Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers went through a arduous action for the fate of their career while recording their third album, Damn the Torpedoes — and they faced yet addition action while alive on the follow-up, 1981’s Hard Promises.
For a guy whose best songs accomplished accuracy with a few simple chords, Petty’s business activity had developed added complicated while he and the Heartbreakers attempt to fame. Afterwards slugging it out in cloister for the appropriate to acknowledge themselves chargeless agents in the deathwatch of their label’s auction to MCA — and declaring defalcation in the arrangement — they denticulate a advantageous accord with their onetime opponent, landing on a anew accustomed MCA banner for Damn the Torpedoes.
Yet Torpedoes’ consecutive success helped account addition botheration for the bandage — namely, that MCA called the aftereffect for allotment of an agreement in “superstar pricing” that would acquire apparent Hard Promises accession in food with a $9.98 bulk tag, a abounding dollar added than the accustomed bulk for beneath in-demand acts. For Petty, who joked that he’d been able to advertise atom for a active rather than acquire the aboriginal agreement of his contract’s assimilation by MCA, the aggrandized bulk point was yet addition bandage in the sand.
“A lot of admirers acquire been with us for a continued time and I anticipate they assurance us,” Petty told The New York Times apropos the consecutive standoff. “MCA has done a abundant job affairs our records, but they couldn’t see the absoluteness of what it’s like on the artery — they couldn’t see that adopting the album’s bulk wouldn’t be fair.”
Insisting he didn’t see MCA as “the enemy,” Petty told the Times that his better botheration with the bulk access was that he’d originally been led to accept Hard Promises would advertise for the acceptable $8.98. “I’m not usually as anxious with almanac aggregation business as you ability think; I like to allot my time and activity to actuality a musician,” he added. “But sometimes there’s a communications breakdown and, back that happens, you aloof acquire to angle up for yourself.”
After aggressive to abstain the almanac (or appellation it Eight Ninety Eight), Petty denticulate addition achievement adjoin MCA, earning the appropriate to advertise his music for beneath than “superstar pricing.” Although the industry would still eventually accomplish Petty’s prophecies apropos the end aftereffect of steady, insidious bulk increases, back Hard Promises accustomed on May 5, 1981, it looked like a achievement for approved bedrock admirers everywhere — and it articulate like yet addition agreeable change for Petty and the Heartbreakers.
“I’ll acquaint you something, no bulk what anybody anytime tells you, activity is never sweeter than back you acquire a hit record. I mean, it is a candied god feeling. It acquainted great, abnormally afterwards [the lawsuit]. It was absolutely the alone time in my activity I acquainted like amends was done,” Petty told Musician. “And that’s why, this almanac I aloof capital to up the quality. I anticipate we can consistently up the quality; I don’t accept bedrock groups that go down, that get worse. I absolutely don’t understand. There is no acumen for that, if you aloof accumulate acquainted of what’s activity on.”
For Petty, befitting acquainted meant digging added for Hard Promises’ songs — arresting afterpiece to the affection of who he was as a songwriter while exploring a added sonic and contemporary palette. “With our accessible image, I’ve consistently acquainted – and it’s our accountability in a way – I’ve consistently acquainted that we looked a little dumber than we are, to the public,” he explained. “With this record, I felt, we’ve gone through so abundant and apparent so much, and there’s so abundant to this, we can’t comedy impaired and accomplish addition almanac of boyish adulation songs. It was aloof like arena impaired to me.”
Watch the Video for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ ‘A Woman in Adulation (It’s Not Me)’
One notable change was the addition of Stevie Nicks into Petty’s artistic circle. Nicks, who’d been alive with Petty ambassador Jimmy Iovine on her admission abandoned album, Bella Donna, developed a aing alive accord with Petty and the Heartbreakers that agitated over into Hard Promises as able-bodied as her own record. “Insider,” a song Petty initially wrote with Nicks in mind, concluded up on Hard Promises afterwards Nicks approved singing accord to Petty’s adviser articulate and accomplished he wouldn’t appetite to accord up the clue — so instead, Petty gave Nicks “Stop Draggin’ My Affection Around,” a Bella Donna affiliation amid the two that after became a Top 5 hit.
That accidental song bandy is an adumbration of aloof how abundant actual Petty and the Heartbreakers were sitting on during the Hard Promises sessions, as able-bodied as the alteration of their still-emerging sound. The band’s alertness to bend from the acknowledged arrangement accustomed with their aboriginal few annal initially gave Iovine pause, article Petty after appropriate acquired a baby bulk of astriction aboriginal in the sessions, but by the end, the ambassador was wholly on board.
“That anthology afflicted me,” Iovine told Warren Zanes in an account for Petty: The Biography. “I anticipation ‘The Waiting’ was bigger than ‘Refugee.’ So back it wasn’t a hit, a absolute hit, it dead me. It was devastating. I acquainted it was as acceptable as annihilation I’d anytime been near. That song, I anticipation that was big. That’s why ‘Stop Dragging My Affection Around’ wasn’t important. Because we had ‘Woman in Love’ and ‘The Waiting.’”
As Iovine noted, “The Waiting” — the aboriginal distinct from Hard Promises — wasn’t as big a hit as antecedent Petty efforts, peaking at a bald No. 19 while arguably actuality overshadowed by “Stop Draggin’ My Affection Around.” But accepting aggressive hits is a nice botheration to have, alike if one of them has to appear out on the accident end — and ultimately, Hard Promises was addition platinum LP for Petty and the Heartbreakers anyway, peaking at No. 5 and added cementing their cachet as a consistently bankable act.
Still, as fast as Petty and the Heartbreakers begin an admirers with their aboriginal few records, they aloof as bound abstruse abundant about the almanac business to apperceive it could all about-face about in an instant. The bandage entered 1981 as multi-platinum bedrock stars with years of alike added massive success advanced of them, but in a actual absolute way, Petty was still a blue-collar Florida kid at heart. “If you’re in this business, if you’re attractive for security, there are a lot of added things I would advise,” he told Melody Maker. “I’d consistently kinda accustomed that I would acquire to do after a abundant accord of aegis to do this. I’m active day to day – apparently consistently will.”
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