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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers coming to town
By Ray Rudolph
St. Petersburg Independent — July 5, 1985
The concert is still a week away, and though tickets were still available earlier this week, they were going fast for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at the Sun Dome on July 12. Petty is a Gainesville native, a local boy who made good, and made it big with lots of determination and push.
Southern Accents is the sixth album for the group, and its first in almost three years. Recently released, it has many firsts for the group. Petty co-wrote three songs with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, bringing in outside collaboration for the first time.
It also is the first time the group has used an orchestra — 26 pieces in all, rounding out the hard rock edges. Female backup singers are a new addition on several tracks. All these changes simply mean that Petty and his Heartbreakers have what it takes to keep up with, and perhaps stay a step ahead of, rock music’s school of hard knocks.
The foursome of Petty, lead guitarist Mike Campbell, keyboardist Benmont Tench and bass player Ron Blair emerged from northern Florida as a group called Mudcrutch. They made their mark locally, then broke up. But that wasn’t the end. They all turned up in Los Angeles pursuing individual careers. The idea to get together again did not come from Petty, but from Tench, who called on his old buddies to help him with a demo tape. Stan Lynch was asked to join as drummer for the group. Petty then became the leader, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were born in 1976 with a self-titled debut album.
The album did not set the rock world spinning, taking almost a full year to enter the charts and find favor outside a small circle of adventurous radio stations. But then the group released You’re Gonna Get It a year later. Both albums moved up the charts and subsequently were certified gold.
Petty had a reputation for being a little weird and a little wild, and when MCA purchased his group’s label, ABC Records, Petty refused to allow his contract to be switched, saying he was not to be treated like a piece of meat.
MCA claimed rights to Damn the Torpedoes, the group’s third album in progress, but Petty kept hiding the tapes, hiring security guards, and footing the bill for studio sessions until he finally had to file for bankruptcy, still secreting the tapes.
Eventually a compromise was reached in court, with an MCA subsidiary shooting Torpedoes over the 3-million seller mark. Hard Times came next, went platinum, and produced four videos. Petty had been producing videos since 1979, before there was an MTV to market him.
Before the fifth album, Long After Dark, Ron Blair left the group, to be replaced by Howie Epstein.
The Heartbreakers are again going in individual directions, playing on recent and upcoming albums with Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks (her hit Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around was co-authored by Petty and Campbell) and Don Henley (Campbell co-wrote his smash The Boys of Summer). But the group members are committed to each other as well, and will continue with their uncompromising rock.
Opening act is Lone Justice, previewing songs from its debut album, including Ways of the Wicked, again written by Campbell.
The concert is at 9 p.m.; tickets are $14. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers should be revved up for their Tampa date, as they are scheduled to play the next night at the Live Aid mega-concert in Philadelphia.