Cashbox - October 22, 1977
For 10 months the first album from Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers languished in record stores across the land seemingly destined for the worst of all reactions to any artist whether new or established—indifference. But the energy that Tom Petty had stored up in his 10 years as a frustrated rocker was not about to be stifled. His band and he took to the road, and all of a sudden, nearly a year later, Tom Petty exploded.
Wherever they went they were warmly received by admiring members of the press. In fact, Petty gives the press much credit for his success. "I think the press played an important part in keeping the band alive for most of this year," he explains, "They sort of stirred up the original interest that made people check us out. They were there from the beginning and it's great when they can use their influence in a positive way like that."
But the press could only arouse the interest; it was up to Petty to sustain it in concert. As it turned out, skeptics only had to see the shows to drop their cynicism and become fans. So, Petty and Co. did show after show and things gradually began to turn around. "Touring has really done it for us," says Petty. "Wherever we played we would have an immediate response on the record and so it became the old story, go out and play and take it to the people."
And so they did, but even the record company was slow to set the wheels in motion. "There wasn't anyone really actively behind it until it went top 20 in England and then people over here began to notice and that really changed things," recalls Petty. "Our record company changed a great deal after that, too. They had a big personnel changeover and the new bunch sort of realized that it was a rock band and a good one so they decided to sort of reissue the record, in a way, and give it another short as a result of the success in Europe."
One of the problems was one of identity. Because Petty sports a leather jacket on the cover os his album, some people immediately labelled the music punk, which it clearly is not. "That labelling stuff is all a bunch of jive," Petty said. "Some people definitely try to squeeze you into some kind of category so they can assume they understand you. But this band won't join any clubs or anything. We're just a rock and roll band."
Petty does, however, appreciate the energy that the New Wave or punk movement has behind it because he too is an exemplar of the ever-changing attitude that keeps music fresh. As he says, "I do want to give radio back to the kids. I think the disco thing took over for a while and that was dreadful. I think the kids would rather hear a rock band that's theirs than something from their older sisters or something. I don't really think they prefer the lush slick stuff on the radio if they're given a choice."
In keeping true to his attitudes Petty predicts the next album will not be the same as this one, but like the debut album, will feature songs that don't all sound the same. "I can't stand when an album sounds the same all the way through. It drives me crazy," he says.