For me, and countless others my age, it was “Damn the Torpedoes.” It was that record that turned me on to Tom Petty (and let’s not forget the Heartbreakers) for good.
Damn, that was a good album. And that’s exactly what it was back in the day — a vinyl record album. That was before CDs. Heck, cassette tapes hadn’t been around that long.
The year was 1979. I was in my first semester out of the college dorms and in a campus apartment with three friends. One of my roommates bought “Damn the Torpedoes,” and we wore out the grooves.
I even remember when my mom came down to pick me up for Christmas break at the end of the semester. She asked me what was new. I looked at my roomie and said, “I found Tom Petty.”
I was joking, but then again I wasn’t. Discovering Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was one of the most consequential things that happened to me at that time in my life — or at least it seemed that way to me at the time. And nearly 25 years later, the residual impact of that first impression still lingers.
I can still recite the lyrics to most of the songs on “Damn the Torpedoes” and the group’s other early albums. After wearing out “Damn the Torpedoes,” I went full speed ahead toward familiarizing myself with the whole T.P. and the H.B.s collection up to that point.
“Damn the Torpedoes” was a direct hit, but it was their initial disks, “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers” and “You’re Gonna Get it,” that blew me out of the water.
There was “Breakdown” and “American Girl” off the first, self-titled album, and “Listen to Your Heart” and “I Need to Know” off the second, which got a little bit of airplay on FM and college radio stations. But then there were all the other gems, such as “When the Time Comes,” “No Second Thoughts” and “Hurt” that I had never heard before.
Wow. I was hooked for life.
I few years later, I saw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in concert. Two decades later, I plan to see them again when they perform at the Journal Pavilion on Thursday, Aug. 22. Jackson Browne will open the show.
The heart of the Heartbreakers’ lineup remains intact. Mike Campbell, who us Heartbreaker fans know to be one of the most unheralded great guitar players of all time, is still with the group. An early review of the Petty Tour singles out Campbell trading riffs with Petty and his solo on “It’s Good to Be a King,” a song to be on the group’s next album, due out in October, as a “show stopper.”
Other original members, guitarist Howie Epstein and Benmont Tench over on the keyboards, are still with the band. And back after a 20-year absence is the group’s original bassist, Ron Blair.
Newcomer Steve Ferron handles the drumming duties, and “auxilliary Heartbreaker” Scott Thurston joins the group for the tour.
The set list for this tour includes many of the group’s greatest hits, including “Running Down a Dream,” “Free Falling” and “Last Dance with Mary Jane,” and several songs I never heard of, which, presumably, are off the new album — er, CD, “The Last D.J.”
For all of us who got hooked on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers records, tapes or CDs in the past 20-some years, we’re glad we haven’t heard the last of T.P. and the H.B.s and are looking forward to seeing them and hearing them again. We found Tom Petty, and he remains close to our hearts.
The fact the Jackson Browne opens the show is a big bonus. A couple years before I discovered Tom Petty, I discovered Jackson Browne in similar fashion.
I think it was my sister who bought “The Pretender,” Browne’s 1976 release that propelled him to stardom with the hit single “Here Come Those Tears.”
I was still in high school then. But when I got to college and had access to the assorted record collections of my dorm-mates, I realized I hadn’t heard the best of Browne.
“Before the Deluge” and “For a Dancer” are incredible songs from his first album, “Late for the Sky.” “For Everyman” featured “Take it Easy,” which he wrote but was made popular by the Eagles; “These Days,” which will tear your heart apart; and “Red Neck Friend,” which was a whole lotta fun.
Though Browne has occasionally surfaced with popular recordings over the last two decades, he hasn’t been heard from much lately. But Browne has a new recording, “The Naked Ride Home,” due for release next month.
Browne’s songs are more introspective and mellower than the music of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. That should make for a nice complement of music on the 22nd. Browne’s soft stuff will set you up for Petty and the Heartbreakers to rock.