Damn The Torpedoes
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers were a hot potato in the burgeoning quake
of mid to late 70s new wave. The problem was that they had more in common with
the Byrds than the Ramones, which probably violated more than a few ties to
the punk scene. As it was, they were a tight band with solid songs. Poised for
the big-time, difficulties with their record label held the group’s future
in limbo after their second album. Then Backstreet Records came to the rescue,
and Damn The Torpedoes, the third album, got the go-ahead.
It would become the breakthrough album for Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.
The whole story gets a thorough airing on the Classic Albums: Damn The
Torpedoes DVD and Blu-ray Disc.
Like all of Eagle Vision’s Classic Albums episodes, the story surrounding
the making of Damn The Torpedoes is as authoritative as you
can get with all new interviews featuring Petty, guitarist Mike Campbell, keyboardist
Benmont Tench, bassist Ron Blair, producer Jimmy Iovine and engineer Shelly
Yakus. All of the participants weight in, mostly sitting behind a recording
console. Petty talks about constructing songs, Campbell may add something about
(and sometimes plays) parts he contributed, and Tench explains some of his complex
keyboard embellishments worked into the mix. At one point, Yakus talks about
how the guitar and keyboard sound of the band created a distinct blend and sound.
A big reason, we learn, producer Jimmy Iovine was brought in was because he
had mastered the science of recording drums, especially on Patti Smith’s
“Because The Night.” As it happened, getting a good drum sound on
Damn The Torpedoes was problematic, including the near-sacking
of drummer Stan Lynch, who later left the band in 1994. Tench says Iovine didn’t
really like Lynch’s drumming and other drummers were brought in for a
couple of weeks. In the end, the band realized they needed Lynch to make it
work and he was invited back. Why they didn’t just use Jim Keltner, who
was apparently wandering up and down the studio hallways, to play more than
a couple of shakes remains (since it has been revealed) one of rock’s
Petty walks through an acoustic, Storytellers-style bit on “Here
Comes My Girl,” a song that seems to evolve as the documentary moves forward.
Through trial and error, we find out “Don’t Do Me Like That”
became the band’s first Top 10 single. The MTV video clips and live footage
substantiate the impact Damn The Torpedoes made at the dawn
of the 80s. But, of course, when the documentary focuses on Petty’s songwriting
or Campbell’s guitar playing, it goes beyond the making of a single album.
The 42 minutes of bonus footage takes it even further as various key instruments
and recording techniques employed are explored. If you have the four-hour Runnin’
Down A Dream documentary, you may think you’ve gotten your fill
of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Better check again because Classic
Albums: Damn The Torpedoes has got some new stuff you’ll want
~ Shawn Perry