Pop Star of the Month: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Song Hits -- June 1980
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers' first two albums established them as one of the top bands on the music scene as the decade drew to a close. Their style concentrates on straight ahead rock 'n' roll that features fresh melodies and solid playing.
The band's 1979 appearances have showcased an exciting combination of their stage standards and their music from their new album, Damn the Torpedoes, the debut release on Backstreet Records. Attending concert critics have been unanimous in labeling the unit a major force in popular music.
The Heartbreakers were formed three years ago in Los Angeles, but all of the musicians had met in Gainesville, Florida, and had moved to L.A. over a period of four years. Besides Petty, the band includes: Mike Campbell, guitars; Stan Lynch, drums; Benmont Tench, piano; and Ron Blair, bass guitar.
Understanding their rock roots, Petty and Company have forged a sound that recalls the Byrds and the Stones, but it remains pure Heartbreakers. Just as the Beatles borrowed from groups like the Everly Brothers in the early part of their career, Petty pays homage to his initial influences on his way to extending the rock 'n' roll tradition.
All of these factors place Petty at the forefront of a group of artists who have emerged over the past few years, bringing a pop renissance with an insistence on music that is melodic yet hard-driving, fun but serious and well thought out.
Outspoken about the music he plays, Petty insists that "I don't know anything about the U.N., so I'll sing about the things I'm more in touch with. As long as the songs are good, that's all I'm worried about. The only hit albums are the ones with the best songs."
This 27-year-old son of an insurance salesman was raised on rock music, and he is determined to perform his songs before the public without any concessions to big business. "The main point of rock is to have fun; that's why I'm doing what I'm doing and that's why I'll continue to do it."
Behind him there are already the albums Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and You're Gonna Get It and the singles "American Girl," "Breakdown," "I Need To Know," and "Listen To Her Heart." Now, a new lp that can put Petty on top, although he is emphatic when he says "You see all these groups get to the top, get too content, and blow it with bad music. I always want to be just enough unsatisified that I'll want to make the next album better than the last."