Tom Petty has been around for decades. Tom Petty is a rock legend. I know this and I would never dispute it. But I think Free Falling might be the only Tom Petty song I could name off the top of my head. And even then, I only know that one because of Jerry McGuire. Oh, and wasn’t he a Travelling Wilbury? Because he’s been around for decades and is a rock legend, I know he’s probably got plenty of other songs I know, but I just don’t know they’re his. Which is what I’m hoping to discover with Damn the Torpedoes.
Boom! Immediate vindication with Refugee, a song I’ve know my whole life, I just never knew it was Tom Petty song. I might be way off, but in my head, Petty is catagorised with a group of guitar playing singer, song writer, rockers from the late 70s and early 80s. People like Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar and Brian Adams. And Refugee is the kind of guitar based, singer, song writer, rocker stuff that would support that categorisation.
Here Comes My Girl is more back up for that assumption. A story of a guy and a girl, it’s piano and organ filled melodies and borderline screamed vocals every now and again for emphasised passion. To me, this is the precise sound of Americana at that time. With Even the Losers, you get all of that, plus a little over the top production that would be common place a year or two later as the 80s really dug their heels in.
The singer, song writer sensitivity is kicked to the curb for the straight up 70s rock and roll of Century City. A basic 12 bar blues structure, repetitive, to the point lyrics, and plenty of room of solos and riffage. Century City is simple, but effective. An approach that pays off again a track or two later on What Are You Doin’ to My Life?
Maybe Tom Petty and Damn the Torpedoes have been co-opted, copied and ripped off too many times over the years. Because while I liked it, I never loved it or felt surprised by it. The song writing is tight, the production rarely gets in the way of the songs and Petty’s voice is pretty perfect for his style of rock and roll. But ultimately, it just never sounded like anything I haven’t relay heard plenty of times before. I will say this though, I’ll give Petty the benefit of the doubt, and assume that Damn the Torpedoes is awesome, and that I just can’t appreciate it because of a lifetime of cheap imitations.