Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Rock band

For the Record

Smashed Band and Hand

Took a Solo Flight

Echoed Longevity

Selected discography

Tom Petty solo albums

Sources

After nearly twenty-five years and twelve albums together, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have not only maintained their creativity and friendship, they have all but out lived most other rock bands. The release of Echo in 1999 proves that Tom Petty and the Heart-breakers, according to Houston Chronicle reporter Bruce Westbrook, [are] no burned-out gang of geezers going through the motions, but a tight professional band bolstered by Pettys reliably strong material.

Tom Petty was born October 20, 1950, the son of a Gainesville, Florida homemaker and insurance salesman. His parents learned early on that Petty was a rebel. At age four, he insisted on going to town aloneand he did. By age 11, after visiting Elvis Presley on the set of Follow That Dream, Petty knew his dream was to become a rock and roll rebel. Pettys father Earl recalled on VH-1 s Behind the Music that he bought Petty a Sears and Roebuck guitarfortwenty-eight dollars and, he lived with that guitar, day and night. Petty formed his first band, the Sun Downers, in ninth grade. The band played at teen dances and parties for two years. After the Sun Downers broke up Petty joined the Epics, and then Mudcrutch. Two other members of Mudcrutch, guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench, would help Petty start the Heartbreakers in 1974.

In the fall of 1976, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released their self-titled debut album on Shelter Recordswhich was then sold to ABC records. Petty described the album to Rolling Stone reporter Fred Schruers as, a floodgate of influences of everything wed ever admired and against what we thought was wrong with the music of the time. The album was not an instant hit in the United States, but the song Anything thats Rock n Roll generated a huge fan reaction in England. Petty and the Heartbreakers opened for guitarist Nils Lofgren for several dates throughout England.

A few months later the band opened for the new wave band Blondie at the infamous Whiskey A Go-Go in Los Angeles. That was the break Petty and the Heartbreakers needed to catch the attention of American audiences. By the spring of 1978 the single Breakdown from theirdebut album jumped into the Top 40. That summer, Petty and the Heartbreakers released their second album, Youre Gonna Get It. The album was certified gold, but after ABC records sold Shelter to MCA, Petty was infuriated. Long time manager Tony Dimitkides told Behind the Music that Petty was not gonna be sold like a piece of meat.

Petty thought that he and the band should have control over their copy rights and royalty rates. MCA thought that

For the Record

Members include: Tom Petty (born October 20, 1950), singer, songwriter, guitarist; Ron Blair , bass (left group in 1982); Mike Campbell , guitar; Howie Epstein , bass (joined group in 1982); Stan Lynch , drums (left group in 1994); Benmont Tench , keyboards.

Group formed in 1975; signed with Shelter Records, released debut album Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976; under contract with ABC Records (who bought out Shelter), released Youre Gonna Get It, 1978; ABC Records sold to MCA, and after legal battles over copyrights, band declared bankruptcy to void contract with MCA; signed with Backstreet Recordsan affiliate of MCA, 1979; released, Damn the Torpedoes, (includes Refugee Dont Do Me Like That, and Here Comes My Girl), 1979; released Hard Promises, 1981; released Long After Dark, 1982; released Southern Accents and Pack Up The Plantation Live!, 1985; released Let Me Up (Tve Had Enough), (includes Jammin Me), 1987; Petty joined the Traveling Wilburys and released Traveling Wilburys, Vol. One, and first solo album, Full Moon Fever, 1989; Petty and the Heartbreakers regroup and released Into The Great Wide Open, 1991; release final album for MCA, Greatest Hits, 1993; signed with Warner Brothers, and Petty released, Wildflowers, 1994; released boxed set Playback, 1995; release Songs and Music from the Motion Picture Shes the One, 1996; released Echo, their twelfth album, 1999.

Awards: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers MTV Video Music Award, 1985 for Dont Come Around Here No More. Tom Petty (solo) ASCAP Songwriter Award for Free Fallin, 1990; Best Male Video for Mary Janes Last Dance, and Video Vanguard Award, 1994; Best Male Video and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance Grammy for You Dont Know How It Feels, 1995; ASCAP Golden Note Award and UCLAs George and Ira Gershwin Award, 1996; Bill Graham Lifetime Achievement Award, 1998.

Addresses: Record Company Warner Brothers, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505-4694.

the band should uphold their original contract with Shelter Recordswhich Mudcrutch, not Petty and the Heart breakers, signedand sued Petty. Petty held his ground, telling Behind the Music, the power we have is that we dont play. MCA countered by issuing subpoenas for all of Pettys notes and lyrics that he and the band were working on. Continuing to stand firm, Petty devised a novel defense; he would declare bankruptcy, thus voiding the bands contract with MCA. Petty told Behind the Music, I was pretty full of myself. Id just fought the record industry and won.

In 1979, after signing with Backstreet Records, ironically a label affiliated with MCA, Petty and the Heartbreakers released their breakthrough album, Damn the Torpedoes. This album included the hit singles, Refuge, Dont Do Me Like That, and Here Comes My Girl. Minneapolis Star Tribune writer Neal Justin called Damn the Torpedoes, an awesome collection of one pop classic after another. With the success of that album Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers became hugely popular.

However, another battle with MCA loomed. MCA decided that it would raise the price of the bands next album, Hard Promises, from $8.98 to $9.98. Petty was livid because, as he told Schruers, I never did this to make money. Petty publicly announced his outrage of the price hike, and MCA backed down. Hard Promises, as Justin noticed was one of the first times Petty takes the part of narrator, singing in third person about lovable losers. Hard Promises sold 1.5 million copies on the strength of the hit single, The Waiting.

Smashed Band and Hand

In 1982, Petty and the Heartbreakers followed up Hard Promises with Long After Dark, which included the smash hit, You Got Lucky. However, bassist Ron Blairtired of touringhad quit the band and was replaced by Howie Epstein. For the next year and a half, Petty and the Heartbreakers tou red non-stop to support Long After Dark. Finally off the road by late 1983, Petty decided to record the next album Southern Accents at his new home studio with no producer. Having no producer is like having no captain to steer a ship. The recording sessions became, as Petty recalled on Behind the Music, an ongoing party _and drugs had entered the picture._ [it was like] opening the devils door a bit. Thus, Petty and the Heartbreakers disappeared behind this devils door for a year until a punch was heard around the world.

In 1984, as the Southern Accents recording sessions dragged on, Petty lost his cool. He punched a wall with his left hand, and as he told Behind the Music, pulverized it. to powder. Doctors believed Petty would never play guitar again and the Heartbreakers began calling Petty, L.V. or Lead Vocalist. However, after surgery and nine months of physical therapy, Petty regained his ability to play. In the spring of 1985, Petty and the Heartbreakers began touring to support Southern Accents. Justin called the album, a rich autobiographical project that marks Pettys most mature moments as a songwriter and singer.

Southern Accents included the singles Rebels and Dont Come Around Here No More. The latter inspired an Alice in Wonderland themed music video that won Petty and the Heartbreakers an MTV Music Video Award. In 1985, Petty and the Heartbreakers performed at the first Farm Aid concert to support American farmers, backing up Bob Dylan. This performance led to a two year tour with the rock legend and a live album, Pack Up the Plantation as well as another smash single, Jammin Me for the bands 1987 album Let Me Up (Ive Had Enough).

Took a Solo Flight

In the summer of 1987, Petty met producer and ex-Electric Light Orchestra leader Jeff Lynne. Together without the Heartbreakersthey began writing Free Fallin, and in 1989 Petty released his first solo album, Full Moon Fever. The band was not happy. Guitarist Mike Campbell told Rolling Stone reporter Schruers that, groups are a very complicated thing. Its like a family, its like a business relationship, its a very emotional thing. You care about each other, and you tug just like brothers; youre jealous, and then you love each other.

Things became even more complicated when Petty joined Lynne, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and George Harrison as a member of the Traveling Wilburys. In 1988 the Traveling Wilburys released their debut album, The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. One, and in 1990 won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by Duo/Groupforthe hit single, Handle With Care. Questions regarding the bands fate remained unanswered when, in 1990, the Traveling Wilburys recorded their second album, The Traveling Wilburys, Vol.3and Petty began to record another solo album, Into the Great Wide Open.

That album became a group album, however, as Petty and the Heartbreakers regrouped and began touring. Into the Great Wide Open, with its hit single Learning to Fly, went platinum in 1991. In 1993, Petty and the Heart-breakers released Greatest Hits, which included two new songsone of which, Mary Janes Last Dance, earned the band another MTV Video Award. In 1994, drummer Stan Lynch, amidst rising tensions, left the band.

In 1994, Petty signed with Warner Brothers and released his second solo album, Wildflowers, which included the hit Free Fallin. Commenting on Wildflowers, Newsweeks Schoemerwrote, [Petty] captures people at their most confused, frightened or revealing moments. Sleazy guys pick on innocent girls; solid marriages go awry; friends let friends down, and still despair gives way to renewal. That same year a tribute album to Petty and the Heartbreakers, You Got Lucky, was released. Petty told Rolling Stones Schruers that he was very flattered, very moved by this cover album of the bands songs. Petty rejoined the Heartbreakers in 1995 to compile Playback, a boxed set of the bands hits. However, it would be the next album, Songs and Music From the Motion Picture Shes the One that would pull together Petty and the Heartbreakers for good.

Echoed Longevity

In 1996 Petty began writing a single song for the film, Shes the One. Fifteen songs later, Petty and the Heartbreakers had recorded their eleventh album, Songs and Music From the Motion Picture Shes the One. Petty had found a new love for his band, as he told Denver Post reporterG. Brown, They really make my work enjoyable and effortless. It was a healing experience for us, to be in there all involved together and feeling good about what we were doing. Petty continued, I dont know if Ill make many more solo albums. Im content to be in the group and do that for awhile. Ive had my flings. Ive come back to my old sweetheart.

In 1999, the band followed up the soundtrack with Echo. Petty told the Boston Globes Steve Morse that, we set out to make a rock n roll record this time _ we have such a good little rock n roll band, and I wanted to get them on record doing what they do best. Petty also continued his rebel ways when he refused to increase the cost of concert tickets, and by offering Echos first single, Free Girl Now, on the MP3 format which internet users could download for free. Warner Brothers, however, did not pick a fight with Petty.

Producer Jimmy lovine told Behind the Music that Petty is one of the most consistent songwriters Ive ever laid eyes on while Producer Rick Rubin stated, you dont really see great rock bands anymore, and they [Petty and the Heartbreakers] are a great rock band. Petty himself believed, I know Im better at what I do than I was when I was younger as a band were better. To the question of how long Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers would continue making albums, Petty told Behind the Music, I used to say that wed quit when we got to be 40 [now] lookin down the barrel at 50. I dont have any intention of quitting.

Selected discography

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Shelter, 1976.

Youre Gonna Get It, Shelter, 1978.

Damn the Torpedoes, MCA (Backstreet), 1979.

Long After Dark, MCA (Backstreet), 1982.

Southern Accents, MCA (Backstreet), 1985.

Pack Up the Plantation- Live!, MCA (Backstreet), 1985.

Let Me Up (Ive Had Enough), MCA, 1987.

Into the Great Wide Open, MCA, 1991.

Greatest Hits, MCA, 1993.

Playback (boxed set), MCA, 1995.

Echo, Warner Bros., 1999.

Tom Petty solo albums

Full Moon Fever, MCA, 1989.

Wildflowers, Warner Bros., 1994.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, Vol. 9, Gale Research.

Periodicals

Boston Globe, April 9, 1999.

Denver Post, September 1, 1996.

Houston Chronicle, April 11, 1999.

Newsweek, November 7, 1994.

Rolling Stone, May 4, 1995.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), September 8, 1995.

Online

Tom Petty, Rolling Stone Network: Random Notes, www.RollingStone.com (May 19, 1999).

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, www.tompetty.com/cmp/biomain.html (May 4, 1999).

Tom Petty, www.wallofsound.com (May 4, 1999).

Ann M. Schwalboski

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

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