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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are giving short shrift to one of their biggest albums on their current North American tour. The only song from “Damn the Torpedoes” to make the cut is “Refugee,” which typically ends the main set.
But fans wanting to experience a bit more from the 1979 release can now pick up the latest addition to the “Classic Albums” DVD collection, in which artists dissect their greatest albums track by track.
Petty and his bandmates, along with co-producer Jimmy Iovine and engineer Shelly Yakus, revisit such hits as “Even the Losers,” “Here Comes My Girl,” “Don’t Do Me That” and “Refugee.”
As is the format’s custom, they isolate particular instruments and vocals in the original mixes, and recreate certain riffs and melodies to explain their origins. Their anecdotes are accompanied by rare footage.
Petty, not always the most talkative of rockers, happily shares songwriting memories, while lead guitarist Mike Campbell and especially keyboardist Benmont Tench are downright loquacious. Tench’s rhapsodic distillation of “You Tell Me” in the bonus section is one of the disc’s highlights.
Bassist Ron Blair, who left the band for 20 years in 1982, also contributes. But former drummer Stan Lynch is represented by some archival video.
Lynch, whose “punk-ass” (his words) drum kit was replaced early in the “Torpedoes” sessions by Yakus, actually left the band for a few weeks during the recording after clashing with Iovine and Petty, the documentary reveals.
Various drummers including B.J. Wilson (Procul Harum), Phil Seymour (Dwight Tilley Band) and Jim Gordon (Derek and the Dominos) unsuccessfully tried to fill his shoes. Lynch reclaimed his stool, but eventually left for good in 1994.
Among the other tidbits from the DVD:
— “Refugee” originated from a demo recorded by Mike Campbell, who was inspired by an Albert King song “Oh Pretty Woman.” Petty spent about 10 minutes supplying the words and melody, and initially didn’t think much of the song.
— “Refugee” and “Here Comes My Girl” took “forever” to record, according to Tench. “We did so many takes,” he said. “We were so naive and it was really a good thing. We did not edit a single take together on that record, I don’t believe. I think they’re complete takes of every song.”
— “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “You Tell Me,” on the other hand, came together relatively quickly. Petty originally planned to pitch “Don’t Do Me Like That” to the J. Geils Band. Iovine told him he was out of his mind. Almost left off the album, it became the band’s first Top 10 hit.
— The Rickenbacker guitar with which Petty is posing on the cover actually comes from Campbell’s extensive collection. Campbell bought it used for $150.
The DVD marks the 31st in a rock-oriented series dating back to Paul Simon’s “Graceland” in 1997, and it comes on the heels of the June release of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.” Due in September is an analysis of the Rush albums “2112” and “Moving Pictures.”
Easily the most popular is Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” which has sold “millions” worldwide, according to Mike Carden, president of North American operations at series distributor Eagle Rock Entertainment. The company hopes to corral the band’s surviving members for a look at its 1979 opus “The Wall.”
Carden’s wish list also includes Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Guns N’ Roses and Soundgarden. But nothing is in the works at the moment. Each project takes about a year from conception to completion, and they are also “really expensive” to produce, Carden said, with costs sometimes exceeding $200,000.
The artist brainstorms on content with production company Isis, and typically licenses the finished product to Eagle.
One has fallen out of print: Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life.” Carden said Wonder declined to renew the license.
Besides the “Classic Albums” series, Eagle Entertainment has a full slate of other music offerings, including the DVD premiere of the 1972 Rolling Stones concert film “Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones” on October 6, accompanied by a limited theatrical release.
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