Beginning in 1976, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers were one of America’s finest rock & roll bands ever, combining the ringing guitars of the Byrds with the gritty rhythmic drive of the Rolling Stones. Petty’s tales of American losers and dreamers were simple and direct, but emotionally charged. The Heartbreakers were a lean, tight band that could handle hard rock & roll and melodic pop equally well. The group gained critical attention and solid sales with their first album, but 1979’s Damn the Torpedos was their commercial breakthrough, selling over two million copies; it couldn’t have come at a better time, since Petty filed for bankruptcy before its release.
During the ’80s, Petty sold consistently well, as he expanded his sound with the release of each album. In 1989, he released his first solo album, Full Moon Fever, which became his biggest hit yet. That momentum carried over into the next Heartbreakers release, 1991’s Into the Great Wide Open, which went platinum. As they were preparing their next album, the group released a greatest-hits album in 1993 that contained the hit single “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” Greatest Hits was the last album the group released on MCA Records. In 1994, Petty began a new contract with Warner Bros, releasing Wildflowers toward the end of that year; Wildflowers became another multi-platinum success for him. In 1995, MCA Records released a five-disc box set called Playback.
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