[Today: Full steam ahead...]
Teenagers in Eugene, OR used to have a Friday night ritual called “cruising the gut” that consisted of hundreds and hundreds of cars full of kids driving 2 MPH up and down a ten block stretch of Willamette St, in an endless loop of testosterone, pheromones, and muscle cars. Even though I cruised the gut with my friends a few times, I never quite understood the point of the whole thing. But it brought together two very disparate angles on Friday night in America: 1) it was great to be young and free and on the loose with your friends, and 2) it was amazing how many people were out there on the prowl, desperately looking for someone to call their own. As far as I could tell, nothing ever happened besides a lot of gawking and jawing, but it was fun and exciting just the same.
Damn The Torpedoes wasn’t the soundtrack to any of those evenings (I shudder to think what was) but every time I hear it I’m reminded of cruising the gut. Tom Petty sounds like the audio love child of Bob Dylan and Roger McGuinn, and his voice here has all the longing of a Friday night going nowhere fast (see ‘Even The Losers’). Petty had McGuinn’s jangle and Dylan’s nasal whine, and his subject matter harkened back to the rock and roll of the 50s: girls (‘Here Comes My Girl’), bad breakups (‘Louisiana Rain’), tough guy acts (‘Don’t Do Me Like That’ and ‘What Are You Doin’ In My Life?’) and bragging over turf (‘Century City’). This 1979 album is a timeless batch of songs that instantly sounded like it’d been played on the radio for years – which of course, it has ever since…
Listen: Here Comes My Girl
Listen: Don’t Do Me Like That