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Tom Petty, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Tom Petty lyrics, Tom Petty "Free Falling"
Tom Petty
Entertainers Home / Bullz-Eye Home

ALSO: Don't miss John's Tom Petty Deep Cuts, his list of Essential Tom Petty, and our review of Conversations With Tom Petty. Then, head on over to ESD Music and let your voice be heard.

Tom Petty was born and raised in northern Florida, where he had some success in one of his first bands, Mudcrutch, which included two more future Heartbreakers – guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench. The group moved to California around 1970 in the hopes of getting a record contract. They were able to do so, but the group splintered and it wasn’t until 1975 that Petty reunited with Campbell and Tench, who were playing with bassist Ron Blair and drummer Stan Lynch in a band called the Heartbreakers. Petty still had his original record deal, so they recorded an album under the moniker “Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers” and the legendary rock outfit was born.

It was only after a few successful tours of Europe that their self-titled debut finally took off in the U.S. behind rock radio staples “Breakdown” and “American Girl.” The group was initially pigeonholed into the new wave and punk movement, but the band was more influenced by the Byrds, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. They took the best of rock & roll up to that time and combined it with Petty’s nasal, Dylan-esque vocals to generate their own unique sound. The Heartbreakers’ second album, You’re Gonna Get It, rode two excellent singles – “Listen To Her Heart” and “I Need To Know” – to give the group their first Top 40 album in the U.S., despite the fact that the album has one of the worst covers of all time.

The band’s third effort, Damn The Torpedoes, was its artistic and commercial breakthrough, containing four great singles -- “Refugee,” “Here Comes My Girl,” “Even The Losers” and “Don’t Do Me Like That.” The record made Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers a household name. The group ran into problems with their record company over the pricing of their next album, Hard Promises. Their label, MCA, wanted Hard Promises to be the first album with a price of $9.98. Petty was adamant that it be priced at $8.98. He eventually won this standoff and his stubborn stance kept industry-wide prices down for a few more years. Promises wasn’t the hit that Torpedoes was, but with the single “The Waiting” along with fan favorites “A Woman In Love” and “Insider,” the record was still a solid effort.

Over the next five years, the group released three decent studio albums – Long After Dark, Southern Accents and Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) – along with the group’s first and only live album, Pack Up The Plantation. It was during this period that the group became one of the first rock acts to truly embrace videos and the potential of MTV, releasing complex, story-driven videos for “You Got Lucky” and “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” The video for the latter, which Petty wrote with ex-ELO’er Jeff Lynne, is especially memorable due to its psychedelic, Alice in Wonderland storyline, where Petty plays the Mad Hatter.

After Let Me Up, Petty started to spend more time writing with Lynne, with the goal of creating something different. The result of this collaboration (along with Mike Campbell, who co-produced the album with Lynne) was Petty’s solo masterpiece, Full Moon Fever. Fever sounded a lot like a Heartbreakers’ album, but Lynne’s presence brought along acoustic guitars and those great ELO harmonies, making the album very radio-friendly. The record had a number of singles – “I Won’t Back Down,” “Running Down a Dream” and “Love Is a Long Road” – but it was the monster hit “Free Fallin’” that struck a chord with young people everywhere, and earned Petty a slew of new fans.

Petty and Lynne took the formula that worked on Fever and used it on the next Heartbreakers’ album, Into The Great Wide Open, which was released in 1991. The album wasn’t as big as its predecessor, but it still went double-platinum behind several great songs - “Learning To Fly,” “Kings Highway” and the title track.

In 1993, the band released their first greatest hits package. As part of their agreement with MCA, the band had to include two new songs, which were a cover of an old Thunderclap Newman song, “Something In The Air,” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” That begs the question - when was the last time that an artist released a song of the caliber of “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” as a bonus track on a greatest hits compilation?

Since the last two records were fairly similar, Petty decided to go with a scaled-back, solo effort for his next effort, Wildflowers. Petty brought in uber-producer Rick Rubin, who helped to coax out some of the songrwriter’s very best work. Driven by the hit single, “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” the album has several other great songs, including the acoustic title track and the eventual fan-favorite, “Honey Bee.” Like Fever, just about every song on Wildflowers is strong.

In 1995, the group released Playback, a six-disc box set covering the bands hits, rarities, live versions and B-sides. The highlight of this set is the sixth disc, Nobody’s Children, which has several fantastic songs (including “Waiting For Tonight” and “You Come Through”) that were left off the group’s last few releases.

Wildflowerswas supposed to be a double album, so Petty had some leftovers that he used for the soundtrack of the Ed Burns’ movie, She’s The One, in 1996. The soundtrack didn’t receive a lot of attention, but “Walls (Circus)” received radio airplay. The Wildflowers castoffs – particularly “California,” “Hope You Never” and “Angel Dream” – make the soundtrack an important (if uneven) Heartbreakers’ release.

Petty’s output (along with the Heartbreakers’) during the seven-year span from 1989 (Full Moon Fever) to 1996 (She’s The One) was incredible. According to this writer’s iTunes ratings, Petty released a staggering 42 four- and five-star songs during that period.

After a three-year hiatus, the group released Echo, which was a hit with the critics but only a modest commercial success. Though there are several good songs on the album, the two main singles – “Room At The Top” and “Free Girl Now” – received most of the radio airplay. In 2002, the group released The Last DJ, which was critically panned. For a portion of the album, Petty railed against corporate rock, taking on both the labels and the radio conglomerates. While there is definitely some good music to be heard on DJ, it was unfortunate that the focus was more on Petty’s message.

Since 2002, the group has continued to tour and is currently putting together an album for release sometime in 2006.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers On The Web

TV Guide: Tom Petty
Tom Petty Videos, Interviews and More on TV Guide's Online Video Guide

Tom Petty.com
The official website of the veteran rocker.

The music channel's page offers updated news, a complete discography, videos, and more.

The Vox Lounge
A super-cool fan page dedicated to news, picture galleries, tour info, and a lyrics archive.

The ultimate source for entertainment news on Tom and his band.




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