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Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers self-titled debut album appeared in 1976. It boasted the tunefulness of Sixties pop, the sinewy crunch of Seventies rock and the bristling energy of the nascent punk movement. Though they were not punk-rockers per se, Petty and the Heartbreakers did their part to revitalize rock in the mid-to-late Seventies with their first three albums – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers ("Breakdown," "American Girl"), You're Gonna Get It! ("I Need to Know," "Listen to Her Heart") and Damn the Torpedoes.
The last of these was an early peak for the band and one of the essential rock albums of the decade. Strong from start to finish, it contained the classic tracks "Refugee," "Even the Losers," "Don't Do Me Like That" and "Here Comes My Girl."
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, who had been headlining shows since 1977, were now bonafide superstars.
Hard Promises was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fourth album. Their fifth, Long After Dark landed in 1982.
Southern Accents, which followed two and a half years later, took a more experimental and conceptual turn. The album yielded an offbeat hit, "Don't Come Around Here No More" (#13).
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers backed Bob Dylan on a pair of tours in 1986 and 1987. Dylan noted, "I've got a lot of respect for Tom – he's a deep and soulful cat. Tom is a heroic character in his own kind of way. And he's got a very good band; they're quick, and they know the fundamental music." Dylan's spontaneous, first-take approach rubbed off on the group when they went to record Let Me Up (I've Had Enough), which came together more quickly than its studio predecessor. Following that release, Petty went solo.
Working primarily with guitarist Campbell and producer Jeff Lynne – a fellow member of the "temporary super group" the Traveling Wilburys and the former leader of the Electric Light Orchestra – Petty cut his first solo album, Full Moon Fever, released in 1989. Relying heavily on acoustic guitars and succinct, poppy arrangements, Full Moon Fever marked a turning point for Petty. His music henceforth took a simpler, more melodic and decidedly pop-oriented tack that seemed deliberately shorn of stress or overreaching.
The more easygoing Petty saw Full Moon Fever became his best-selling album to date, climbing to #3 and yielding the biggest hit of his career, "Free Fallin'" (#7). Subsequent albums, both with the Heartbreakers (1991's Into the Great Wide Open, the 1996 soundtrack She's the One) and without (1994's Wildflowers), worked toward the same ends of clarity and simplicity with great success. Wildflowers inaugurated a label switch from MCA, where the Petty and the Heartbreakers had spent the previous 20 years, to Warner Bros.
In 1993, Petty and the Heartbreakers released their generous, 17-track Greatest Hits CD. One of its two new tracks, "Mary Jane's Last Dance," became a Top Twenty hit. The album stayed on Billboard's Top 200 album chart for more than six years and even made the RIAA's list of 100 best-selling albums of all time for a spell. Playback, a six-CD box set retrospective, appeared in 1995
In 1997, the group undertook a historic 20-night stand at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium. Echo, the group's first album of new music in five years, appeared in 1999 and was preceded by another lengthy run of shows at the Fillmore.
Petty once said, "I'd like to see us break some new ground and leave some sort of mark on the music. That would be the nicest thing – to give something back, as noble as it sounds. If you could make some little dent in rock, where that little area is yours – that's what I'm striving for now." Surely, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have accomplished all that and more.
During the summer of 2007, Tom Petty reunited with his old band mates Tom Leadon and Randall Marsh along with Heartbreakers Benmont Tench & Mike Campbell to reform his pre-Heartbreakers band Mudcrutch. The five some recorded a new album together scheduled for release April 29, 2008. The disc contains 14 tracks. "We would play and then we would just talk about the old days," Tom Leadon says.
In January 2008, it was announced that the band would be embarking on a North American Tour, which set to start on May 30 following the appearance at Super Bowl XLII.
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