Wednesday, November 9, 2016

40 Year Itch : Raised on Promises

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers : American Girl

On November 9, 1976 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released their self-titled debut on Leon Russell's Shelter Records label.

In the Peter Bogdanovich four hour documentary Runnin' Down a Dream, Petty remembers it this way : "The record came out. It pretty much did nothing. Then, like a bolt of lightning, bam! It hits in England, comes out in England. And it's an enormous success right out of the box. I mean they're writing whole page reviews and just going mad for it in England."

It's true the album went Top 20 in England and even sold well in France and Germany before anyone in the US took notice of the band.  Besieged by disco, the UK responded to the authentic rock and roll band that brought back the swagger of the Beat bands, the cool of fellow Southerner Elvis Presley, the nasally wail of Bob Dylan and, on "American Girl", the jangly guitar of The Byrds.

"He was about the only American music that was acceptable in Britain," remembers Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. "It was the one band that people were like 'Oh yeah, they're cool'."

"Anything That's Rock'n'Roll" was the UK single, peaking at #36 in 1977. But back in the United States, the band would have to tour relentlessly to make a name for themselves. By the time "Breakdown" cracked the Top 40 in February of 1978, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had already recorded their second album.

American Girl would be the last song Petty ever perfomed.

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