Route 66 Song Of The Week:  Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Rejoice, all you hard rockers and headbangers who like straight-ahead classic rock music for your road trip playlists!  This week we have an oldie but a goodie from the vaults:  a 1977 concert performance of the Bobby Troup road anthem from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.  Yes, they’re still together and still touring.  And I have to admit, they do a pretty good number on this song.  The tour stop where this was filmed was in Cologne, Germany, and the tour date was 12 years before the Berlin Wall came down, so the venue would have been in West Germany at the time.  Our thanks to user larrinazarra for uploading this video to YouTube.

The band is originally from Gainesville, Florida and was formed there in 1976.  Their sound has been described as blue-collar or heartland rock, which would put them in the same sub-genre as Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger.  There have been a few personnel changes over the years, but not many – lead guitarist Mike Campbell and bassist Ron Blair are still with the band – and Petty and his men maintain a driving rhythm in much of their music.  The band has 15 albums out (not counting compilation albums), with all but the last two going gold or platinum several times over.  A new album is expected in 2014.  Petty and The Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.  The band also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Petty also released three solo albums in 1989, 1994 and 2006, and all of those went either gold or platinum.  In addition, from 1988 through 1990, Petty was a member of the all-star group The Traveling Wilburys, which was formed by George Harrison and included Harrison, Petty, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and musician/record producer Jeff Lynne.  The Wilburys, considered by some a rock ‘n’ roll ‘supergroup’, was very well received and recorded two albums in 1988, but Orbison died in December 1988 before the second one could be released; it was finally released in 1990.  Both albums went platinum in the U.S. and Canada, the first one several times over.  Interestingly, two former Monty Python members were tangentially involved:  Michael Palin wrote the liner notes under a pseudonym for the first Wilburys album, whereas Eric Idle wrote liner notes for the second album, also under a pen name.  It was after the Wilburys got together that Petty began recording his first solo album.

An unapologetic liberal, Petty made political headlines in 2011 when he told Minnesota ultra-consevative Michelle Bachmann to stop using his song “American Girl” at her appearances (he’d previously made George W. Bush stop using “I Won’t Back Down”).  Petty is also an outspoken critic of the music industry and contemporary music radio.  He’s fought his own record company more than once, the first time in 1979 over the group being transfered to another label without their consent, the second time in 1981 over the pricing of the group’s latest album at the time (it was considered to be expensive, and Petty wanted it to be more accessible to listeners).  The new album, tentatively titled Hypnotic Eye, will be on Reprise Records.  You can read a Rolling Stone interview with Petty about the upcoming album here  (it’s a great story, Tom, but the photo – ditch the old-man beard, eh?  Just a thought).  Meanwhile, enjoy the music!

Until next time,
your own DJ SweetMarie




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