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From the Archives: 1980 homecoming for Tom Petty

Jan. 20, 1980: Tom Petty during sold-out concert at the Inglewood Forum.
(George Rose / Los Angeles Times)

Tom Petty died on Oct. 2, 2017. Here’s a previous From the Archives post covering his 1980 concert at the Inglewood Forum.

In a Jan. 22, 1980, Los Angeles Times column, Robert Hilburn wrote:

Some nights rock ‘n’ roll is mostly rebellion. Other nights it’s chiefly aggression. With Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Sunday at the Inglewood Forum, it was almost all celebration.

From the enthusiasm in the arena, you’d have thought that the Rams had won the Super Bowl. Petty’s a vital enough figure in rock to deserve the cheers wherever he plays, but the Forum show was special.

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Petty, who was born in Florida but who has lived here since the early ‘70s, is the most important rock attraction to emerge from Los Angeles in years. His new album has just passed the 1.2 million sales mark and he’ll be on the cover of Rolling Stone next month.

This was Petty’s first local appearance since the album was released and it had all the earmarks of a homecoming. He even mentioned Los Angeles or California a half dozen times between songs…

I remember the night three years ago when Petty and the Heartbreakers were the opening act at the Whisky. Their first album was filled with excellent songs, but it was ignored by radio stations. That wasn’t surprising. Almost everything energetic and fresh in rock was being bypassed by conservative AM radio in those days.

In the Whisky dressing room, Petty spoke about the decline of rock and how he’d like to restore real rock to the radio. The chances seemed so remote at the time that his remarks were almost naive.

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But Petty and the Heartbreakers are helping fulfill their pledge. Their driving “Don’t Do Me Like That” single has been an AM hit for weeks and the new “Refugee” single could be their first break into the Top 10…

Part of Petty’s strength is that his songs are simple, yet not one dimensional. He writes about the classic rock concerns, mostly girls–but in a way that enables the specifics of the song to go far beyond romance to touch on the frustrations and joys of pursuing various desires.

The opening four songs Sunday underscored the thematic variation in Petty’s material. He moved from the witty anxiety of “Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid)” to the teen bravado of “Anything That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll” to the smoldering resentment of “Fooled Again (I Don’t Like It)” to the unabashed optimism of “Here Comes My Girl.”..

The photo above by staff photographer George Rose accompanied Hilburn’s column in the Jan. 22, 1980, Los Angeles Times.

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Here’s a link to the Los Angeles Times Oct. 2, 2017, obituary: Tom Petty, Heartbreakers frontman and beloved rock figure, dies at 66.

This post was originally published on Feb. 11, 2014.

Jan. 20, 1980: Tom Petty performing at the Forum in Inglewood. The lights in background are reflections off audience member eyeglasses.
(George Rose / Los Angeles Times )
Jan. 20, 1980: Tom Petty, right, coming off stage after performing at the Forum in Inglewood. Others not identified.
(George Rose / Los Angeles Times )
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