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Albums: Petty’s third finds musical focus
Revew by James Williamson
The Gateway — January 18, 1980
Damn the Torpedoes, Tom Petty’s third album, brings Petty and his band finally into focus as a distinctive rock ‘n’ roll voice. Through nine tracks of hard-nosed mainstream rock, the Heartbreakers make music that raises the album to the level of one of the best pop recordings of 1979.
Tom Petty, like Nils Lofgen and Dave Edmunds, has a pure rock ‘n’ roll heart. His music is not used as a vehicle for sociopolitical comments or deeply personal expressions but to explore the subject as old as Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” and Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene”: the basic boy-girl love relationship.
Obviously, Petty isn’t breaking any new ground with this material. It is his ability to tell these ancient stories again with a fresh earnestness that makes his music exciting. His compositions deal with romance while avoiding the irritating, self-conscious macho-posturing of a group like Foreigner or the detached irony of the Cars.
When Petty sings a line like “I think she loves me, but she don’t wanna let on” (in “Shadow of a Doubt”) you know that he feels the tension that exists early in any growing love.
The Heartbreakers are accomplished enough musicians to push these songs with great energy when it is needed (as in “Century City”), and they can also tread interesting ground in the slowly-paced material (“Here Comes My Girl.”)
In Damn the Torpedoes, Petty gains a clean, dense sound through a production collaboration with engineer Jimmy Iovine. More importantly, Iovine’s presence in the studio seems to have inspired the band to a sharper, more coherent attack than on the earlier albums. The five-man musical ensemble is strongly unified. The guitars of Petty and Mike Campbell often sound like extensions of Benmont Tench’s keyboards, solidly backed by the rhythm section of Ron Blair on bass and Stan Lynch on drums. As in Patti Smith’s Easter, Iovine’s touch can apparently bring out great work from a less than great band.
With Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps, and Rickie Lee Jones’ debut, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Damn the Torpedoes is one of the true highlights of last year.
Music: Petty and band play hard, fans listen with their hearts
Review by Mike Kohler
The Gateway — January 18, 1980
You’re sitting in the fat-cushioned easy chair in your living room, posed with a direct line of vision to one of your favorite sights — your beloved stereo system.
The power is switched on, the turntable is rotating; you’ve got your feet propped up, your head tilted back, resting gently on a pillow; your favorite relaxer has taken effect. It’s time to daydream.
Comfortable? Good. Now picture this: You’re no longer in the same old living room. That old collection of chairs, plants, pictures has transformed into a concert hall, and you are the audience — just you. The house lights are dimmed, the stage lights hazy.
Your heart leaps as the familiar strains of Tom Petty’s “Don’t Do Me Like That” burst from the massive set of speakers perched at either end of the stage, Petty himself, blond and impish, promises that “someone’s gonna tell you lies,” and you’re loving it.
Imagine it. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performing solely for your benefit. Well, it’s not hard for me to imagine after I managed to sneak (Shame on me!) into the 5 o’clock sound check by the kings of power pop before last Sunday’s concert at the Music Hall.
Just hours after I experienced dreamland on the mezzanine level (No one bothered to look up), 2,609 other rock and roll fans joined me in ushering in the ’80s with the aid of one of America’s hottest bands. The Heartbreakers stirred the crowd to an emotional fervor that demanded two encores to quell.
Petty, who warned that illness may effect his performance, prowled the stage in a crouch during the slower, toned down moments, coming menacingly close to being within armslength of frenzied stage-front rockers. His voice showed no trace of the hoarseness hed been experiencing.
Although keyboard work is often smothered during rock concerts, organist Benmont Trench stood out, much to the crowd’s delight, especially on recent hits “Refugee” and “Don’t Do Me Like That.”
The evening’s highlights were a moving rendition of a debut-album hit, “Breakdown,” and an encore revival of the Dave Clark Five’s “Any Way You Want It.” An overdone “I Fought the Law” was nonetheless enjoyable during the encore.
A man who wouldn’t compromise his standards for the sake of AM radio (AM doesn’t like that word, “cocaine”), Petty didn’t compromise in his production of a top quality concert, with songs played amazingly true to album quality.
The same can’t be said for the openers, the Fabulous Poodles, who were less than fabulous. The Poodles seemed to be more an amusement than the high energy rock and roll band I expected.
A particular lowlight was their “Tit Photographer Blues,” which was presumably “cute” to some. However, I prefer my “Tonight Show” brand of humor done by Johnny Carson.
“Bionic Man,” a Poodle hit, was just as boring as it was the 95th time I heard it on FM.
The Poodles did come up with a pleasant surprise by playing the requested (Was it spontaneous?) Beatles tune, “Boys.”
After an excellent evening of class entertainment, my party adjourned at around midnight to the Bushes in Millard, where ex-Monkee Peter Tork was appearing.
To say we were dismayed to learn that we would be charged four bucks to see less than an hour of a recycling project is an understatement.
We would have beaten the last train to Clarksville getting out of there. Tork is obviously a daydream believer.