Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
are an American rock band from Gainesville, Florida. They were formed in 1976 by Tom Petty, the band's primary vocalist and guitar player, and also consisted of Mike Campbell as the lead guitarist, Ron Blair on bass, Stan Lynch on drums, and Benmont Tench on keyboards. Line-up changes have been few and far between, with Howie Epstein being the bassist from 1982 to 2002 when Blair tired of the touring lifestyle, only to replace Epstein again in 2002 upon his death, and Lynch leaving in 1994 and being replaced by Curt Bisquera and Steve Ferrone.Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were one of the bands on the forefront of the heartland rock movement, alongside bands such as Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger, which arose in the late 1970s and 1980s. The genre eschews the synthesizer-based music and fashion elements being popularized in the 1980s, such as the synth pop and New Romanticism in favor of straightforward classic rock sound that discussed relatable, blue collar issues. 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". While the heartland rock movement fizzled into the 1990s, the band remained active and popular, and they still tour regularly and continue to record albums, their most recent, Mojo
, was released 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. The band plans to release new material in 2014 as well.Although most of their material is produced and performed under the name "The Heartbreakers", Petty himself has released three solo albums, the most successful being 1989's Full Moon Fever
, although even in these releases, members of the band still tend to contribute as studio musicians.Early yearsPetty's early bands included The Sundowners, The Epics, and Mudcrutch, which consisted of 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. 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.
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
. At this time, the band records Unchained
by Johnny Cash with producer Rick Rubin.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 two 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."
2006 to present
In the band's thirtieth anniversary year, 2006, they headlined 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.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.Petty has announced he intends to release a new Heartbreakers album in 2014.
- 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.
Tom Petty solo albums
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
Relationship with music industry
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, a topic that was a center concept of the lyrics of his 2002 album, The Last DJ
, and its respective limited edition DVD.