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Damn the Torpedos [Deluxe Edition]

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  • Posted April 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    How Tom Petty Became A Star---And Stayed That Way!

    When Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers were about to record "Damn The Torpedoes", things were not looking good for this band. They had recorded two impressive albums for ABC/Shelter Records which yielded FM radio hits like "American Girl" and "Listen To Her Heart". But the albums didn't sell that much and by 1979, ABC/Shelter shut their doors and Petty filed for bankruptcy. When he signed to MCA/Backstreet that year, there was a lot riding on this third album---sort of his "Born To Run", make-or-break album. It's easy to forget in this quick-paced "American Idol" musical period we're living in but it took Petty a while to get to this position. In the early 1970's, he was the leader of Mudcrutch, a band which played mostly country-styled rock. They only released a couple of singles and didn't get around to making a full-scale album until almost thirty years later. So, when "Damn The Torpedoes" became a massive hit, it was greeted with that same vindication that Bob Seger must have felt when he scored his big hit, "Night Moves" after kicking it around for ten-plus years. There are many reasons why "Damn The Torpedoes" was---and still is---a terrific album. One of them is the jangly sound of the band, which by now had tightened up and was given a more hard-edged style, thanks to new producer Jimmy Iovine. This appealed to fans of mid-Sixties Byrds-style rock as well as to New Wave fans at the time. Another reason was that Petty and his band play as if this is their last record together. That sense of urgency is definitely felt in the brilliant opening track, "Refugee", perhaps the closest Petty had to a signature tune. However, the album is not all desperation. There's plenty of funny sarcasm ("What Are You Doing In My Life?"), the hopefulness of love ("Here Comes My Girl") and outright frustration ("Shadow Of A Doubt"). Even the Chuck Berry-turned-techno of "Century City" sounds great. But the finest song on that album is perhaps "Louisiana Rain", which is a lot closer to the Southern-rock vein of Mudcrutch that anything else on the album. Its timeless feeling of maybe being able to go home again (or not) is perfect for closing the album. This special edition also contains some exempliary outtakes like "Nowhere" and "Surrender". The best of which is "Casa Dega", a moody tune which was originally going to appear on the album but instead ended up as the flip-side of "Don't Do Me Like That". Since this record came out, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers became major stars and have remained that way ever since. Even the occasional current lapses cannot diminish what a marvelous record "Damn The Torpedoes" truly is.

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