a cameo in this video, for reasons still unknown? Man, 1991 really was an awesome year.
"Make It Better" (watch it here)
This wasn't one of Tom's biggest hit singles or videos. But it did depict Tom crawling into some side-ponytailed, totally-'80s woman's papier-mâché earhole and getting attacked by a giant "American Gladiators"-looking Q-Tip. 1985 was a pretty awesome year for videos, too.
"Jammin' Me" (watch it here)
Tom got very meta in this clip, reaching into a TV screen WHILE ON A TV SCREEN to pull out a brimming fistful of green-screened, static-y goop. Sure, the effect looks cheap and cheesy now. Trust me, in 1987, it blew people's freakin' minds.
"Runnin' Down a Dream" (watch it here)
Tom was very partial to trippy-dippy videos in the '80s. When he wasn't climbing into new wave girls' craniums or playing with nuclear television waste, his cartoon likeness was being chased by evil steroidal rabbits. Good times.
"You Got Lucky" (watch it here)
And what '80s videography would be complete without a Mad Max-themed entry? Especially one in which an arcade game console gets demolished? This video made such an impression, even Michael Jackson, the King of MTV, was a major fan.
"Won't Back Down" (watch it here)
If there's anything cooler than impressing Michael Jackson with a music video, it's getting a couple of Beatles to appear in one. And that's just what Tom did for his first official solo video, which featured cameos by his fellow Traveling Wilbury, George Harrison, as well as by Ringo Starr. WOW, indeed.
"Free Fallin'" (watch it here)
Tom was born and raised in Florida, but he's now a California man. And it doesn't get any more Californian than "Free Fallin'," with its couplets about the San Fernando Valley, its skater-girl video babe (find out more about her here), and its scenes shot at the trendy Westside Pavilion mall. Tom made even mall-walking look cool. Happy birthday, Tom!