Hard Promises

Not since my little spiel about side two of Tattoo You have I delved into my all-time favorite albums. Tom Petty has a wealth of amazing albums on his resume, and though Full Moon Fever almost takes top billing, I have to rank 1981’s Hard Promises as my favorite. It’s all about time and place and memories.

When this album came out in May of 1981, I was a 10 year old kid, and had just discovered the beauty of the record store. Hard Promises and ZZ Top’s El Loco were the first two albums I remember buying on my own (with good ol’ Mom’s money, of course). Over the course of the summer of 1981, this album was played from start to finish in my room I don’t know how many times, and every song seeped into my impressionable musical vault.

“The Waiting” was the album’s biggest hit, reaching #1 on the new Billboard Rock Charts, and #19 on the Hot 100 Singles chart. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The album has the first Stevie Nicks/ Petty duet, “Insider”, the killer slow funky shuffle of “Nightwatchman”, the vivid storytelling of “Something Big”, and the list goes on.

Here’s how the album panned out…

Side one

  1. “The Waiting” (Tom Petty) – 3:58
  2. “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)” (Petty, Mike Campbell) – 4:22
  3. “Nightwatchman” (Petty, Campbell) – 3:59
  4. “Something Big” (Petty) – 4:44
  5. “Kings Road” (Petty) – 3:27

Side two

  1. “Letting You Go” (Petty) – 3:24
  2. “A Thing About You” (Petty) – 3:33
  3. “Insider” (Petty) – 4:23
  4. “The Criminal Kind” (Petty) – 4:00
  5. “You Can Still Change Your Mind” (Petty, Campbell) – 4:15

I remember reading an issue of Rolling Stone over the summer that featured Tom on the cover. It was on an airplane, we were off to vacation somewhere. In the article, Petty was describing his battle with MCA Records to keep the price at $8.98, rather than the $9.98 that MCA preferred (Steely Dan’s Gaucho and the Xanadu soundtrack had been the first two to be bumped up to the higher price). Petty went as far as to threaten MCA with naming the album Eight Ninety Eight, and after some wrangling, MCA relented and Petty got this wish. On the plane, I read the interview, and remember reading some F bombs, and feeling like I was getting away with something as my parents sat next to me. Rock n’ Roll!!

Tom Petty, Rolling Stone # 341, July 1981
Tom Petty, Rolling Stone # 348, July 1981

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me) {mp3}

Buy Hard Promises.

“Insider” video…

[youtube= 336 278]


  • Jon

    Hell yes! My favorite parts on this album are when he sings “Yeah, yeah!” in “The Waiting” and “I’ve had to live with some hard promises” in “The Insider”.

    If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend “Conversations with Tom Petty” by Paul Zollo. I think it’s more insightful than “Runnin’ Down a Dream” (which I liked, but thought was rushed despite being around 4 hours long).

  • Pete

    Thanks for the book recommendation Jon. Never read it. I need to read more quality music books. Ronnie Wood’s new autobiography is on my list too… and I’m still waiting for Runnin’ Down a Dream’ to show up on Netflix. Still haven’t seen it!

  • Gonzo

    That RS cover reminds me one of my favorite things about TP – he really is a renegade rock star in ways that important to me. He’s always been one to challenge the corporate music industry. You’ve got album costs above, leaking one of his singles for free on his website (I think it was from ‘Echo’), The Last DJ, keeping concert tickets affordable, etc. Here’s a guy who really does seem to care about his fans, unlike so many others who claim to.

  • Pete

    Thanks for the ’78 sho wlink Dan!

    Gonzo – Amen… and as far caring for his fans, few live performers seem to connect with their fans live the way Tom does. He knows just the right buttons to push in concert (and he’s smart enough to immerse the crowd in his rich, hit-filled catalog).

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