Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have been making great music since the release of their self-titled album in 1976. I’m sure they were doing it well before then too, but the listening public has been aware of the music since then. The release of that album launched the careers of a band of musicians, led by Tom Petty, who play songs that have become a part of the fabric of our very existence. That debut album included the hits “Breakdown” and “American Girl,” but those are just the two most everybody knows. The album also includes the still-memorable and highly infectious “Strangered in the Night.”
The next album, “You’re Gonna Get It” (1978) featured two classics, “I Need to Know” and “Listen to Her Heart,” both of which are still played by the band today. “My Baby’s a Rock ‘N’ Roller” and “Magnolia” are other standout tracks, Like the first album, this album helped further cement the sound that would become Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
The next album, “Damn the Torpedoes” (1979) plays like a greatest hits record. “Refugee,” “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Even the Losers,” and “Here Comes My Girl” all cam from this masterpiece. A 2010 deluxe edition of this album is worth the purchase. It includes unreleased stuff, live stuff, alternate takes, and demos.
As a songwriter, Tom Petty is one of the best. He writes most of his stuff himself and does some co-composing with his excellent guitarist Mike Campbell. He has co-written with others through the years, but for the most part, Tom does a lot of the songwriting himself. I won’t go album by album, but a few of the songs he’s responsible for writing include “The Waiting” from the album “Hard Promises,” “Deliver Me,” “Change of Heart,” and “You Got Lucky” (written by Petty and Campbell) from the “Long After Dark album, and “Rebels,” “Southern Accents,” and “Don’t Come Around Here No More” (written by Petty and Dave Stewart) from the “Southern Accents” album. Those are just some of his songs with the Heartbreakers. I could add more, including “Learning to Fly” and “Into the Great Wide Open” written with Jeff Lynne for the album “Into the Great Wide Open.” There’s no end to the hits.
Tom Petty also made a few solo albums, including the highly successful “Full Moon Fever” which featured “Free Fallin,” “I Won’t back Down,” and “Runnin down a Dream.” As if all of this isn’t enough, Tom Petty Petty and Mike Campbell co-wrote “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” for the Stevie Nicks debut solo album “Bella Donna” (1981). He also wrote and performed with the Traveling Wilburys, a band that featured Petty, Jeff Lynne (ELO), Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Roy Orbison.
In a recent Rolling Stone interview Tom Petty talked about doing a new Mudcrutch album. Mudcrutch is a band formed by Petty and guitarist Tom Leadon in 1970 (before the Heartbreakers). Petty played bass in this band. The Heartbreakers were formed from the fragments of Mudcrutch and some of the Heartbreakers play in the band today. He also stated he has no intention of making another solo album because he’d just call the Heartbreakers to play on it anyway.
No matter who Tom Petty performs with, I’ll be listening. One of my favorite songwriters and performers of all time.
- Tom Petty – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica (1976–present)
- Mike Campbell – lead guitar, bass, keyboards, mandolin (1976–present)
- Benmont Tench – piano, organ, synthesizers, backing vocals (1976–present)
- Ron Blair – bass, backing vocals (1976–1982, 2002–present)
- Scott Thurston – rhythm guitar, bass, harmonica, ukulele, lap steel guitar, synthesizer, backing vocals (1991–present)
- Steve Ferrone – drums, percussion (1994–present)