Friday, 22 June 2018

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Damn The Torpedoes (1979)


Released October 1979

Recorded in Hollywood

This was the album that “broke through” (to paraphrase Petty) for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. After two short but occasionally impressive albums, they really got their whatever together for this one. The first thing that hits you is how much better the sound is. It is now full, defined, powerful and with the bass given the oomph it needed. If only the debut album had been recorded like this, I am sure I would view it differently.


1. Refugee
2. Here Comes My Girl
3. Even The Losers
4. Shadow Of A Doubt (A Complex Kid)
5. Century City
6. Don't Do Me Like That
7. You Tell Me
8. What Are You Doin' In My Life?
9. Louisiana Rain                                            

The quality is there right from the off with the rousing, fist-pumper, “Refugee” with Petty on fine vocal form, far stronger than previously, and a killer hook. When you think it couldn’t get any better, it does, with the anthemic rocker, “Here Comes My Girl”. It was 1979 by now and punk sensibilities didn’t matter so much (not that they ever did to Petty, he just got lumped in with it all, by default). It was ok to produce solid Southern States rock and the public wanted it. The powerful “Even The Losers” is even more Bruce Springsteen circa the “Tracks” sessions era than “I Need To Know” from the previous album. “Shadow Of A Doubt (Complex Kid)” is incredibly like Graham Parker in its sneering vocal delivery. Petty’s voice is so much better now than the often bleating sound he gave us on the debut album. Even some bongos on the backing on this one and some searing lead guitar. Great stuff.

“Century City” sounds a lot like Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac”, speeded up, in places. It is another great rocker, though. You get the impression this is a band who have got it exactly as they want it now. This is as perfect as the debut album was frustrating. Next up is the wonderful piano intro to “Don’t Do Me Like That”, one of Petty’s best ever songs, for me. It rocks, majestically, from beginning to end. Petty’s voice has never sounded as good either. No bleating now, that’s for sure. This song never fails to impress me.

The mysterious “You Tell Me” is slow-paced, slow-burning slice of Southern bluesy rock. Some great guitar and swirling organ backing. The subtle, melodic bass is finally given the mastering it deserves on this album, too. Most noticeable on this track. Love this one. “What Are You Doin’ In My Life?” is a rocking tale of a girl stalking Petty around on tour, it seems. Again, it has serious Springsteen rocking intonations all through it and Graham Parker again, as well. Petty’s voice and the superb playing of The Heartbreakers always makes the tracks his own, however. The funny noises at the start of “Louisiana Rain” will have to startled for a split second before the track eventually, after a minute, launches into some majestic, marvellous bluesy rock. Big full sound and the track is quite lengthy, a nice change for Petty, as many of his earlier tacks ended too early. This is a great one, some mournful vocals in the verses and a kick posterior chorus part.  A wonderful guitar/harmonica part half way through. Petty never sounded better.


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