Tom Petty Rocks Hard Into the 80s
By David Lindsay
American Eagle — February 1, 1980
The year 1980 will be an interesting one for rock music. Last year proved to be strange enough with the long awaited releases of Stevie Wonder, Led Zepplin, Fleetwood Mac, and the Eagles.
But look who’s yet to release this year: The Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, The Who, Steely Dan, Jackson Browne, Moody Blues and Bruce Springsteen.
Fans of “The Boss” have been extra itchy since the original date of his release was last fall. The latest word is that the new Springsteen album, “The Ties That Bind,” will be released sometime in May followed by a new tour.
Meanwhile Rock fans who are looking for a hard, dynamic rock sound might want to check out Tom Petty’s latest Damn the Torpedos. It`s laced with hard rockers and catchy ballads that follow in the style of Bob Dylan, Springsteen, Nick Lowe and The Stones. In fact, Petty does such a good job of imitating these styles that he steals with authenticity.
The opening cut, ‘Refugee’, has Petty screaming in a Dylan voice that “It don`t really matter to me. Everybody`s got to fight to be free. (Said) You don`t have to live like a refugee.’ Petty follows this with a Springsteen-influenced love ballad ‘Here Comes My Girl’ with heavy organ and electric guitar.
In between cuts, Petty throws in synthesizers, guitars, and drums as if he`s going into another song. But it ends quickly and goes on to the next song. In one of these ultra-short cuts you hear a door open and a voice say “It`s just the normal noises in here.” What does it mean? It’s hard to say but it all does make an interesting album.
In “Shadow of a Doubt” he plays up his Ray Davies, lead singer of the Kinks, and Mick Jagger in singing about a mysterious woman who’s “…always been so hard to figure out/Yea, she always likes to leave you with a shadow of a doubt … I’m trying to figure out if she’s leading up to something.” He jumps back and forth between these two vocal styles just enough to keep it alive.
Petty’s Gruffy Voice
The albums’ top single, “Don’t Do Me Like That,” has Petty in a gruffy voice warning his girlfriend not to leave him, while a piano bangs away and a saxophone wails. It is clear that Petty and the Heartbreakers can conjure every rock and roll style of the 70s and give it a new meaning. He relies on his piano, organ, guitar, and nasal vocals to do the job.
The result is a rocker that we have needed for a long time. Here’s an American who can give Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, and Graham Parket a run for their money. Damn the Torpedoes is clearly destned to be one of the top albums of this year. Petty and the Heartbreakers have established a new height in rock and roll of the 80s. “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”