A Look Back Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' Debut 40 Years Later

Tom Petty

(Radio.com) Forty years ago this week, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released their self-titled debut album. It wasn't a huge hit at the time, but it contained two of his biggest classics, and a deep track that has sadly been mostly forgotten by all but the most die-hard fans. Here, we look back at the album that started it all for one of America's most enduring bands.

First, there was the album cover: Tom Petty looking a bit defiant, a bit nonchalant. Was he part of the Ramones' school of stripped down rock? Or part of a new generation of southern-rock bands, following the path of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band? Was he "new wave?" He kind of looked like all of the above. His face told the story: "I don't give a s where you categorize me." As he explained in the title of one of the album's strongest tracks, he was about "Anything That's Rock and Roll." That's the attitude he'd carry with him over the next four decades. He'd laugh, or sneer, at the music industry's latest trends, while consistently selling out arenas, decade after decade.

The album kicked off with "Rockin' Around (With You)," introducing itself with an updated rockbilly beat, but sneering group vocals, "Whyyyyyyyyyy be lonely/Whyyyyyyyy be blue?" It was a perfect combination of American rock and roll, filtered through the lens of the British invasion, with just a hint of punk flavor.

Petty's first top 40 hit came with "Breakdown," a song that documents a painful breakup. It transcended Petty's influences and announced a unique new talent to rock radio. Because his voice was so distinctive and he was difficult to pin down stylistically, he never really seemed to be a part of any movement, and was able to appeal to fans of punk and new wave as well as the more straight-ahead rockers. Read more here.

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Copyright Radio.com/CBS Local - Excerpted here with permission.


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