The Petty Archives

Three decades of true rock from Petty all on one disc
By David Henson
The Red & Black - February 22, 1994

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - "Greatest Hits" MCA Records
The town of Gainesville, Florida may not have too much going for it when it comes to respectable universities, but thanks in part to native son Tom Petty, this gator swamp has at least earned some respect in the world of music.

Over the past three decades, Tom Petty has quietly become a legend in rock music. And now, after 20 years of jammin' me (and you, and everyone else), Petty and his Heartbreakers hve finally released a steaming hot collection of their greatest hits, along with two freshly brewed bonus debuts.

"Greatest Hits" features 18 tunes which are listed chronologically by the order of their release, spanning a total of eight albums.

The opening track off of "Greatest Hits" is the 1976 classic "American Girl," from "Silence of the Lambs" fame, which is at its best if listened to while driving, preferably at a lethal rate of speed. However, be sure to pull over at a rest stop before the next sleepy song reaches your speakers, because "Breakdown" is guaranteed to make you wreck.

During the evil disco era of the late seventies, Tom Petty was regarded as a modern day deity for being one of the few newer acts in a select group of true rock 'n' roll saviors, along with the likes of Supertramp, in this dire time of Abba and The Bee-Gees.

"Greatest Hits" pays tribute to this disco defiant refugee by including two singles from the lesser-known release "You're Gonna Get It," and an album-high total of four tunes credited to the renowned "Damn the Torpedoes."

Either the eighties and the age of video. Petty and the Heartbreakers were among the first musicians to realize the enormous marketing and sales potential of his popular media outlet.

Even those not affiliated with the MTV generation can readily identify the sweet rhythm associated with the bizarre 1985 video for "Don't Come Around Here No More," the lone song on the disc from "Southern Accents."

Tom Petty made a musical comeback of sorts in '89 with the release of "Full Moon Fever," which soon became, and still remains, his best selling effort. "Greatest Hits" features three classics from this album, including the beep blue mellow groove "Free Fallin'."

Petty experienced continued success with his next project, "Into the Great Wide Open," which contributes two singles to the album, one being the title cut.

Two songs gallantly make their debut on "Greatest Hits." The first of these tracks to be released is the current smash "Mary Jane's Last Dance," which was originally titled and recorded as "Indiana Girl" until a last-minute decision was made to substitute the name.

The final installment on the disc is the remake of the 1969 Thunderclap Newman single "Something In The Air," which unfortunately lacks the spunk and ingenuity of the original version to distinguish it, in addition to its predecessor, as another probable future hit.

Due to the vast amount of popular hits Petty and the Heartbreakers have produced over the years, not all were able to make the final cut. Some of the more notable omissions include "Make It Better" and the title song from "Southern Accents," along with the anti-yuppie anthem "Yer So Bad" off of "Full Moon Fever."

However, the fact that "Greatest Hits" doesn't have a sole representative from The Rolling Stones influenced album "Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)," featuring suh '87 ditties as "Jammin' Me," "Think About Me," and "It'll All Work Out" does an injustice to what is otherwise an exceptional disc.