Damn The Torpedoes (Tom Petty) – Album Review

"Damn The Torpedoes" Was Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers First Platinum Album. It Was Issued In 1979.

"Damn The Torpedoes" Was Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers First Platinum Album. It Was Issued In 1979.

“Damn The Torpedoes” was Petty’s third album, and the one that brought true recognition to him and the Heartbreakers (his classic backing band). It came out in 1979, and it signaled the first run-in that Tom had with the industry. Basically, Petty’s record company at the time (Shelter) was sold to MCA, a move Petty disapproved of. He tried to detach himself by all means, and he was to eventually end up bankrupt as a result. Hence the title of the record – Admiral David Farragut’s famous order at the Battle of Mobile Bay: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”.

Getting down to the music, now, the disc is invariably good. It caught Tom and the boys at the peak of their explicit days as rockers, whereas the album closer “Louisiana Rain” evidenced a desire to innovate and move out of the constraints of the genre, even if only a little.

The singles included “Refugee” (a song that hit #15) and the top 10 hit “Don’t Do Me Like That”. “Here Comes My Girl” (which featured a spoken delivery by Tom) and “Even The Losers” were also to go down as Tom Petty classics. The latter in particular will always be an excellent example of Petty’s prototypical characters – people who are out of fortune but not out of luck, as I commented on the general introduction I wrote yesterday.

To me, the one true forgotten gem of the album is the fierce “Shadow Of A Doubt (A Complex Kid)”. I don’t know if you think I am going on a limb or not, I am going to name it the one unjustly forgotten moment in Tom’s early years – the guitar work that he and Mike Campbell provide throughout is terrific. You know you have heard people playing like that a trillion times before, but still the guitars come across as something incredible fresh. If the song hadn’t been in such estimated company it would have been an obvious single, and a successful one at that.

The remaining cuts are all rockers, with “Century City” and “What Are You Doin’ In My Life” exemplifying (again) Petty and The Heartbreakers’ ability to make rock & roll feel rejuvenated. There is only another ballad, namely “You Tell Me”. The song (and other like “Don’t Do Me Like That”) was instrumental in showcasing that Benmont Tench was not painted in a corner – rather, he had something to contribute to the basic sound of the band.

At the end of the day, this will always be remembered as Tom Petty’s breakthrough album. It was the album of his that was better-represented on the 1993 “Greatest Hits” compilation, too – four out of its nine cuts were included. It was the first album of his I ever bought, too. Funny enough, I bought it almost by coincidence. I had no idea what I was getting my hands on. But I guess Tom is right in the end. Even the losers, they get lucky sometimes.

Rating: 8/10

4 thoughts on “Damn The Torpedoes (Tom Petty) – Album Review

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