Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Damn The Torpedoes (1979)
Welcome back to YDCS where we’re taking a look into the third album by one the great American rock acts of the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and 00s; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and their album Damn The Torpedoes. Over the band’s 40-year career, they released thirteen studio albums and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during their first year of eligibility. With a virtually unchanged lineup, the band focused on a southern rock and heartland rock sound that was instantly recognizable by the punch of Petty’s raw vocals and the combined, vigorous energy of the Heartbreakers.
Damn The Torpedoes takes its name from a quote by Admiral David Farragut during the American Civil War and the Battle of Mobile Bay where he famously said “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” The album seems to play on that quote by being a “full speed ahead” kind of album full of forceful vocals, fantastic musicianship, and crafting a great rock album with enough variation and interesting techniques to keep it from going stale as you listen. This record is chock full of Tom Petty classics that were included on his greatest hits album and is arguably one of the band’s best works. This is one of my favorite albums I’ve covered this year because of its consistent high-quality musicianship, memorable lyrics, and raw power and energy behind each song. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
Refugee: Let’s just open the album with one of Tom Petty’s most popular songs and one of the singles for the album why don’t we?! This is a very strong open for the album. “Refugee”isn’t a fast-paced rock track, but there is so much power in Petty’s vocals that it just drives the song and sounds like he’s pleading with the listener, saying that “[they] don’t have to live like a refugee.” This is an instantly recognizable song and is very characteristic of Petty’s style; incorporating dynamic changes throughout the song for emphasis that show excellent songwriting, powerful vocals, and interspersed vocal harmonies to emphasize specific sections. Top notch song. Dad’s Rating 9/10
Here Comes My Girl: I really like how the opening of this song deceives the listener into thinking that this is going to show Petty’s softer side before he launches into unabashedly powerful lyrics. The piano throughout this song is beautiful and adds a nice contrast to the rough-around-the-edges vocals. Dad’s Rating 9/10
Even The Losers: I would rate this as an above average rock song. It’s characteristically Tom Petty, but guitar solo and unique drum intro are fantastic. I think lots of people can identify with this song and feeling like a loser sometimes before getting lucky and turning it all around. Make of that what you will… Dad’s Rating 7/10
Shadow Of A Doubt (Complex Kid): There’s so much that I like about this song, and I think that most of it revolves around the energy of the song. The band has so much energy throughout the track, the guitar solo shreds, Petty’s vocals punch through, and there’s that cool bongo drum intro. This is a really good track and without a shadow of a doubt, you shouldn’t skip it! Dad’s Rating 8/10
Century City: This is a groovy track that stands out the least amongst the powerhouse tracks on the rest of this album. It’s a technically sound song and the musicianship is awesome, but it feels like a continuation of “Shadow O A Doubt”, and if I hadn’t known they were different songs I’m not sure I would have figured it out. Dad’s Rating 6/10
Don’t Do Me Like That: The third 9/10 on this album and another Tom Petty classic! This is borderline perfect score territory for me for a few reasons: the song is dynamic in the way it treats the bridge and goes into that up-tempo section, the musicianship is top-level, and the keyboard intro was probably three years away from launching this past number 10 on the Hot 100. Of course, we don’t rate song based on how they performed on the Hot 100, but the only thing “Don’t Do Me Like That”lacks is the “something” that you can’t put into words, that last “oomph.” Dad’s Rating 9/10
You Tell Me: I think “You Tell Me”is the most radical track on the album because it’s a departure from the guitar-focused soft rock sound on the other songs and a trial at a keyboard-focused track that morphs into a guitar-forward sound. I really like that interplay and think it gives the record more depth while showing off the whole band’s range of musical ability. Non-critically, it’s just pleasant to listen to a jazzy rock track that breaks up the rest of the album! Dad’s Rating 8/10
What Are You Doin’ In My Life?: I’m going to put this one notch above “Century City”because it’s a more powerful sound from the band and has “You Tell Me” in front of it to buffer it from becoming hidden in the other guitar-forward songs on the record. This is a good southern rock inspired track that doesn’t do anything special for me but, at the same time, doesn’t do anything wrong. Dad’s Rating 7/10
Louisiana Rain: From the picked guitar intro on “Louisiana Rain”and into that supernatural sound on the synthesizer, my attention was held. Oftentimes the last track on the album gets lost in the sound of the rest of the album, and while this is another southern rock inspired rock track (and I think a better one that “What Are You Doin’”), that intro makes sure that you’re paying attention and this melodic, slowed down track captures you to make sure that you stay. This is an excellent way to finish an album. Dad’s Rating 8/10
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