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First No. 1 album is sweet for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, even if it took 38 years
It took 38 years, but Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers finally got a No. 1 album.
The group's 14th studio album, "Hypnotic Eye," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 after its late July release, which guitarist and co-producer Mike Campbell calls "a surprise."
"That was such a thrill, especially at this point," says Campbell, 64, who co-founded the group with Petty in Los Angeles after the two, along with keyboardist Benmont Tench, journeyed west from their native Florida with another band Mudcrtuch. "I think the thing that tickled me the most about it is, if you look at the charts, there's not many bands on there like us. Nowadays the charts are so whacked out from how they used to be; you've got a Disney soundtrack or a boy band or a girl band or dances or this or that...
"So it kind of gave me a little kick that rock 'n' roll cannot be stopped, y'know?"
Petty and company have come close to the top spot before; both 1979's "Damn the Torpedoes" and 2010's "Mojo" reached No. 2. But Campbell says that over the years the group has learned not to sweat what it can't control and, rather, enjoy the fact that a lengthy, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted career has insulated the Heartbreakers somewhat from trends and other foibles of the music industry.
"We're very fortunate," Campbell acknowledges. "It would be tough to be a new band nowadays. It's a completely different game, and there's so much competition. We're fortunate we came along at a time when we were able toe establish our identity and our audience. We still have our concerts and the records pay for themselves and we're able to do what we want.
"So, yeah, we have a freedom to do what we want, without any fear or pressure or control."
The group takes full advantage of that freedom, too. "Hypnotic Eye" took the better part of two years to record -- not all at once, but in different sessions that saw the album morph from what Campbell calls "more of a hardcore blues album" into a more wide-ranging rock album that in spots nods back to the band's earliest recordings.
"it always depends on the songs," explains Campbell, who co-wrote one track, "Fault Lines," from the album. "The songs dictate pretty much what direction it's going to take. The songs are very, very mysterious; they come when they want to come, and they come in the form they want to be, so we wait for the songs to come in and then we follow them."
The process, meanwhile, can be as enjoyable as the result, according to Tench.
"What's the really fun thing to do is to play with the guys," says the keyboardist. "To come in again and have to break a song out and sit there and figure it out with Mike, not to mention Ron (Blair), Steve (Ferrone) and Scott (Asheton), it's really fantastic.
"I'm in my favorite band with one of my favorite songwriters in the world, and the guy just shows up and shows me a song and I get to play it with these guys."
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Steve Winwood
7:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24
DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township
Tickets are $61.50-$149.50 pavilion, $37 lawn
Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com
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