Although this may not seem a difficult task given the amount of talent busting out of industry seams, timeless caliber in the past was evident in a bands’ workability and, of course, the music their talents inspired. Nowadays, in a time when selling out presents itself as the only means to landing an audience, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers remain as true to the band’s sound and friendship as they did when hippies across the States danced with Mary Jane sans the threat of police intervention.
Although Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have been churning out greatest hits since its formation in the mid ’70s, the album that gained the band entryway into homes and venues despite a heavy punk mentality during the ’70s was undoubtedly the third studio effort, Damn the Torpedoes. The album embodies American rock at its finest, before catchy pop flooded the airways and musicianship could suffice with electronic machines.
Tuning into modest themes and countrywide locales, Damn the Torpedoes has a song that engages every type of ordinary circumstance in an extraordinary and accessible way. Rather than create lengthy, in-depth interpretations within his output, Tom Petty and his crew constructed blunt scenes that listeners could easily identify with and therefore enjoy.
For instance, “Here Comes My Girl” salutes requited love, while “Even the Losers” gives unlucky deadbeats a glimmer of hope. Album opener “Refugee” sounds like a call to enslaved emotions and may possibly be the closest thing to an anthem the Heartbreakers put out, while “Don’t Do Me Like That” retracts that positivity and pleas for kindness.
It’s this profound simplicity in lyrics and content that make Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers genuine musicians, and such authenticity renders the band’s longstanding existence timeless in our ever-changing, ever-evolving industry.
Still, Petty’s music may have appeared less ambitious than his contemporaries, but artists like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen stood for something greater, something revolutionary if you will. Petty takes a more personal inclination towards himself, his band and his burgeoning fans, and his struggles with industry bigwigs demonstrate this adornment and commitment. Initially Damn the Torpedoes found itself caught in one of the crossfire battles between Petty and his label when ABC Records was sold to MCA. Without his consent, Petty refused to be shifted to another label like objects of corporate profit, and his refusal ultimately lead to Petty declaring bankruptcy. However, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers inevitably ran down the dream and Damn the Torpedoes was the album all Petty fans had patiently waited for.
It was an album that perfectly enveloped the rock era when “new wave” genres attempted to dissolve the classics. Fans and listeners didn’t need to internalize the latest buzz waves when the album was released in ’79 and they still don’t to this day. In fact, listening to the 9-track collection now evokes a sense of nostalgia to a time before America trekked a bad path of corporate and government control.
Damn the Torpedoes is genuine songwriting that is appreciated by genuine folk, and it is exactly this mentality that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers stood for back then and continue to stand for as they celebrate 30+ years of American rock.