Tom Petty: In Memoriam



Tom Petty live 2012

Evan Moyer, Staff Reporter

Tom Petty was one of the breakthrough artists in the 1970’s with his band, “The Heartbreakers”. Growing up in Gainesville, Florida, his father was abusive, but his mother was very supportive of him and his dreams. He left school at age seventeen to pursue his dream of being a rockstar. His first band, Mudcrutch didn’t do so well. Then he founded The Heartbreakers with long time friend Mike Campbell. Their first album “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers” produced the two hits that are still being played on classic rock radio to this day. The two hits were “Breakdown” and the instantly recognizable “American Girl”.

Their sophomore album, “You’re Gonna Get It!”, reached number 23 on the Billboard Top LP’s and Tapes chart in 1978. The press rated it lower than their debut album, the rock magazine Rolling Stone said that there was “impressive stylistic cohesiveness” between the two records. After the slump of their sophomore album, the Heartbreakers released what was to be their best album, “Damn the Torpedoes” and produced their most recognizable song, “Refugee” that went to number 15 on the Billboard Top 100, and  “Don’t Do Me Like That” that went to number 10. It was ranked number 313 on the top 500 greatest albums of all time. Petty’s dream seemed to be granted, but his band would only get bigger as time passed.

In 1981, the Heartbreakers “Hard Promises” was rated on The Rolling Stone Album Guide, a three out of five and included a duet with Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks on the song “Insider”. 1982’s “Long After Dark” spawned another Heartbreakers MTV hit, “You Got Lucky” with it’s catchy synth riff and the drum beat it was featured on the Billboard top 40. It was also the first to feature the late bassist Howie Epstein on background vocals. Moving forward to 1985’s “Southern Accent” which produced the hit song, “Don’t Come Around Here No More” which featured electric sitar, and an “Alice in Wonderland” inspired music video.

Fast Forward to 1989, Tom Petty was no longer with the Heartbreakers but doing solo work for his “Full Moon Fever”. The album produced the essential Petty song, “Free Falling”, along with “Running Down a Dream” and “I Won’t Back Down”. It peaked at no. 3 on the U.S Billboard top 200. Two years go by and Petty produced another album, this time with the Heartbreakers and ELO frontman Jeff Lynne producing. The album “Into the Great Wide Open” scored two major hits, “Learning to Fly” and the title track “Into the Great Wide Open”. The music video to “Into the Great Wide Open” featured young Johnny Depp as a runaway rocker to chase his dream.

Petty went on his own again for 1994’s solo album “Wildflowers” in which created two new hits, the title track, and “You Don’t Know How It Feels”. I haven’t seen Petty live, but I have been hypnotised by his songs, rest easy Tom.