The 1970's musically was a fallow period, it seemed to be a decade devoid of widespread creative leaps, what seemed to hold it together was a burgeoning alternative scene that began to emerge from the latter half of the decade. There was a also a period of revival in rock and roll, many artists looked to the past, to the golden age for inspiration and what they in turn gave music listeners was a revelation. I'm thinking along the lines of Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny and Ashbury Dukes and of course Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.
The Heartbreakers' third album Damn The Torpedoes was their commercial and artistic breakthrough, in a little over three years they had developed into a tight compact sounding band with a sense of ambivalence toward the mechanisms of the music industry and a knack for melodic rock and roll. They were a prime example of what happens when you spend 250-300 nights per year on the road, you become very good very quickly. The bands first two albums lacked confidence, they sounded unsure of their direction and this may have been due to the lack of a sympathetic producer. In finding Jimmy Iovine who had produced Born To Run for Bruce Springsteen they found someone who shared their vision and who could harness their talent in a studio environment.
Damn The Torpedoes resonates with the passion of youth, songs of love, alienation and nostalgia and it does so with bite. Refugee the opening track is pure rock and soul, great hammond sound from Benmont Tench who in my opinion is one of the great rock and roll keyboard players. He is capable of providing dense layers, but he can also pound the keys with ferocity. Mike Campbell, lead guitarist reminds of Keith Richards he has a restraint about his playing focusing more on the rhythm and giving plenty of space for Benmont to fill. He was also more than capable of searing lead solos and those Chuck Berry style runs. Here Comes My Girl sounds like it could have come straight out of The Byrds songbook, as Tom Petty ruminates about small town frustration and the relief that he has his girl. Shadow of a Doubt (Complex Kid) is the standout track, although never released as a single it demonstrates how tight their sound had become, they had locked into their sound.
The soul tinged Don't Do Me Like That has a keyboard opening that reminds me of something Booker T may have played in the 60's, also allows drummer Stan Lynch to open up with some thunderous tom tom fills, a very underrated drummer he had the dexterity of a Keith Moon in his fills but was very focused on simply keeping the beat. He had a great rapport live on stage with Petty where he could instinctively predict what Petty was going to do. Louisiana Rain hints at the more reflective and ambiguous writing style that Petty would focus on in future albums, especially his solo work in the late 80's. Damn The Torpedoes reached U.S#2 and U.K#57 where their earlier popularity had begun to fade a little, even though in Europe they were a popular live act. It's an album that doesn't seem to date, it still feels relevant musically as many bands today look to the past for musical guidance.