If we don't take a stand, one of these days
records are going to be $20. --Tom Petty, 1981, on album price
Tom Petty as a "Legend" is a no brainer to anyone who has had the pleasure
of witnessing even a portion of his long and successful career. The
bottom line with this gifted musician is that Tom Petty has always been,
and will always be about the music and maintaining the integrity of rock
For someone who has
had as stellar a career as he, studded with various awards, honors and
platinum records, He prefers to keep his feet right on the ground with
the rest of us. Always the rebel, he has fought for his rights and
our rights too - as fans, music consumers and human beings. He tells
the American story as "every man" and the songs he has written will be
pressed in the pages of rock and roll history for us to share with future
generations. The music of Tom Petty &
The Heartbreakers allowed us to grow up with him and let us know that we
weren't alone in the trials and emotions of coming into your own.
Not sugar coated, this heartland rock tells it like it is, warts and all.
But by making himself known as one of us, he cemented his place as the
model of cool rock & roll throughout three decades. He is the
music world's rebel WITH a cause, or make that many causes.
In The Beginning
. . .
In 1970 Tom Petty formed a band with Tom
Leadon, calling themselves "Mudcrutch." They later recruit Randall
Marsh on drums, and Mike Campbell as a second guitar. After jamming
to get down their sound they begin to organize the Mudcrutch Farm Festivals
in in Florida (Tom's home state) in 1971 & 1972. By 1973 they
are recording demos and shopping for a later.
1974 the band is scouting in Los Angeles for a label, demo in hand.
Mudcrutch signs up with Danny Cordell's Shelter Records in Tulsa, OK and
relocates to Los Angeles, They start working on an album, which is
never released and the band breaks up . . .
In 1975 Tom Petty engineers a new beginning
by forming a backup band called the Heartbreakers. The original lineup
includes Mike Campbell on guitar, Benmont Tench on keyboards, Ron Blair
on bass, Stan Lynch on drums and Jeff Jourard on guitar. The following
year, Jeff leaves the band to join his brother's band, The Motels.
The Heartbreakers put out their debut self titled album and experience
sales of only 6,500 copies in three months. Not daunted by this,
Tom lands them opening slots for artists like Bob Seger and The Runaways,
which began the process of exposing America to their unforgettable sound.
years that follow found Tom and his Heartbreakers realizing an ever growing
fan base through constant touring, television appearances and collaborations.
But the first round of trouble was on the horizon for Tom and he let the
world see his tenacity for the first of many times. In 1979 his record
company is bought (or swallowed, depending on who you hear telling the
story) by MCA. Tom refused to simply transfer to another record company
without his consent. MCA claimed that he owed them $575,000 in recoupable
expenses, which would only be forgiven if he remained one of MCA's acts
and recorded six more albums for them! In a symbolic "kiss my ass"
gesture, he turned right around and filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and the
only way the whole matter was finally solved was when MCA agreed to establish
a new MCA controlled label,
Backstreet Records, devoted wholly to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
That year the band embarked on a tour under the banner "Why MCA/The Lawsuit
At the same time he was in litigation with
MCA Records, Petty fought with his publishing company as he believed artists
should own their own song writing copyrights. Petty held fast to
his principles for a long nine months and this added to his need to file
for bankruptcy. This struggle with his publishing company earned
much attention, and it helped other artists in their own battles to hold
onto their copyrights. So if you are a musician, or would like to
be one some day, you can thank pioneers like Tom Petty for paving the way
for you to own what you create.
we know he cares about himself and his band, but what about us - the fans?
Fear not, oh weary music connoisseurs. You are not alone.
MCA, seeing the success of "Damn The Torpedoes," and the buzz the band
was creating in the music industry, decided to inflate the price of their
next release, "Hard Promises" from $8.98 to $9.98. In 1981, when
this was all going down, $8.89 was a lot of money to buy an album.
Tom wouldn't stand for it. He was outraged and withheld the tapes
from MCA. After much lawyer speak and abstinence from Tom, MCA finally
backed down and released the album at $8.98, leaving an extra dollar in
the pockets of his fans.
Life was not all trials and legal wrangling
for the band that turned out such classic hits as Breakdown, Free Falling,
Don't Do Me Like That and Refugee. Who among us has a summer memory
of your first crush and hearing the song "Here Comes My Girl?" Or
salved your wounds from an ugly breakup while being bolstered by the words
to "Don't Come Around Here No More?"
the late 80s we saw Petty stretch his wings a bit and experiment with solo
projects and a stint with the Traveling Wilburys, a collaboration of George
Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison. The group put out
two CDs, Volume 1 and Volume 3, which were critically acclaimed because
of their superstar qualities.
Even with these outlets of creativity,
Petty has stayed true to the Heartbreakers for all these many years in
an unstable business, where bands come and go. Still he is steady
on course, making music his way, and we all got lucky he has let us into
What Are They
Up To Now?
Petty & The Heartbreakers are currently on tour for the summer.
Tom has been quoted as saying that they are working on a new CD, but is
taking time off to tour, "because I just feel like playing. The
group is so good, its a crime not to take them out." According
to Petty, they are playing mostly smaller arenas, so they can get that
intimate feel with their audiences and the set lists, in addition to hits
and rarities, will consist of "songs we haven't played in 10-15 years.
Popular songs we laid down . . . I'm going to play whatever I feel like
and whatever makes the best show." Judging from the sold out
crowds across the nation, I would say his instincts have been on the money
with his no frills form of bringing it to the people. If you want
to see how and why rock lives, you can get no better example than seeing
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers for yourself.
- Guitars, Vocals
Tench - Keyboards
Epstein - Bass
Thurston - Guitars, Harmonica
Ferrone - Drums
Byrds, Check Berry, Del Shannon, Bob Dylan, The Kingsmen, The Outsiders.
Career Album Discography:
THE TRAVELING WILBURYS:
Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1 - Wilbury
Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 3 - Wilbury
more information on the band
Purchase Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Photos by Debbie Seagle Copyright
Quest Productions - All Rights Reserved - Debbie Seagle is the Special
Features Editor for the iconoFAN Network.