Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are an American rock band from Gainesville, Florida. They were formed in 1976 by Tom Petty (guitar and vocals), Mike Campbell (lead guitar), Benmont Tench (piano, organ, harmonium and vocals), (the three of them had been members of Mudcrutch), Ron Blair (bass and vocals) and Stan Lynch (drums and vocals). Petty and the Heartbreakers are known for hit singles such as "American Girl", "Breakdown", "The Waiting", "Learning to Fly", "Refugee" and "Mary Jane's Last Dance". The Heartbreakers still tour regularly and continue to record albums.
Petty has fought against his record company on more than one occasion, first in 1979 over transference to another label and then again in 1981 over the price of his record, which was (at that time) considered expensive. He is also outspoken on the current state of the music industry and modern radio stations. On his 2002 album, The Last DJ, Petty sang about that and other issues and talked about them on the bonus DVD that came with the limited edition album.
Although most of their material is produced and performed under the name "The Heartbreakers", they have also participated in outside projects, with Petty himself releasing solo albums, the most successful being 1989's Full Moon Fever.
Petty, Campbell and Tench, along with Randall Marsh and Tom Leadon, recorded an album by Mudcrutch. This was the band's first album, made more significant by the fact that they had not recorded together since 1974. In June 2010 through early September, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers embarked on a tour following the release of their new studio album titled Mojo on June 15, 2010. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have sold more than 80 million records worldwide, making them one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time.
Petty's early bands included The Sundowners, The Epics, and Mudcrutch (the latter with drummer Randall Marsh and future Heartbreakers members Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench). In 1974, Mudcrutch signed with Shelter Records and re-located to Los Angeles, California. The band released one single, "Depot Street," in 1975, which failed to chart, and the group disbanded. According to Campbell, "Out of that the Heartbreakers sort of morphed and became what they are." The Heartbreakers began their recording career with a self-titled album, released through the aforementioned Shelter label. Initially, the Heartbreakers did not gain much traction in America, although they achieved success in the UK playing "Anything That's Rock 'n' Roll" on Top of the Pops. Early singles included "Breakdown" and "American Girl". "Breakdown" was re-released in the USA and became a Top 40 hit in 1978, after word filtered back to the States that the band was creating a firestorm in the UK.
Their 1978 second album You're Gonna Get It! marked the band's first gold album, and featured the singles "I Need to Know" and "Listen To Her Heart". In 1979, the band was dragged into a legal dispute when ABC Records, Shelter's distributor, was sold to MCA Records.
Petty refused to simply be transferred to another record label without his consent. He held fast to his principles, which led to his filing for bankruptcy, as a tactic against MCA.
In 1979, after their legal dispute was settled, the Heartbreakers released their third album Damn the Torpedoes through MCA's Backstreet label. The album rapidly went platinum. It included "Don't Do Me Like That" (#10 U.S., the group's first Top Ten single ) and "Refugee" (#15 U.S.), their U.S. breakthrough singles.
Though he was already extremely successful, Petty ran into record company trouble again when he and the Heartbreakers prepared to release Hard Promises (1981), the follow-up album to Damn the Torpedoes. MCA wanted to release the record at the list price of $9.98, which was considered a high price for a record album at the time. This so-called "superstar pricing" was $1.00 more than the usual list price of $8.98. Petty voiced his objections to the price hike in the press, and the issue became a popular cause among music fans. Non-delivery of the album or naming it Eight Ninety-Eight were considered, but eventually MCA decided against the price increase. The album became a Top Ten hit, going platinum and spawning the hit single "The Waiting" (#19 U.S.). The album also included the duet "Insider", with Stevie Nicks.
On their fifth album, Long After Dark (1982), bass player Ron Blair was replaced by Howie Epstein (formerly of Del Shannon's backing band), giving the Heartbreakers their line-up until 1991. Long After Dark features the hits "You Got Lucky" (U.S. #20) and "Change of Heart" (U.S. #21), and was to feature a track called "Keeping Me Alive", but producer Jimmy Iovine vetoed it from the album. Petty has expressed that he feels the album would have turned out better if the song had been included on the album.
On the next album, Southern Accents (1985), the Heartbreakers picked up where they had left off. The recording was not without problems; Petty became frustrated during the mixing process and broke his left hand after punching a wall. The album includes the psychedelic-sounding hit single "Don't Come Around Here No More" (#13 U.S.), which was produced by and co-written with Dave Stewart. The video for the single, which starred Stewart, featured Petty dressed as the Mad Hatter, mocking and chasing Alice from the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, then cutting and eating her as if she were a cake. This caused minor controversy after it was criticized by feminist groups, but the video did win an MTV Video Music Award.
A successful concert tour led to the live album Pack Up the Plantation: Live! (1985). The band's live capabilities were also showcased when Bob Dylan invited the Heartbreakers to join him on his True Confessions tour through Australia, Japan and the U.S. (1986) and Europe (1987). Petty praised Dylan, saying "I don't think there is anyone we admire more."
Also in 1987, the group released Let Me Up (I've Had Enough), a studio album made to sound like a live recording, using a technique they borrowed from Bob Dylan. It includes "Jammin' Me" (#18 U.S.), which Petty wrote with Dylan and Campbell. Dylan recorded a version of the Petty composition, "Got My Mind Made Up", on his album, Knocked Out Loaded.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' 1989 tour featured college rock band The Replacements opening every show.
Move to Warner Bros. Records
In 1991, the band released Into the Great Wide Open, produced by Jeff Lynne who had worked with Petty in Traveling Wilburys. Songs included the title track itself and "Learning to Fly". By this time, multi-instrumentalist Scott Thurston had joined the band.
In 1993, Petty released Greatest Hits which included hit single "Mary Jane's Last Dance".
In 1994, Stan Lynch left (or got fired by) the band and was temporarily replaced by Dave Grohl before being permanently replaced by Steve Ferrone. Ferrone had worked with Petty, Campbell, Tench, and Epstein on Petty's 'solo' album, Wildflowers.
In 1995, a six-CD box-set entitled Playback was released. Approximately half of the tracks were previously available on albums, and the rest were B-sides, demos and live tracks. Two notable tracks are a solo version of Tom's 1981 duet with Stevie Nicks, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around", and the song "Waiting For Tonight", which features vocals from The Bangles. The latter song also appeared on the two CD anthology released in 2000, Anthology: Through the Years.
In 1996, Petty "reunited" with the Heartbreakers and released a soundtrack to the movie She's the One starring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston (see Songs and Music from "She's the One"). Three songs charted from this album; these were "Walls (Circus)" (featuring Lindsey Buckingham); "Climb that Hill"; and a song written by Lucinda Williams, "Change the Locks". The album also included a cover of a song by Beck, "Asshole".
In 1999, Petty and the Heartbreakers released the album Echo with producer Rick Rubin at the helm. The album reached number 10 in the U.S. album charts and featured, amongst other singles, "Room at the Top".
In 2002, Petty and the Heartbreakers released The Last DJ. Many of the tracks' lyrics contain stinging attacks on the music industry and major record companies. The album reached number 9 in the U.S. charts. Ron Blair played on three of the tracks. He also replaced the man who had previously been his replacement, Howie Epstein on the band's 2002 tour as a result of Epstein's deepening personal problems and drug abuse. Epstein died in 2003 at the age of 48. Tench described him as "the coolest guy in the band."
In 2007, the band accepted an invitation to participate in a tribute album to Fats Domino, contributing their version of "I'm Walkin'" to Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino (Vanguard).
In 2008, the Heartbreakers were also featured as the Super Bowl XLII Halftime Show. In April that year, the members of Petty's prior band, Mudcrutch, including Heartbreakers Petty, Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell, along with Randall Marsh and Tom Leadon, got together to record a Mudcrutch album. In late 2008 a live album featuring Mudcrutch was released.
A collection of live recordings was released on 23 November 2009, and announced a new studio album, Mojo, for release in the Spring of 2010.
Runnin' Down a Dream
In 2007, a four-hour film titled Runnin' Down a Dream was released, documenting the career of the band, directed by Peter Bogdanovich which runs periodically on the Sundance Channel.
As well as members of Petty and the Heartbreakers themselves, the film contains interviews with friends and fellow musicians Eddie Vedder, Jeff Lynne, Jackson Browne, Warren Zanes, Dave Stewart, Stevie Nicks and others. Archive interviews from George Harrison, Denny Cordell and Stan Lynch were also used.
The film, which follows Petty and the Heartbreakers from its inception as Mudcrutch right up to Petty's 2006 album, Highway Companion, was spread over the first two discs of the four, and was the original director's cut. The third contains a live concert in Gainesville, Florida while the fourth is a CD of rare and unreleased material
In October 2008 an alternative DVD version, this one containing both a slightly edited movie and three previously unreleased performances, was released to the public.
Other works and recognition
- In 1983, Petty recorded a Top-40 duet with Dwight Twilley, entitled "Girls." Petty had played bass on rare occasions with Twilley in the mid-1970s.
- In 1985, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers participated in the world-spanning charity rock concert Live Aid.
- In 1986, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released a live record, Pack Up the Plantation: Live!
- In 1992, the band played three songs (including one with Roger McGuinn) at Madison Square Garden to honor the 30th anniversary of the release of Bob Dylan's first record. The three songs were released on "The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration"
- They also played at the 2001 America: A Tribute to Heroes benefit concert.
- In 2002, the band played at Concert for George honoring George Harrison, who had died the previous year.
- In 2006, the band returned to their home town and celebrated their anniversary with a collection of popular songs.
- In 2012 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers headlined Friday night at the Isle of Wight Festival.
On November 26, 2010 Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers released a special edition Record Store Day Black Friday 7” vinyl called, Nowhere b/w Surrender for independent record stores.
- Petty has received numerous Grammy Awards and was the recipient of 2006's Billboard Century Award, given to him by Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong.
- In 1999, the band received a Hollywood Walk of Fame star.
- In 2002, Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- In 2007, Petty and the Heartbreakers poster voted #18 best rock poster ever made by Billboard Magazine.
30th anniversary year (2006)
In February 2006, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers were the headline act at the fifth annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. In addition to Bonnaroo, Petty was on tour throughout the summer of 2006. The tour started in Charlotte, North Carolina on June 9 and ended in Randall's Island, Manhattan, New York on August 19. Stops included major cities such as New York, St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Denver. Supporting acts during the tour included Pearl Jam, The Allman Brothers Band, and Trey Anastasio. Additionally, Stevie Nicks joined Tom Petty onstage during the first eight concerts as well as subsequent second leg dates to perform various songs from the Heartbreakers' vast catalog. For the Highway Companion Tour they offered a Highway Companion's Club which allowed fans to receive priority seating, discounts at the Tom Petty Store, a complimentary CD of Highway Companion and a personalized email address.
In 2006, the ABC U.S. television network hired Petty to do the music for its NBA Playoffs coverage.
On September 21, 2006, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers received the keys to the city of Gainesville, Florida, where he and his bandmates either lived or grew up. Tom Petty quipped, when questioned about the key he received from Gainesville's mayor, "It's a lot nicer than the one we got in Chicago."
From July 2006 until 2007, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio featured an exhibit of Tom Petty items. Much of the content was donated by Petty himself from a visit to his home by some of the Rock Hall curatorial staff.
Petty has released critically acclaimed solo albums, the first of which was 1989's Full Moon Fever which included his signature tune, "Free Fallin'" as well as "I Won't Back Down", later covered by Johnny Cash, and "Runnin' Down a Dream and Gene Clark's Byrds classic "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" - the album's only cover song.
The Heartbreakers were dismayed by Petty's decision to go solo (Similar to the arrangement between Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band at the time); despite this Campbell plays guitar solos on every track, Tench contributed piano to one track, and Epstein reluctantly provided backing vocals to two tracks.
Tom's second solo album, Wildflowers was, for all intents and purposes, a Heartbreakers record as it included all members except for Stan. The album, which featured Steve Ferrone on drums, produced the single "You Don't Know How It Feels".
Petty's most recent solo album was Highway Companion.
George Harrison was requested by Warner Bros. Records to record a B-side to This Is Love. To do so, Harrison gathered a group of musician friends (Petty, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan) to record what was intended to be a B-side. The resulting song, Handle with Care was considered too good for the aforementioned purposes and was released as a single. In 1988, the Traveling Wilburys, as they were known, recorded a critically acclaimed album.
The final studio album by the Wilburys, intentionally misnumbered Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3, was released on October 30, 1990, but met with less success than the previous album.
Petty appeared on Jeff Lynne's Armchair Theatre LP and also on Warren Zevon's The Wind. Providing backing vocals on the latter, to the song "The Rest Of The Night".
Outside the Heartbreakers, Campbell has co-written an array of songs including "The Boys of Summer" and "The Heart of the Matter" (both with Don Henley). Other songwriting credits include songs for The Blue Stingrays, Johnny Cash, Fleetwood Mac, Lone Justice, Roger McGuinn, Stevie Nicks, John Prine, Restless Sleeper, Patti Scialfa, Brian Setzer, J.D. Souther, The Williams Brothers, and Robin Zander. He also produced four songs on Roy Orbison's Mystery Girl album and played guitar on The Wallflowers' "Sixth Avenue Heartache."
He also contributed to the albums The Wind and Sentimental Hygiene by Warren Zevon, Together Through Life by Bob Dylan, Full Moon Fever by Tom Petty, and American V: A Hundred Highways by Johnny Cash.
In January 2008, Tench became part of a supergroup, initially named The Scrolls. The band is composed of Tench, Sean Watkins (guitar), Sara Watkins (fiddle), Glen Phillips (guitar, vocals), Luke Bulla (fiddle), Greg Leisz (various), Pete Thomas (drums), and Davey Faragher (bass). They have since changed their name to Works Progress Administration and the group released its first album on August 28, 2009.
- Current members
- Tom Petty – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica (1976–present)
- Mike Campbell – lead guitar, bass, keyboards, mandolin (1976–present)
- Benmont Tench – piano, organ, synthesizers, backing vocals (1976–present)
- Ron Blair – bass, backing vocals (1976–1982, 2002–present)
- Scott Thurston – rhythm guitar, harmonica, synthesizer, backing vocals (1991–present)
- Steve Ferrone – drums (1994–present)
- Former members
- Stan Lynch – drums, backing vocals (1976–1994)
- Howie Epstein – bass, backing vocals, mandolin (1982–2002; died 2003)
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Image from Discogs