Masterpiece: Damn The Torpedoes

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[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

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One Response to “Masterpiece: Damn The Torpedoes”

  1. Aram Says:

    For years I promoted something I called the “Third Album Theory,” i.e., the idea that major artists generally spent two albums sorting things out before hitting their creative stride on their third. I supported the TAT by referencing Springsteen’s Born to Run and Petty’s Damn the Torpedoes. Unfortunately, examples became harder to find after those two. I suppose U2′s War would fit too and I had one or two more that I used to cite but I can’t remember them now. I eventually abandoned the theory but it was fun for a while, thinking I was on to something that could explain the artistic process.

    Still, Petty’s career is filled with great albums (I wouldn’t be surprised to read a Masterpiece column on Mojo in a few years) but, for my money, DtT is its highest point. I know it’s kept me good company over the years…

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