Ampersand — January-February 1980

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On Disc
Review by John Liebrand
Ampersand — January-February 1980

Tom Petty | Damn the Torpedoes | (MCA)
They treat him like dirt. They drive him bankrupt and crazy, too. They probably tried to steal his flying V guitar. They ring his doorbell in the middle of the night and run behind the hedge. But Tom Petty survives.

Damn the Torpedoes is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Buckle Down Winsocki.” Most of the songs are about alienation, rejection and mistreatment, tried and true rock themes. But the ring of twelve-string guitars and Petty’s cocky tone announce that the problems won’t crack him like an egg. Damn the Torpedoes is pure jumping up and down music, filled with precise guitar work and tight melodies, sung with rare passion. Ultimately it’s an optimistic album as well. Petty and his band prove they’ll full of enough fire to overcome anything, even torpedoes.

 


 

On Tour
Review by Walt Turowski
Ampersand — January-February 1980

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | Masonic Temple, Detroit
Rock concert antics often seem to work in the live situation but seem hackneyed afterwards. Tom Petty’s jivey Detroit appearance proved no exception. Nevertheless, the new-found maturity in his Damn the Torpedoes LP is also becoming apparent in Petty’s live shows.

Despite the obvious Bruce Springsteen and former Byrd Roger McGuinn influences — over which too much ink has already been shed — Petty manages to be a fresh, if not exactly original, voice in rock. Although he  is emphatically not a part of the new wave, Petty brings rock toward its basics, musically; lyrically, the Petty of Damn the Torpedoes is striking out into new territories. This is due no doubt to his recent legal hassles (again, a Springsteen parallel).

It is hard to believe that the Petty of old could write songs like “Even the Losers” and “Refugee” and sing them with such conviction. On these songs, clearly the high points, Petty managed to transcend the limitations of his voice to deliver a stronger statement than just the pain of adolescent love. His new songs strike a responsive chord with all those who feel embattled by fate.

Though marred by grandstanding, the live performance was a showcase for Tom Petty the singing songwriter. One concertgoer not terribly familiar with Petty remarked “I didn’t know he had so many good songs.”

Oddly enough, his older material also seemed to improve in the live setting. Perhaps Petty’s voice can finally convey the emotions that were always within him.

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