Damn The Torpedoes

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

MCA Records, 1979


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


[Adapted from a review that first appeared in On The Town magazine on 6/11/96]

The whole band vs. singer-songwriter thing kind of goes out the window when you get to these guys. Here is one of the great American rock and roll singer-songwriters of the last thirty years, whose killer band's outside session credits read like a who's who of rock and roll (try: U2, Don Henley, X, Stevie Nicks, Indigo Girls, Jackson Browne, Tracy Chapman, Jeff Healey Band, Divinyls, Jayhawks, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Brian Wilson and Eurythmics, to name but a few). Either is a force alone; together, they are one of the major rock and roll bands of their era.

Coming out of Florida in the mid-70s, Petty and the Heartbreakers had a string of terrific singles off their first two albums -- "Breakdown," "American Girl," "I Need to Know" and "Listen to Her Heart" -- but their third LP, Damn The Torpedoes, is the one that made them. Taking Petty and lead guitarist Mike Campbell's heavily Byrds-influenced chiming guitar sound and fattening up the roles of both keyboard player Benmont Tench and the group's harmony vocals, co-producer Jimmy Iovine gave the band a fuller, cleaner sound than they'd ever had before. Add to that the most consistently high-quality set of songs in Petty's very respectable writing career and you've got a double-platinum knockout.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Refugee" launches the album strongly with tight playing from Campbell, Tench and drummer Stan Lynch in support of one of Petty's strongest pleading/snarling vocals. It's barely over when "Here Comes My Girl" kicks in, with Petty using an emotionally raw spoken-verse style that preceded rap by a decade to cut right to the heart of what the best relationships are all about:

"Every now and then I get down to the end of a day and have to stop and ask myself why I've done it
It just seems so useless to have to work so hard and nothin' ever really seems to come from it
And then she looks me in the eye, and says 'We're gonna last forever" and man, you know, I can't begin to doubt it
No, because it just feels so good and so free and so right, I know we ain't never gonna change our minds about it!"

Then, in one of the great one-two-three punches of album sequencing, the band launches into "Even The Losers," a blistering piece of self-affirmation that has grown into an anthem for the romantically crashed-and-burned ("You could kiss like fire and you made me feel / like every word you said was meant to be / No, it couldn't have been that easy to forget about me"), not to mention one of the few album tracks important enough to make it onto Petty’s 1993 Greatest Hits package..

Here Petty is in his more usual element, writing about the baffling, sometimes self-destructive ways humans behave when they're attracted to one another. The rest of the album examines these questions entertainingly with the huge radio hit "Don't Do Me Like That," the funny/edgy rockers "What Are You Doin' In My Life?" and “Century City,” the brooding "You Tell Me" and the wistful "Louisiana Rain."

Damn The Torpedoes and full speed ahead ‘til it hurts; that's Petty's message, and he makes it a pleasure to hear on this milestone album, a high-water mark for both the band and the decade.

Rating: A

User Rating: B+



© 2008 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of MCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.