The Best Of Petty.

Classic Rock - - Tom Petty - Words: Joe Bosso

Amer­i­can Girl Tom Petty And The Heart­break­ers

The last track on the Heart­break­ers’ de­but fea­tured one of Petty’s great­est open­ing lines (‘Well, she was an Amer­i­can girl, raised on prom­ises’ ), and he had lots of ’em. Amer­i­can Girl packed all the band’s es­sen­tial el­e­ments – Byrds-like chim­ing gui­tars, hard-nosed yet wist­ful lyrics, widescreen hooks and Petty’s per­son­able south­ern drawl – into one tight, ir­re­sistible pack­age. From Tom Petty And The Heart­break­ers (1976)

I Need To Know Tom Petty And The Heart­break­ers

Petty and co. re­sponded to punk with their fiercest rocker yet. But while the band sped out of the gate, Petty’s airy vo­cals floated over the top like a dreamy coun­ter­point. He and Mike Camp­bell jabbed their gui­tars like they were chop­ping ice, but the mu­si­cal ace here was Ben­mont Tench, who pro­vided el­e­gant, Gersh­winesque piano flour­ishes. From You’re Gonna Get It! (1978)

Shadow Of A Doubt (A Com­plex Kid) Tom Petty And The Heart­break­ers

Even the al­bum tracks stood out on the hit-filled Damn The Tor­pe­does. Case in point: Shadow Of A Doubt (A Com­plex Kid). Pro­pelled by Stan Lynch’s rol­lick­ing drum­ming and the band’s now-sig­na­ture soar­ing gui­tars, this high-oc­tane rave was a close-up of Petty’s vo­cal prow­ess and per­sona: sweet then sour, wise­crack­ing then ten­der, ur­gent then for­lorn. From Damn The Tor­pe­does (1979)

A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me) Tom Petty And The Heart­break­ers

He called his band the Heart­break­ers, but Petty knew what it was like to be on the los­ing side of ro­mance, as ev­i­denced by this aching rock bal­lad. Dis­pens­ing with any hint of swag­ger, Petty’s soul bled with long­ing and re­gret as he ut­tered, ‘She’s a woman in love… but it’s not me,’ his cracked voice dis­ap­pear­ing be­hind Tench’s sear­ing key­board swirl. From Hard Prom­ises (1981)

Don’t Come Around Here No More Tom Petty And The Heart­break­ers

1982’s Long Af­ter Dark was a hold­ing-pat­tern af­fair, but Petty re­bounded three years later with South­ern Ac­cents, an al­bum steeped in rous­ing rebel pride. In­ter­est­ingly, the record’s stand­out track, Don’t Come Around Here No More, Petty’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with Dave Ste­wart, is more Sgt. Pep­per than Deep South. It’s a trance-like, sitar-laced piece of pop art that makes time and place stand still as it casts its cos­mic spell. From South­ern Ac­cents (1985)

Jam­min’ Me Tom Petty And The Heart­break­ers

Ed­die Mur­phy wasn’t too pleased about be­ing namechecked in Petty’s laun­dry list of over­ex­posed 80s celebri­ties – though there’s no word what Vanessa Red­grave or Joe Pis­copo thought. Af­ter the metic­u­lously crafted South­ern Ac­cents, Petty and his band got back to stripped-down, ram­shackle rock­ing, and this Stonesy ef­fort (co-writ­ten by Bob Dy­lan) packed grit and good hu­mour along­side bit­ing so­cial com­men­tary. From Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) (1987)

Last Night The Trav­el­ing Wil­burys

Petty might have been the awestruck “young kid” in the Wil­burys su­per­group, which also in­cluded heavy­weights Bob Dy­lan, Roy Or­bi­son, Ge­orge Har­ri­son and Jeff Lynne, but he more than held up his end. The band’s de­but al­bum boasted two smash­ing sin­gles (Han­dle With Care and End Of The Line), but among its al­bum cuts, Last Night, Petty’s cheeky, Caribbean-spiced ditty, was a par­tic­u­lar high­light. From The Trav­el­ing Wil­burys Vol. 1 (1988)

A Face In The Crowd Tom Petty

Al­though billed as a solo al­bum, all of the Heart­break­ers with the ex­cep­tion of Stan Lynch ap­peared on Full Moon Fever, a three-way co-pro­duc­tion by Petty, Mike Camp­bell and Jeff Lynne. Hits poured from the disc, but among its other trea­sures was A Face In The Crowd, a plain­tive and al­to­gether chill­ing bal­lad in which Petty – dis­pens­ing with any of his char­ac­ter­is­tic vo­cal styl­iza­tions – re­calls the beauty of fall­ing in love from out of nowhere. From Full Moon Fever (1989)

You Don’t Know How It Feels Tom Petty

Petty en­tered his mid-40s with noth­ing left to prove. For his sec­ond solo disc (which, of course, fea­tured some of the Heart­break­ers), he turned to mav­er­ick pro­ducer Rick Ru­bin, whose min­i­mal­ist ap­proach pro­vided for a grit­tier and more in­ti­mate vibe. Over­all, Petty sounded re­laxed and jovial, es­pe­cially on the gen­tly rock­ing You Don’t Know How It Feels, on which he gave ra­dio cen­sors this beaut: ‘Let me get to the point/Let’s roll an­other joint.’ From Wild­flow­ers (1994)

Walls (Cir­cus) Tom Petty And The Heart­break­ers

De­spite a pair of re­cent solo suc­cesses, Petty hit a low pe­riod per­son­ally in the mid-90s, so he re­con­vened the Heart­break­ers for his first and only film score for She’s The One. The record was loose and en­gag­ing and fea­tured a num­ber of stel­lar cuts, such as Walls (Cir­cus). Petty sounded right at home amid the ring­ing 12-string gui­tars, and guest vo­cal­ist Lindsey Buck­ing­ham lifted each cho­rus high into the Cal­i­for­nia sun. From Songs And Mu­sic From She’s The One (1996)

Good Enough Tom Petty And The Heart­break­ers

When you said “Tom Petty,” you didn’t think “blues” – that is, un­til Mojo, his first al­bum with the Heart­break­ers in eight years, on which au­then­tic Chicago and Delta shuf­fles were the or­der of the day. But like many boomers, Petty dis­cov­ered blues via the Brits, and the slow-burner Good Enough ex­ploded with Zep­peliny Since I’ve Been Lov­ing You-era an­guish. The com­bi­na­tion of Mike Camp­bell’s tor­tured gui­tar solo­ing and Petty’s heart­sick vo­cals was emo­tional dy­na­mite. From Mojo (2010)

Burnt Out Town Tom Petty And The Heart­break­ers

On what would sadly be­come the last Tom Petty And The Heart­break­ers al­bum, the band threw away the rule book – there’s rock, there’s blues, even a bit of jazz – and de­spite im­mi­nent se­nior cit­i­zen sta­tus, they blasted away like youth­ful garage bud­dies. On Burnt Out Town, Petty is in sto­ry­teller mode, spin­ning a gin-soaked yarn about failed Amer­ica as he yowls and howls like Jag­ger – though there’s clearly a lit­tle John Lee Hooker and Ge­orge Thoro­good in there too. One could sense Petty’s pride in be­ing an el­der statesman of rock, lead­ing the band he loved, and he car­ried that with him un­til his trag­i­cally pre­ma­ture end. From Hyp­notic Eye (2014)

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