9 Songs, 36 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Six months before he released his third album, Tom Petty filed for bankruptcy. Six months after, he was one of the biggest rock stars in America thanks to a handful of radio staples that would prove as enduring as any ever written. In between, he and his band were put through the wringer by a producer who would go on to become a mogul, determined to spin Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ bar-band charm and penchant for classic hooks into platinum. “It was not an easy record to make, but it paid off 'cause it came out and it really has an amazing sound and it jumps out of the radio when you hear it,” Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell tells Apple Music. “We didn't have our studio chops, and that was very frustrating because we kept thinking we had it. We went through a lot of tuning the drums endlessly, trying different guitars and amps—getting so nitpicky about every little nuance of the sound. And that's why it sounds so pristine, but it wasn't fun.”

The nitpicker-in-chief was producer Jimmy Iovine, who made the band work and rework songs over and over—Campbell claims they may have spent two weeks on the snare sound for “Refugee” alone, but the result was a breakthrough hit from the moment the final version was played back in the studio. “I remember even everybody in the room, like the whole crew, staff, and the girl at the front desk all came in. They were going, ‘You guys have done it now. Just watch that one go.’ ‘Refugee’ is one of the first songs that Tom and I wrote that really, really was huge. We'd written a lot of songs before, but that one just had some magic. I wrote the music pretty much as the record stands and gave those tapes to Tom, and he wrote these incredible words and made the songs what they are.”

It was the embryonic demos of “Refugee” and “Here Comes My Girl” that made Iovine so excited about producing the album to begin with, and so confident of the band’s impending megastardom. “In fact, he said, ‘I don't need to hear any more songs, we've got the two we need, the rest doesn't matter,'” recalls Campbell. “Which I don't agree with, but when I hear them on the radio now, I'm really proud of the recording and the songcraft and the timelessness. Hopefully, that's the beauty of good music. And I think the songs are not in any kind of genre—it's not New Wave or grunge or whatever, it's just rock 'n' roll done really well. We didn't get pigeonholed into a genre or a fad; the songs hold up to me and still sound true.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

Six months before he released his third album, Tom Petty filed for bankruptcy. Six months after, he was one of the biggest rock stars in America thanks to a handful of radio staples that would prove as enduring as any ever written. In between, he and his band were put through the wringer by a producer who would go on to become a mogul, determined to spin Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ bar-band charm and penchant for classic hooks into platinum. “It was not an easy record to make, but it paid off 'cause it came out and it really has an amazing sound and it jumps out of the radio when you hear it,” Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell tells Apple Music. “We didn't have our studio chops, and that was very frustrating because we kept thinking we had it. We went through a lot of tuning the drums endlessly, trying different guitars and amps—getting so nitpicky about every little nuance of the sound. And that's why it sounds so pristine, but it wasn't fun.”

The nitpicker-in-chief was producer Jimmy Iovine, who made the band work and rework songs over and over—Campbell claims they may have spent two weeks on the snare sound for “Refugee” alone, but the result was a breakthrough hit from the moment the final version was played back in the studio. “I remember even everybody in the room, like the whole crew, staff, and the girl at the front desk all came in. They were going, ‘You guys have done it now. Just watch that one go.’ ‘Refugee’ is one of the first songs that Tom and I wrote that really, really was huge. We'd written a lot of songs before, but that one just had some magic. I wrote the music pretty much as the record stands and gave those tapes to Tom, and he wrote these incredible words and made the songs what they are.”

It was the embryonic demos of “Refugee” and “Here Comes My Girl” that made Iovine so excited about producing the album to begin with, and so confident of the band’s impending megastardom. “In fact, he said, ‘I don't need to hear any more songs, we've got the two we need, the rest doesn't matter,'” recalls Campbell. “Which I don't agree with, but when I hear them on the radio now, I'm really proud of the recording and the songcraft and the timelessness. Hopefully, that's the beauty of good music. And I think the songs are not in any kind of genre—it's not New Wave or grunge or whatever, it's just rock 'n' roll done really well. We didn't get pigeonholed into a genre or a fad; the songs hold up to me and still sound true.”

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