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reDiscover Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ ‘Damn The Torpedoes’

The third album by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ ‘Damn The Torpedoes’ earned five stars from ‘Rolling Stone’ and gave the group worldwide fame.

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Promising, Florida-born singer-songwriter Tom Petty initially pitched up in LA with his first band, Mudcrutch, who recorded a lone 45, ‘Depot Street’, for Leon Russell and Denny Cordell’s Shelter imprint in 1975. Issues with personnel and their label, however, caused a series of reshuffles and, by early ’76, Petty was fronting a new quintet, The Heartbreakers. Also featuring talented ex-Mudcrutch duo Mike Campbell (lead guitar) and Benmont Tench (keyboards), in addition to new recruits bassist Ron Blair and drummer Stan Lynch, The Heartbreakers gigged hard and quickly chalked up international acclaim when ‘Anything That’s Rock’n’Roll’, the second single from their eponymous 1976 debut, entered the UK Top 40, setting them on the path to success with their 1979 album, Damn The Torpedoes.

At home, however, success remained elusive and The Heartbreakers only scored a major commercial breakthrough when their sophomore LP, You’re Gonna Get It!, from 1978, earned them a well-deserved gold disc. Business-related difficulties, however, threatened to derail their progress when Shelter and its distributor, ABC Records, were both sold to MCA in 1979. Protracted legal wrangling ensued, but Petty eventually negotiated a deal which allowed him to retain his publishing rights and form his own Backstreet label while MCA agreed to manufacture and distribute his band’s future recordings.

Though its defiant title hinted at these recent travails, The Heartbreakers’ sublime third LP, Damn The Torpedoes, released on 19 October 1979, served notice that Petty and co hadn’t just survived, but were likely to thrive in the long run. A refinement of the tough’n’tender, blue-collar rock’n’roll of You’re Gonna Get It!, the record picked up on the prevailing energy of punk and the new wave, yet it also featured an embarrassment of radio-friendly riches and was further enhanced by Bruce Springsteen/Patti Smith deskman Jimmy Iovine’s crisp production.

Consistent and unerringly melodic, Damn The Torpedoes yielded two major Stateside hits for The Heartbreakers, with the infectious, soul-tinged ‘Don’t Do Me Like That’ and the tough, gutsy rocker ‘Refugee’ both penetrating the Top 20 of the US Billboard Hot 100. The entire album was, however, strewn with potential hits, and Petty’s versatile charges proved they were always on the money, whether they were tackling chiming, 60s-style pop (‘Shadow Of A Doubt (A Complex Kid)’); swaggering bar-room rockers (‘What Are You Doin’ In My Life?’) and even the redemptive, Dylan-esque ballad ‘Louisiana Rain’.

The critics quickly championed the band’s cause, with Rolling Stone’s influential five-star review even declaring the record to be the Tom Petty album “we’ve all been waiting for”. Supported by an extensive US tour with The Fabulous Poodles during the winter of ’79, Damn The Torpedoes eventually went triple-platinum in North America and was only denied the prestigious No.1 spot on the Billboard 200 by Pink Floyd’s colossal, multi-million-selling double LP The Wall.

Featuring solo material, Heartbreakers hits and Mudcrutch songs, The Best Of Everything is released on 16 November. Scroll down for the full tracklisting, and buy the 2CD edition here.

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Disc 1

1.   Free Fallin’
2.   Mary Jane’s Last Dance
3.   You Wreck Me
4.   I Won’t Back Down
5.   Saving Grace
6.   You Don’t Know How It Feels
7.   Don’t Do Me Like That
8.   Listen To Her Heart
9.   Breakdown
10.   Walls (Circus)
11.   The Waiting
12.   Don’t Come Around Here No More
13.   Southern Accents
14.   Angel Dream (No. 2)
15.   Dreamville
16.   I Should Have Known It
17.   Refugee
18.   American Girl
19.   The Best Of Everything (Alt. Version)

Disc 2
1.   Wildflowers
2.   Learning To Fly
3.   Here Comes My Girl
4.   The Last DJ
5.   I Need To Know
6.   Scare Easy
7.   You Got Lucky
8.   Runnin’ Down A Dream
9.   American Dream Plan B
10.   Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (feat. Stevie Nicks)
11.   Trailer
12.   Into The Great Wide Open
13.   Room At The Top
14.   Square One
15.   Jammin’ Me
16.   Even The Losers
17.   Hungry No More
18.   I Forgive It All
19.   For Real

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